Once you are planning your trip to Japan, things can be a little overwhelming. So many things to see, so many places to visit... I know you want to visit Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka... but why not visit something a little more unknown?
Kanazawa, the golden swamp, is known as "the twin city of Kyoto" and is only three Shinkansen-hours away from Tokyo. It is a beautiful city full of history. When I visited it in January, I recorded a vlog with the itinerary I made with english subtitles. You can also visit my facebook page to see all the photos in full resolution!
2) My recommendation is that you visit the Kenroku-en Gardens in the first place, as they are a haven of peace and you will enjoy the visit much more in "solitude" ( that is, dodging the hordes of tourists and their incessant selfie-sticks ). It's the most beautiful garden I've ever visited. I was lucky enough to see it all covered in snow and it took my breath away completely. It's a really amazing place. I spent over three hours there and would have spent some hours more but, of course, this is a personal choice and varies with the person :)
I recommend you go to at least one of the tea houses inside and have a hot cup of Matcha tea there and some traditional Japanese sweets called Wagashi. It is a huge experience!
3) Kanazawa Castle is right in front of the Kenroku-en Garden, so I advise you to visit it afterwards. Personally, I didn't want to go in, because it's been in ruins for a long time, and, original, only the main entrance and a tower remain. I visited Himeji Castle and so I decided to pass this visit. But I did see the exterior of Kanazawa Castle and I recommend you, at least, to see the original walls and gates, because they are beautiful and a piece of history!
4) Then I headed for the samurai district. In it, I visited the streets of Nagamachi and Samurai Nomura's house. The district is well connected and excellently well preserved. It's like time travel. The Samurai Nomura's house is a bit complicated to find but once you locate it, the streets of Nagamachi are just behind it. Unfortunately, both the guided tour and most of the explanatory banners of Nomura's house are in Japanese, although they give you a small pamphlet with information. The house and district in general are seen in less than two hours and are really beautiful.
5) After visiting the samurai district, I headed straight for the Higashi-chaya hanamachi. A hanamachi is a district of geisha but if you want to know a little more about this, take a look at my article. The Higashi-chaya is a **** treasure. It's really amazing, it's a trip back in time and it's much bigger than it looks, don't stay on the main street and explore a little bit around it as well. There are still active Geisha's in this district but the secrecy and mystery of these historic places is kept in Kanazawa like in nowhere else... So give up on your attempt to see one on the street like you would on Kyoto! However, there are two tea houses that can be visited, one of them no longer exerts and offers a visit as a museum.
My last and short visit was to the Kazue-machi hanamachi on the banks of the river. It is a hamachi similar to that of Ponto-cho, in Kyoto, and is seen in a short time, but it has a wonderful charm and it's overfloaded with mystery. Of course it is a very recommended visit, you can't miss this historic jewel!
And that's all, folks! This was my one-day trip to Kanazawa. I stayed at the MyStays Kanazawa Castle Hotel, near the Kanazawa station. An incredibly beautiful city, with a lot of history. I hope this article helped you and don't hesitate to visit my vlog or to visit my facebook page to see all the photos in full resolution!
Have a good trip and enjoy the golden swamp, Kanazawa!