Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Everybody thinks that the best time to visit this ultra-famous Japanese garden is during cherry blossom season, but if you go in the spring with the crowdy crowds, you’ll miss one of the most spectacular sights in Japan: Kenroku-en Garden lit up at night in the late fall! Most Novembers, they open it again in the evening so you can wander among the lighted trees and gaze at their reflection in the mirror-like pond with the stars shining up above. If you arrive while the leaves are in all their glory, it’s an amazing sight, but I was there after it had become full winter, and (as you’ll see) it was still amazing then. Add a stroll through a restored samurai neighborhood and some modern art you can literally immerse yourself in, and a day in Kanazawa quickly becomes one of the most memorable excursions in Japan!
When we finish strolling through the 17th and 18th Centuries, let’s walk a few blocks and time travel back to the present for something completely different—the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. This museum is one of the most fabulous modern art museums I’ve been to in Japan. It’s filled with really thought-provoking pieces, and plenty of stuff that made me ooh and ahh.
After all that walking around, we’ve definitely earned a cuppa and a break. Weirdly, though, because Kanazawa used to be known for its gold, everything seems to be covered in it, even the local snacks!
Now let’s head over to Kenroku-en garden for what we’ve been waiting all day for. They close the garden at 5:00, then reopen it at 5:30, because the evening hours aren’t included in the regular admission price—there’s a separate (very reasonable) evening ticket that you can buy at the ticket booths just outside the gate.
And if you’re REALLY lucky, it will snow. Can you imagine how gorgeous that would be?
Here’s where Kanazawa is:
Here are the places where my pictures were taken:
Here’s how to get to Kanazawa from Tokyo:
The best trains to Kanazawa leave from Ueno Station, and it’s possible to get there without a single transfer en route!
Once you’re in Kanazawa, use the Japan Navigation phone app (the same one I used to figure out this route). This travel app is also great for planning your trip when you know your actual date and the time you’d like to leave or arrive, and for finding the easiest way to get to Ueno Station from where you’re staying. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it and here’s where to buy a Japanese transit card and how to use it.
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“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist