Known by the locals as ‘little Kyoto’, the city of Kanazawa has all the culture, history and tranquil gardens of its busy sister, but without the crowds. It’s considered one of the most well-preserved Edo-period cities in the country where its temples, geisha houses and samurai districts give you a real sense of Japanese culture. The city is also part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network thanks to its historic craftwork like gold leaf-making, and its cuisine – particularly the seafood – is famous throughout Japan.
Many Kanazawa hostels are quintessentially Japanese with lounges featuring tatami straw matting and wood-and-paper shōji doors. You’ll find stays in traditional houses with cherry tree gardens, as well as more urban stays with sleek interiors and extras like Jacuzzi spas. Check out a Kanazawa hostel with an on-site bar and organised events if you’re after a social vibe, or a hostel with a rooftop space or cosy lounge for a chilled atmosphere. Most hostels in Kanazawa have free Wi-Fi or computer areas.
Kanazawa is full of interesting districts. The central area, by the main station, is where you’ll find the information centre, as well as restaurants. A 15-minute walk southwest will bring you to the Omicho Market Area, where you can pick up delicious seafood. 20 minutes further south is Kanazawa’s green centre where you’ll find historic gardens and museums. Over the Saigawa River, you can discover Higashi Chayagai, the city’s largest teahouse and geisha district, and the Teramachi Temple Area.
Whichever area you start with, you’ll find plenty of things to do. Kanazawa’s central district is packed with cosy cafés, cake shops and boutique stores. Its history can be found in its surrounding districts. The city’s samurai heritage can be explored in Nagamachi Bukeyashiki, home to old Japanese buildings and a museum full of samurai artefacts. Nearby is Kanazawa Castle, which has views out to the mountains, as well as the beautiful park-like Kenroku-en Garden.
You can fly into Komatsu Airport from other Japanese cities, as well as Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei. The bus journey into Kanazawa will take about 50 minutes. From Tokyo, the bus will take 7.5 hours, and from Kyoto, it’s about 4 hours. The Kanazawa Loop Bus can take you to all the major attractions in town, but if you prefer to go off the beaten track, you can hire a bike from the train station, or use the city’s pay-as-you-go rental system called Machi-nori.