Kanazawa gets no respect

Posted by in Mike's blog

Name 3 cities in Japan.  I bet one of them was Tokyo.

There was a time when Kanazawa had a chance at being one of the first three cities that might have come to mind.  That time was a few centuries ago.  These days Kanazawa gets no respect.  We went there a few weeks ago to see what all the lack of fuss was about.

Short introduction

Kanazawa is a city.  It’s not a big city…only around 460 000 people.  It happens to be the biggest city in Hokuriku (Hokuriku is the region in west/central Japan that Fukui is also part of).  Like everywhere else in Japan, it has a rich history full of adventures, samurai, rice production, feudal lords and other things…but unlike everywhere else in Japan, it has all of those things and it did NOT get bombed by allied forces during the 2nd world war.  The only city bigger than Kanazawa to be able to make that claim is Kyoto.  It also hasn’t had any major natural disasters to rebuild from.

No bombs.

No earthquakes.

Architectural and cultural masterpieces are all over the place, beautifully preserved.

Let’s go to Kanazawa!

We have been there once before (and Mary has been there twice).  Our visit was fast, and only to one place: Kenroku-en.  Kenroku-en is a big giant garden, it’s the city’s biggest attraction and might be the best garden in the country.  Apparently we are supposed to go back and see it again in the spring, fall and winter…but we wanted to see something new this time.

There was a day at the end of September when I had no classes and Mary was still on leave.  We wanted to do something fun and different…so we dropped the Bunny off at hoikuen and we left the prefecture.   We used our trusty credit card for the highway tolls and made it to Kanazawa in about 1 hour.  We barely had a plan for the day, so Mary did a little bit of tourist research while I drove.  We decided on our first stop before we got off of the expressway:  Lunch.

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Delicious “white” gyoza from Dainana gyoza in Kanazawa

We barely had time to scratch the surface of Kanazawa’s culinary scene, so we wanted to get the best of what the city has to offer.  We read about long lines at Dainana gyoza, so we made sure to be there when it opened at 11:00am.  The menu at this place consisted of gyoza and some other things.  There’s a counter to sit at and some tables upstairs for a surcharge.  The atmosphere was what we can expect from counter seating:  We could watch the gyoza chefs practicing their craft.  The food was wonderful – we will go back if we get a chance.

After we finished our first course (we ordered as if we would be eating more later), we went back to the car to decide on our next destination.

Higashi chaya: Much, much older than Canada

Kanazawa isn’t the nicest city to drive around.  The city planners weren’t thinking about roundabouts or cul-de-sacs when the roads were made, they were thinking about how best to deter invaders from reaching the castle.  I used Siri and GPS to get from the gyoza restaurant to the core of old Kanazawa where the geishas entertain rich people.

We took a leisurely stroll around the area.  We didn’t see any geishas, but we did see a young couple doing a wedding photo shoot.  Here are some other things that we saw:

Why doesn’t Kanazawa get respect?

The hard truth: It’s not Kyoto.  Kyoto is only ~3 hours away, and it has bigger, older landmarks.  There’s also no shinkansen to Kanazawa, and nothing of any remote interest within a few hundred kilometres in any direction (this includes Fukui).

On the other hand, it’s a charming little city that I would love to live in.  Compared to other tourist destinations, crowds are at a minimum.  There’s so much more to see that we missed on our two trips, but what we have seen has been quite enjoyable.  It’s only 1 hour away!  We have to go back.