Japan // Central Honshu //

Kanazawa-jo and around

From Kenroku-en’s northernmost exit a footbridge leads to the Ishikawa-mon, a towering eighteenth-century gateway to the castle, Kanazawa-jō (金沢城). There’s been a fortification on the Kodatsuno plateau since 1546, but the castle in its present form dates back mainly to the early seventeenth century. In 2001, part of the inner enclosure was rebuilt using traditional methods and plans from the Edo period. These included the three-storey, diamond-shaped Hishi Yagura and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura watchtowers, the Gojukken Nagaya corridor linking them, some of the earthen walls, and the Hashizume bridge and gate leading to the enclosure. Inside the buildings you can see the intricate joinery and inspect the one-tenth-scale skeletal model carpenters used to master the complexities of the task.

Parts of the original castle are within the grounds, as well as an attractive modern garden with traditional elements – an interesting contrast to Kenroku-en. If you head for the Imori-zaka entrance at the southwest corner of the grounds, you’ll emerge near the back of the Oyama-jinja (尾山神社), a large shrine dedicated to the first Maeda lord, Toshiie. The shrine is fronted by the Shinmon, an unusual square-arched gate with multicoloured stained glass in its upper tower, designed in 1875 with the help of Dutch engineers and once used as a lighthouse to guide ships towards the coast.

Alternatively, returning to Ishikawa-mon and Kenroku-en’s north exit, head along the garden’s eastern flank, to the small traditional garden, Gyokusen-en (玉泉園). Built on two levels on a steep slope, this quiet garden has many lovely features, including mossy stone paths leading past two ponds and a mini waterfall. For ¥500 extra you can enjoy green tea and a sweet in the main villa’s tearoom. Next to the garden at the Kaga Yūzen Traditional Industry Centre, or Kaga Yūzen Dentō Sangyō Kaikan (加賀友禅伝統産業会館), you can watch artists painting beautiful designs on silk, then try your own hand at this traditional Kanazawa craft or dress in a kimono made from the dyed material.

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