On the Sea of Japan coast is Ishikawa Prefecture, where its capital city Kanazawa remains present and growing by each passing year. The name Kanazawa means marsh of gold, said to be originated from a legend that the peasant Imohori Togoro washed gold dust in a local marsh. Twenty-six sites have been selected as being of national importance there, such as the Kaga Domain Maeda Clan Graves, which extend over the borders with Toyama. Encompassed by mountains in the east and the Sea of Japan in the west, Kanazawa holds an essential location and fertile land, which strengthened its economy and permitted its culture to flourish for 300 years under the rule of the powerful Maeda lords.
Kanazawa was one of the most affluent castle towns in the feudal Japan during the Edo period, and its cultural heritage is still maintained today. Much of Kanazawa’s history is closely tied to the samurai caste, who were the warriors of feudal Japan. Kanazawa was one of the few Japanese cities to escape the impact from the Second World War. It is able to show off its heritage and traditional culture: from the Nagamachi quarter with its samurai residencies to the teahouses of Higashi Chayagai; a district with the only geisha community outside Kyoto.
On March 14th a new high-speed train line opened between Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa, making the city more accessible than ever. With this new development, it ends up cutting the journey time from Tokyo to Kanazawa from four hours to two-and-a-half.
The city is noted for arts and crafts and other cultural traditions, which led to UNESCO appointing Kanazawa to the Creative Cities Network in June 2009. Traditional craft techniques have been passed down since the feudal age, and creative activities continue to flourish in Kanazawa. The city’s craft tourism includes visits to traditional craft workshops and creating your own craft by hand. It is unsurprising that Ishikawa’s industry consist of the textile industry, particularly artificial fabrics, and the machine industry, especially construction machinery.
A popular local dish is jibuni made from boiled and seasoned duck and various vegetables. Crab is another local favourite usually served during the colder season; common types include the hairless male crab (zuwaigani) or smaller female crabs with eggs still attached. Served cold with a light vinegar or in nabe style hot pots. Sushi made with fish from the neighbouring sea is also popular, the sweet shrimps (amaebi) are especially well-received in this region. In Spring the tiny grey river fish gori is a well known delicacy and is sometimes served deep fried with salt or in miso soup.
The main city area is located between the Saigawa River and the Asanogawa River. Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenrokuen Garden (one of the three greatest gardens in Japan) are located in the centre of the city, and they are surrounded by several shopping districts (Korinbo, Kata-machi, Musashi, and Kanazawa Station). Cherry blossoms in Kenroku-en Garden in particular are a must-see during early April.
Kanazawa has Tera-machi, where 70 temples are assembled together, Owari-cho lined with long-standing shops, and many other historical areas, which happily combine with the contemporary fashionable town of Korinbo. Many stores carry “Kaga-yuzen,” dyed silk designated an important lasting cultural benefit, Kutaniyaki pottery characterised by serene patterns and bright colours, gold leaf craftwork called “Kanazawa-haku,” and other traditional arts and crafts.
Kanazawa has prospered for some 300 years since the feudal lord Maeda Toshiie built a castle here in the late 16th century. The city’s history is well preserved and its lasting culture available to experience in museums or even simply taking a walk through the streets.
How does development in transportation open new sightseeing opportunities in Kanazawa?