Kanazawa may just have been Japan’s best kept secret. Until now. No other place in the country offers visitors the unique chance to experience – within one city – all the wonders of Japan, from the traditional past to the present modernity and everything in between. A one-stop portal to the historical, culinary and artistic culture of Japan, Kanazawa has something for everyone.
A walk through the city of Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa prefecture on the northern coast of mainland Japan, encompasses the well-conserved samurai quarter, three active geisha districts, a beautifully preserved historical architectural townscape, active artisans’ studios and some of the most delicious food and sake ever tasted. Featuring four distinct seasons and bordered by the Japan Alps, the region of Kanazawa is a perfect destination for skiing, hiking Mt. Hakusan, enjoying the area’s dynamic flora and fauna and concluding with a visit to a nearby onsen.
The city is easily traversable, affordable and manageable for the non-Japanese speaking tourist. Kanazawa’s distinct seasons make it a great place to visit year-round.
Kanazawa has been actively producing quality arts and crafts for generations.As the top producer of gold leaf in the country, which is used in maki-e arts, crafts, makeup and decorations, Kanazawa is also known for its bamboo, lacquerware, textile and ceramics. Today, designated National Treasure and other artisans continue age-old artistic traditions as well as develop new art forms, fusing the old with the new.
Its location also makes it a prime source for unforgettable sake and arguably the best sushi in the world. World-class chefs have traveled to Kanazawa for its fresh ingredients, to rethink energy consumption and to taste Kanazawa’s cuisine culture. It’s been said that once you come to Kanazawa, you will never want to eat sushi anywhere else again; a risk that visitors may have to take.
Visitors can now experience this thriving region of Japan first hand and behind-the-scenes. Discover Kanazawa, a destination management program, offers tourists once-in-a-lifetime sensory experiences with the aid of translators, such as visiting artisans in their homes and studios, privately touring the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art or with the curator, shopping for meal ingredients at the markets with local chefs before eating at their restaurant that evening.
The online English-language magazine, Art of Japan Kanazawa, complements these rare offerings with detailed articles and information on participating artisans, seasonal events and sites of interest. There is also a Build Your Itinerary feature to help plan a trip to Kanazawa and connect with local artisans, chefs, historians and other people of interest that are committed to turning your trip into a treasure.
Located by the Sea of Japan, Kanazawa is a one-stop gateway to Japan’s rich, traditional and modern culture. Currently two hours from Kyoto and easily accessible from local airports, Kanazawa will also be directly linked to Tokyo by bullet train in 2014.
Kaga and the Maeda Clan
To understand why so many cultural and historical characters remain in Kanazawa, it is helpful to look at its golden age, which was Edo Period (1603-1868). Kanazawa was the central area of Kaga, the district governed by the Maeda Clan. Commercially thriving and agriculturally rich, Kaga was the richest district in the period in terms of gross profit thanks to the excellent governing strategy of the Maeda Clan. It reformed the agricultural system, promoted arts and crafts, encouraged education and naturally its cultural level improved. Often compared with Kyoto, Kaga has its own style of beautiful ceramics, lacquer, washi Japanese paper, gold leaf, and dyeing technique known for its colorful and lavish aesthetic.
Traditional Arts and Crafts in Kaga
Kutani-yaki (ceramics): With striking colors and intricate patterns, Kutani-yaki is one of the most highly-regarded porcelain wares in Japan. It was created over 350 years ago and has developed into several styles while maintaining its essential aesthetic, combining elegance and gracefulness from the samurai culture.
Kaga-shikki (lacquer): Known for its elaborate decoration, Kaga shikki was created at the time when the third lord of the Maeda Clan promoted arts and crafts in the early 17th century. Originally made for official use as well as gifts, the beauty of the craftwork achieved perfection.
Kaga Yuzen (dyed goods): Originating in the late 17th century, this dyeing technique consists of gorgeous patterns and colors. Compared with Kyo-Yuzen, a similar technique developed in Kyoto, it has a samurai culture influence; therefore its uses are more reserved yet the strong color palette gives it a more composed atmosphere.