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Kanazawa on foot: A recommended walking route through the city’s major sights

Kanazawa on foot: A recommended walking route through the city’s major sights

Ishikawa Prefecture’s Kanazawa City (金沢) is a gem of a destination packed with history, culture, arts, and some of the best seafood from the Sea of Japan.


Easily accessed in roughly 2.5 hours from Tokyo via the Hokuriku Shinkansen, it makes for a perfect side trip or off the beaten path destination.


Kanazawa walking route. (Image credit: JR Times)


Touring the city is also easy with most of its major sights centrally located and the convenient Kanazawa Loop Bus covering all of them.


But if you prefer to do your exploration on foot like me, here is my go-to walking route for a half-day loop round the city’s central attractions.


Stop 1: Oyama Shrine

Oyama Shrine’s impressive gate (Image credit: Kanazawa City) 


While this route is a loop which you can begin from any point, I usually like to start at Oyama Shrine (尾山神社 Oyama jinja).


Built in 1873 for Maeda Toshiie (前田利家), the first feudal lord of the Kaga Domain which encompassed Kanazawa, the shrine boasts a unique mix of architecture not seen elsewhere in Japan.


Picturesquely set atop a flight of stone stairs, its three-storied shrine gate is a combination of Japanese, Chinese, and Western architecture, adorned with Lord Maeda’s plum blossom emblem and colourful stained-glass.


The shrine grounds with its garden and pond are also nice to stroll around before exiting at the other end.


Oyama Shrine (尾山神社)
Address: 11-1 Oyamamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan 920-0918
Nearest station: Kanazawa Station (金沢駅 Kanazawa eki)
Nearest bus stop: Minami-cho・Oyama Jinja Shrine (南町・尾山神社)
Access: 3-minute walk from Minami-cho・Oyama Jinja Shrine bus stop
Tel: +81-76-231-7210


Stop 2: Kanazawa Castle Park

Kanazawa Castle Park (Image credit: Anna Wong)


Crossing over the connecting bridge from Oyama Shrine, you will come to the Nezumitamon Gate (鼠多門) of Kanazawa Castle Park (金沢城公園 Kanazawajō koen).


Entering, you will first encounter the scenic Gyokuseninmaru Garden (玉泉院丸庭園 Gyokusenninmaru teien), the private garden for the feudal lords.


Further beyond stone walls, the castle and its buildings stand surrounded by open spaces and trees, many of which are cherry blossom (桜 sakura) trees, making this a hot spot in spring when the flowers are in bloom.


The reconstructed castle can be entered for a fee and showcases exhibits explaining construction features and defence mechanisms.


After touring the castle, exit from the Ishikawa-mon gate (石川門) facing it.


Kanazawa Castle Park (金沢城公園)
Address: 1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan 920-0937
Nearest station: Kanazawa Station (金沢駅 Kanazawa eki)
Nearest bus stop: Kenrokuen Garden・Kanazawa Castle Park (兼六園下・金沢城)
Access: 1-minute walk from Kenrokuen Garden・Kanazawa Castle Park bus stop
Opening hours: 07:00–18:00 (08:00–17:00 from October 16th to end of February)
Admission fee (Castle entry): ¥320
Tel: +81-76-234-3800


Stop 3: Kenrokuen

Kenrokuen—one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens. (Image credit: Anna Wong)


Crossing the bridge from Kanazawa Castle will bring you to the entrance of Kenrokuen (兼六園), one of the three most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan.


Curated with all the elements of an ideal Japanese garden, Kenrokuen boasts scenic views, water features, stone lanterns and bridges, tea houses, and an overall naturalistic landscape.


Beautiful in every season, the garden is especially popular in spring when it becomes Kanazawa’s top cherry blossom spot.


After strolling round the garden, exit from the Mayumizaka gate (真弓坂口 mayumizakaguchi) near the waterfall.


Kenrokuen Garden (兼六園)
Address: 1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan 920-0936
Nearest station: Kanazawa Station (金沢駅 Kanazawa eki)
Nearest bus stop: Kenrokuen Garden・Kanazawa Castle Park (兼六園下・金沢城)
Access: 1-minute walk from Kenrokuen Garden・Kanazawa Castle Park bus stop
Opening hours: 07:00–18:00 (08:00–17:00 from October 16th to end of February)
Admission fee: ¥320 (Adult), ¥100 (Child)
Tel: +81-76-234-3800


Stop 4: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

Some of the installations at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (Image credit: Kanazawa City and Anna Wong)


Coming out from Kenrokuen, you cannot miss the eye-catching sculptures and architecture of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (金沢21世紀美術館 Kanazawa nijūisseiki bijutsukan) located diagonally across the road.


An open-concept contemporary art museum with glass walls and installations scattered on its spacious lawn, the museum features an array of interesting artworks with both permanent and temporary exhibits.


Visitors are welcome to interact with most of the installations, many of which make for Instagrammable pictures, but some installations and temporary exhibits require a fee.


21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (金沢21世紀美術館)
Address: 1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa, Japan 920-8509
Nearest station: Kanazawa Station (金沢駅 Kanazawa eki)
Nearest bus stop: Hirosaka・21st Century Museum (兼六園下・金沢城)
Access: 1-minute walk from Hirosaka・21st Century Museum bus stop
Opening hours (Exhibition zone): 10:00–18:00 (until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays), closed on Mondays 
Opening hours (Public zone): 09:00-22:00
Admission fee (Exhibition zone): Varies by exhibit
Tel: +81-76-220-2800


Stop 5: Nagamachi District

The earthen walls of the Nagamachi samurai district protected by straw mats in winter (Image credit: Anna Wong)


From the 21st Century Museum, walk down Hyakumangoku-dori (百万石通り) to the junction of Korinbo (香林坊) on the main street. Cross over to the street directly behind Tokyu Square (東急スクエア) department store and follow the water canal downstream until you come across a sign pointing you to the Nagamachi District (長町武家屋敷跡界隈 nagamachi bukkeyashikiato kaiwai).


A neighbourhood of samurai houses, this is where the retainers of Lord Maeda used to live.


The samurai houses here are well-preserved and beautifully restored, with old-style narrow stone streets and earthen walls which are protected with straw mats in winter.


Some of the samurai houses are open to the public, including the Nomura-ke Samurai Residence (武家屋敷跡 野村家 Bukkeyashikiato Nomurake) which garden was awarded two stars in the Michelin Green Guide, the Takada Family House (旧加賀藩士高田家跡 Kyūkagahanshi Takadakeato), and the footsoldier’s residences at the Ashigaru Museum (金沢市足軽資料館 Kanazawashi Ashigaru Shiryoukan).


After exploring the district, turn right towards the main street at the Ashigaru Museum and follow the road right back to Oyama Shrine, completing the loop. 


Nagamachi District (長町武家屋敷跡界隈)
Address: Nagamachi, Kanazawa
Nearest station: Kanazawa Station (金沢駅)
Nearest bus stop: Korinbo (香林坊)
Access: 3-minute walk from Korinbo Bus Stop


Explore more of Kanazawa on foot

Higashi Chaya District. (Image credit: Anna Wong)

Depending on how long you spend at each location, this route can be comfortably completed in three to four hours, which gives enough space to add stops for tea and sweets or detour to other sights.


I recommend visiting Omicho Market (近江町市場 Omicho ichiba) just 10 minutes up the street from Oyama Shrine for fresh seafood before starting the loop, and the geisha district of Higashi Chaya (ひがし茶屋街 Higashichaya gai) is just a 15-minute walk from Kenrokuen and Kanazawa Castle.


The area surrounding the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is also home to many other museums, while those looking for shopping and nightlife can head down Korinbo and Katamachi (片町) along the main road.


If you are able to, walking is a great way to discover Kanazawa with freedom and flexibility, and burn off the extra calories from all the good food you are bound to have here too!


Header image credit: Kanazawa City


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