20 Things to Do in Kanazawa

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Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture on Honshu (Japan’s largest island). Kanazawa has a rich history and has played an important role in Japanese culture since the Edo Period when it served as the seat of the powerful Maeda Clan. Because of this influence the city grew into a place of culture, enough to rival Kyoto and Tokyo. Today, as the capital of Ishikawa, Kanazawa is an important city with many museums, castles and beautiful landscape gardens. Check out these 20 things to do in Kanazawa when planning your trip to Japan’s Honshu Island.

Kanazawa, Japan

Top Tours

Autumn Scenery Of The Kanazawa Castle Park
Marvelling at Kanazawa Castle is one of the things to do in Kanazawa.

20 Things To Do In Kanazawa

1- Wander Around Kenrokuen Garden

Kenrokuen Garden During Momiji Season
Wandering around Kenroku-en Garden is one of the things to do in Kanazawa spring.

Japan is renowned around the world for its stunning landscape garden designs.

Kenrokuen Garden is in the heart of Kanazawa next to Kanazawa Castle and it’s a must-visit location.

The word Kenrokuen means “having six factors”, hence the garden is focused on six elements: spaciousness, water sources, beautiful views, tranquility, antiquity and artifice.

The 11.4 hectares of garden has been maintained by the Madea family from generation to generation and is one of the most stunning feudal lord’s gardens in Japan.

Wadner around the garden while marvelling at flowers, trees, cherry blossoms (when in season) and the impressive artificial pond.


Kenroku-en Garden is at 1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0936. This audio guide may be helpful.

2- Marvel At Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle
Visiting Kanazawa Castle is one of the top things to do in Kanazawa for history buffs.

From 1583 to the end of the Edo Period this castle was the seat of the Maeda Clan.

The castle you will see on your visit is not the original as the structure burnt down several times, most recently in 1881 where only two storehouses and the Ishikawa-mon gate survived.

Kanazawa University occupied the grounds of the castle for a while before the plan in the 1990s to rebuild the castle.

As this is a large park area you can access the castle from a variety of entrances, but the most popular approach is through the Ishikawa-mon gate.

Kanazawa Castle is at 1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0937.

Recommended tours:

3- Admire Installations At The 21st Century Museum Of Contemporary Art

aerial view of kanazawa japan
Looking for things to do in Kanazawa Japan?

Kanazawa is well known for its museums and the 21st-century Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-visit spot in downtown Kanazawa.

The museum exhibits the work of contemporary artists from both Japan and around the world.

It has several public spaces like the library, children’s workshop room and lecture halls.

Some of the permanent exhibits on works on display include Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool”.

This piece is super-popular as you become part the art by heading underground and appear to be walking around in the swimming pool.

There’s also “Blue Planet Sky” by James Turrell which explores light as a medium (there are other connected exhibits around the world).

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is at 1 Chome-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-8509.

4- Ogle At The Food At Omicho Market

Bench Full Of Huge Crabs In A Japanese Market
Ogling at the food at Omicho Market is one of the things to do in Kanazawa.

Around 15 minutes’ walk from Kanazawa Station, Omicho Market has been the largest fresh food market in the city since the Edo Period (1603-1863).

Visit today and you will feel the bustle of a local market while seeing some of the fascinating and unusual foods on offer.

The market has around 200 shops and stalls selling a variety of seafood, fresh produce, flowers and even clothes.

Visit during the morning or at noon for the most authentic experience.

You can also dine at one of the many restaurants inside the market.

Omicho Market is at 50 Kamiomicho, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0905.

5- Learn About Zen Buddhism At D.T. Suzuki Museum

This museum is all about Daisetsu Teitari Suzuki, a Japanese philosopher, scholar and writer, allowing visitors who are not familiar with his work to learn more about him.

Suzuki was instrumental in introducing Japanese Zen philosophy to the rest of the world.

The museum is in the district where Suzuki was born and even the architecture of the museum was dedicated to Suzuki.

The building is made of clean and simple lines that are meant to reflect his life and teachings.

The D.T. Suzuki Museum is at 3 Chome-4-20 Hondamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0964.

6- See The Authentic Houses In Nagamachi Samurai

Nagamachi Samurai District
Look at the authentic houses on Nagamachi Samurai things to do in Kanazawa.

Nagamachi Samurai is a beautiful part of Kanazawa that feels authentic, local and is steeped in history.

Nagamachi is a Samurai district at the foot of Kanazawa Castle where the samurai and their families used to live.

Narrow lanes and the canal make the whole place feel like a scene from an old Japanese movie.

One of the best things to do in Nagamachi is head to Nomura-ke, which is a restored residence where you can step inside a samurai residence.

On display are artifacts that showcase the lifestyle of people in that era.

Nagamachi District is at 1 Chome-3-12-2 Nagamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0865.

7- Stroll Around Ishikawa Prefectural Museum Of Art

Another of the best art museums in the city is the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art (IPMA), which was founded in 1959.

IPMA is home to an array of cultural assets made by local artists and is fascinating because it houses a collection of art spanning five centuries.

The collection even features art from the Maeda family.

Because of the diversity of the pieces, it’s a fantastic way to learn more about Japanese history.

The museum has seven large galleries.

You can expect to see everything from Kutani-yaki ceramics, traditional dyed silk kimonos, Buddhist scrolls, swords, oil paintings, sculptures and more.

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art is at 2- 1 Dewamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0963.

8- Visit The Quirky Kanazawa Phonograph Museum

The Kanazawa Phonograph Museum is an unusual museum that will appeal to fans of music and especially the history of old music and sound, then you will love this museum.

This museum houses a sizable collection of antique phonographs (also known as gramophones) and SP records.

There are three floors that offer visitors great insight into the complete history of the phonograph from Thomas Edison’s experiments to 1877 when they successfully played back sounds.

Visitors have Hiroshi Yokaichiya to thank for the impressive collection.

The museum grew out of his personal collection which started from his phonograph shop before the war.

He had a collection of 540 machines and more than 20,000 SP records.

The Kanazawa Phonograph Museum is at 2 Chome-11-21 Owaricho, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0902.

9- Photograph Your Way Around Higashi Chaya District

View Of The Main Street Of Higashi Chaya District In Kanazawa
Photographing your way around Higashi Chaya District is one of the things to do in Kanazawa japan.

Higashi Chaya District is one of the largest and most famous districts to see geisha houses.

Geishas are women who perform dances and who used to entertain wealthy noblemen.

In Japanese culture geisha houses were the place for entertaining and feasts during the Edo period.

Higashi Chaya District is dotted with 1820 geisha houses.

In this district you can not only see them from the outside but there are also some with around 200 years of history that you can see inside.

Many of the geisha houses have been turned into cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops.

Higashi Chaya District 1 Chome Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0831.

10- Wander The Streets Of Kazuemachi Chaya District

Kazuemachi Chaya is another of Kanazawa’s old geisha districts.

This area is quaint as it is located along the river by the Asanogawa Ohashi and Naka-no Hashi bridges.

Rows of Chaya houses are visually appealing and a great place to practice street photography.

This area is also a wonderful spot for sampling traditional Japanese fare.

Kazuemachi Chaya District is at 2-5 Kazuemachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0908.

11- Check Out The Ninja Weapons Museum

Samurai Sword On A Black Wooden Table
Checking out the Ninja Weapons Museum is one of the things to do in Kanazawa Japan.

Want to check out a museum you know the kids will love? Well why not go to the Ninja Weapons Museum.

The museum displays real Ninja weapons with around 160 artifacts in the collection.

You can expect to see samurai swords, armour, shuriken (hand hidden blades) and much more.

As well as looking at all the historic artifacts there is also a space zone where you can try throwing ninja stars.

There’s also a souvenir shop on site to pick up any Kanazawa or ninja souvenirs to take back home.

The Ninja Weapons Museum is at 2 Chome-26-1 Nomachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 921-8031.

12- Lean About Traditional Japanese Crafts At The National Crafts Museum

You better believe Kanazawa is known for its museums with the amount it has.

The National Crafts Museum is another spot to add to your Kanazawa bucket list if you love learning about Japanese history, culture and art.

This museum is all about preserving and promoting Japanese crafts.

The museum has a collection of more than 4,000 works including ceramics, glass, woodwork, bamboo, weaving, dyeing, metal work, industrial design, and graphic design.

The museum building is interesting as it dates to the Meiji Period.

The National Crafts Museum is at 3-2 Dewamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0963.

13- Go In Search Of Cherry Blossom

Cherry Tunnel In Full Bloom
Searching for cherry blossoms one of the top 10 things to do in Kanazawa.

Just like many other places around Japan, Kanazawa is a wonderful place to enjoy the pink tones of cherry blossom trees in spring.

The Sakura bloom in the last week of March lasting until the first two weeks of April.

On average the peak time for perfect Sakura pictures is 1 April, however, the season is around a week later in Kanazawa than in Osaka and Tokyo.

So, where are the best places to see cherry blossoms in Kanazawa?

Some beautiful places include Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle Park, and Kazuemachi Chaya District along the Asanogwa River.

14- Take A Photo Outside Kanazawa Station

This activity won’t take a lot of time, but it’s well-worth remembering to do when you arrive in Kanazawa.

The wooden Tsuzumimon gate outside the east exit is famous and modelled after the traditional Japanese drums known as tsuzumi.

Today the gate’s unique style has made it a symbol of the city.

Kanazawa Station is at 〒920-0858 Ishikawa, Kanazawa, Kinoshinbomachi, 1番1号.

15- Take A Wagashi Making Class

Japanese Traditional Confectionery Wagashi
Joining a Wagashi-making class is one of the things to do in Kanazawa.

Wagashi is a traditional Japanese confection usually served with green tea.

Aside from tasting great, wagashi also looks amazing.

Owing to its deep samurai culture, Kanazawa became known for the tea ceremony and naturally the Wagashi industry soon followed.

You can head to Ishikawa Local Products Center to take a wagashi-making class where you will get to make three seasonal Japanese pastries.

You will get to use all the traditional tools and ingredients under the guidance of a wagashi master.

At the end of the class, you will take your handmade wagashi home or sample them with your fellow classmates.

This is a super-popular class so be sure to book in advance of your visit.

You can take this Wagashi making class at Ishikawa Local Products Center, 〒920-0936 Ishikawa, Kanazawa, Kenrokumachi, 2−20 2F.

16- Sample Traditional Kaga Ryori Cuisine

Kaga ryori utilizes Kanazawa’s local ingredients like seafood and fresh vegetables.

Kaga ryori is a cuisine that consists of three popular dishes: jibuni, hasumushi and gori-karaage.

Jibuni is the most popular of the kaga ryori dishes.

It’s made of simmered duck meat in a broth and is usually served with shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and seri (Japanese parsley).

Hasumushi is made from steamed minced lotus roots, one of the area’s native vegetables, while egg whites, mushrooms and prawns and other white meats are served together in a thick sauce.

Finally, there is gori-karaage, a deep-fried gori fish seasoned with salt.

During the Edo Period fishing in the area was thriving but now it’s much rarer to find this delicacy. Experience participating in a cooking class.

17- Visit The Oyama Shrine

View Of The Oyama Shrine During The Winter Season
Visiting the Oyama Shrine is one of the Kanazawa things to do in winter.

Oyama Shrine was built in appreciation of Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the Maeda Clan, and constructed in 1599 by Toshiie’s successor.

Later the shrine was moved to its current-day location.

One of the unusual features of this shrine is the gate, which was designed by a Dutch architect so there is both a European and Asian feel to this temple.

The gate originally guarded the entrance to Kanazawa Castle but was later moved to the shrine.

On the first story of the shrine much of Japanese and Chinese influence is depicted whereas if you head to the upper stories there are Dutch style-stained glass windows.

As well as the shrine there is a peaceful walking path that leads through the garden and pond area.

Oyama Shrine is at 11-1 Oyamamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0918.

18- Explore The Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum

Yet another of the city’s museums is Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum, which is unique in that it has a very specific focus.

The museum’s exhibit centres around gold beating tools and the handicrafts collected by gold leaf artisan, Komei Yasue.

Visit this museum and you can even see how gold leaf is manufactured.

While wandering through the museum you will be able to see traditional noh costumes, Kutani porcelain, and a Kanazawa Buddhist altar, all with gold leaf of course.

Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum is at 1 Chome-3-10 Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0831.

19- Head to the Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center

Fashion And Kimono Outdoors For Zen, Calm And Peace
Heading to the Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center is one of the things to do today in Kanazawa.

Japanese art is a beautiful blend of culture and history that you can admire while in Kanazawa.

The Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center is a handicraft museum in Kanazawa, where you can learn about the art of dyeing fabric and making kimono patterns and watch colour demonstrations.

Kaga-yuzen refers to the high-end dying technique.

Usually there are five basic colors involved in the patterns: indigo, crimson, dark green, royal purple and ocher (an earthy brown, yellow color).

This craft dates to the Edo Period (1603-1867) and flourished in the Ishikawa Prefecture.

Visitors can try on these traditional kimonos as well as practicing dyeing their own handkerchief or tote bag.

It’s a fun activity for a group of friends visiting Kanazawa.

The Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center is at 8-8 Koshomachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0932. Rent a kimono for photographs here.

20- Hit The Slopes

Japan has hosted the winter Olympics twice and is an awesome skiing or snowboarding destination.

Within the bounds of Kanazawa city there’s Kanazawa Shiei Iohzan Ski-jo, a small resort with only two lifts but it’s ideal for a daytime activity if you are visiting Kanazawa.

The slopes usually open from late December to early March.

Children can enjoy the lower slopes free of charge and the lift tickets are affordable, so if you are travelling with children, this is a fun activity.

For more serious skiing, head to some other resorts in the Ishikawa region.

Kanazawa Municipal Ski Resort is at Teko-21 Tawaramachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-1108.

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Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!