Why Kanazawa is so worth going to
and how to camp at a hilltop-parking, overlooking the town
For trip details, don’t miss the Ride Summary at the bottom
A bit of luck
Once we happened upon Kanazawa in ‘Hyakumangoku Matsuri’ festival-time. It was spring and great weather. After visiting the magnificent but well known highlights like the Japanese garden and old town, the festival parade enveloped us sort of by chance. I mean, sometimes you are well informed, sometimes you need a bit of luck, right!
A feng shui-thing
Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa province and is located on the north-coast of the large Honshu island. It is one of my favourite cities, possibly a feng shui-thing as the layout has it all; a few hills but not too steep, rivers and streams to criss cross it and lots of greenery. After Kyoto it is the largest old city not be bombed in the allied air raids so the old heart is still beating. Full of dark wooden houses and countless never-ending alleyways.
For most tourists it is off-radar and I always feel it is because Kanazawa is ‘all the way across the Japanese Alps.’ Making it sound very far away, but actually it is not. The beautiful city gives you a great break in a mountain circuit plus it is the starting point to head onto Noto Shoto, the small peninsula jutting up north. Now that I call a place foreigners and even most Japanese don’t know about! If you want to be in the know, read a story how my kids loved it in the family rides-section. It will make you rethink your travel plans!
Eating gold makes you stronger
In central Kanazawa in the middle of the old and scenic Higashichaya-area is the Yasue Gold Leaf Museum. Inside everything shines! Amazing decorations are made from tiny lumps of gold, flattened and flattened until they are rather large leafs. Now I understand why it is gold, but not too expensive; it simply weighs nothing! There are some strange souvenirs too; we had to buy the ‘Gold Leaf Cake’ which containing real flakes of gold to eat. Health benefits like… are claimed and I have to say, so far, so good.
The little streets around the museum have low rise houses, mostly in traditional style with lots of dark wood and sliding doors. Try some of the (dead-end) alleys just for fun, you never know what your reward will be.
Bon-fires, parades and tea ceremonies
The festival parade was an endless combination of large drums, colourful ceremonial costumes and special effects. The Hyakumangoku Matsuri Festival is annual, the three days centering around the 1st Saturday in June. “The basis of Kanazawa was built in 1583, when Lord Maeda Toshiie, founder of the Kaga Domain, moved to Kanazawa Castle. The Hyakumangoku Matsuri is the greatest festival of Kanazawa in commemoration of Toshiie’s entry into the castle. The highlight of the festival is the Hyakumangoku Parade, which begins on the Saturday afternoon. In the evening after the main parade, 10,000 people’s dances start on the main street of the city, which everybody can join on the spot. Traditional Takigi Noh dances are performed outdoors with lights supplied by bonfires in Kanazawa Castle Park and traditional tea ceremonies are held in a number of Japanese-style tearooms in the city. Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi, the floating of lanterns lit with candles and decorated with Kaga Yuzen silk textiles, commences night before the main festival (the Friday night) down the Asanogawa River across the Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge. The entire city is in a festival mood. “ (from Kanazawa tourism)
Hundreds of floating lanterns
Especially pretty is the floating of lanterns in the Asanogawa river. They are countless, all different. Kids and adults make them by decorating silk with traditional patterns, they set them free at the river bank. Some follow their lanterns downstream, verbally encouraging them not to get stuck in the rest of the bunch. Joining these kids for a bit is exciting! It does get busy but the show stretches along a large part of the river so you can still walk and change spots.
At the parking for the night
A great spot for the night is a small parking along the road right on the hilltop overlooking Kanazawa. Actually there is a series of these parkings, some have toilets, others don’t. It is quiet and you will only be joined by other lovers, coming up to admire the stars. The road up has a couple of switchbacks, you can short-cut these when walking down. Or just drive down and park closer to the centre for the day. Not that it is far, but it does get steep.
Suggestion; stay in Yuwaku Onsen the night before Kanazawa. You get a hot spring and are about 30 minutes away so you can still have a full day to explore. This way you can enjoy 2 days of Kanazawa while only 1 night has no hot spring 😉
That is easy. This is a major city on this part of Honshu. Whatever you may need it is here. There is even a Starbucks which are quite a bit more rare away from the densely populated Tokyo-Osaka axis. Suggestion is to head for a large mall in the outskirts upon arrival, or before moving on. Especially when your plan is going to the Noto Peninsula.
Getting there, and driving ON a beach
Kanazawa connects to the north-east and south-west via excellent toll roads which make a fast alternative to the mountain roads coming out of the Japanese Alps. Obviously you want to drive these mountain roads but to save time maybe make miles on the toll road too. The special experience of driving literally on the beach is also near here, called the ‘Chirihama Nagisa driveway.’ It is 35 kilometers from Kanazawa and a great spot for a picnic break.
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