Kyoto may be the shining pillar of ancient Japan, but Kanazawa equally boasts amazingly preserved neighborhoods from the Edo era. These are Nagamachi, Higashi Chaya, Nishi Chaya, and Kazue-machi. Kanazawa served as the economic and administrative core of the Kaga Domain from 1583 to 1871.
Due to the erection of the castle in the town center, upper-class families and high-ranking samurais settled in lands around the vicinity.
Called the Samurai District, Nagamachi is a wonderful stroll along its cobblestone streets, winding alleys and flowing canals. Maeda Tosanokami-ke Shiryokan Museum makes for a good first stop to explore the impressive collection of samurai armor, weaponry, arts and calligraphy passed on through generations.
Not far is the Nomura-ke Samurai Residence, home to the Nomura Denbei Nobusada family who acted as horse guard group leaders and shogunate administrators since 1583. The two-story traditional house hosted the daimyo feudal lord and radiates with beautifully finished cypress wood, rosewood, black persimmon wood and ebony. A picturesque garden landscaped with rare trees, stones, and a pond filled with koi fish encircles the residence.
The overlooking scenery is spectacular from the upper-floor rooms. Other samurai residences also worth visiting are the Takada Family House and Ashigaru Shiryokan Museum, the latter of which houses both the Takanishi Family House and Shimizu Family House. Kanazawa kutani ceramics and Kaga-yuzen kimonos can be found as well in shops around the locality, including quaint cafés and restaurants.
Photo by: PIXTA/ Sean Pavone
This teahouse and geisha quarter was built in 1820 and is considered to be the biggest in Kanazawa. Entering the village from the Watching Tower landmark, one is instantly surrounded by wooden buildings, stoned pathways, and ateliers that belong to craftsmen and artisans. The area became the seat of entertainment for the merchant class and samurais.
The Ochaya Shima geisha house began its operations in the 1820s and is now designated as a cultural treasure. The waiting rooms and guest rooms with their cloisonné ware, scroll paintings, tea ceremony utensils, floor and ceiling lamps and fusuma doors are splendidly preserved. Higashi Chaya is often flocked for its gold leaf kinpaku ice cream, most famous at the Hakuichi Higashiyama souvenir store.
Photo by: PIXTA/ 蝶（ファラージャ）
The smaller version of Higashi Chaya and less crowded, Nishi Chaya is basically one street that escorts you on a pleasant promenade and break at a café or restaurant for a more relaxing feel of old Japan. The Dolls Museum displays a huge number of traditional dolls, including kokeshi dolls, and also offers kokeshi and matryoshika painting workshops.
Photo by: Alma Reyes
A short walk along the river from Higashi Chaya, Kazue-machi is regarded as a secret geisha niche, and is characterized by tightly packed wooden teahouses along narrow alleys. A glimpse of the Asanogawa Bridge with the rows of houses and trees flanking the river is particularly captivating.