It would be a shame to come all the way to Kanazawa, a Japanese castle town, and not pay a visit to the castle! The beautifully reconstructed fortress has extensive grounds and is located close to many other great attractions.
A Brief History of Kanazawa Castle
Kanazawa Castle was the seat of power in the region since the 15th century. Its most famous residents were the Maeda clan, founded by hero Toshiie Maeda. His clan put Kanazawa on the map, and they ruled from the castle for 300 years until the Meiji Restoration.
Like most Japanese castles, Kanazawa Castle has burned down many times over the ages. This isn’t surprising when you consider the logic of constructing a wooden building at a high vantage point in a part of the country known for lightning storms.
Furthermore, much of the castle grounds were repurposed over the years. The site has housed military barracks, tennis courts, and a university campus. As a result, the government had to restore most of it when they took back control of the grounds in 1996.
Unique Features of Kanazawa Castle
Two original structures on-site are the Ishikawamon Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya. The Ishikawamon Gate is from 1788 and gives an impressive entrance to the castle park, especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. The Sanjikken Nagaya is a warehouse from 1858. Both of these structures are Important Cultural Properties.
One unusual feature of Kanazawa Castle is that the main keep, the highlight of any Japanese castle, is missing. This is because it burned down in 1602. For reasons lost to history, it was never replaced.
Things to see and do at the Castle Park
The castle park is free to visit, and there are a few exhibits to see as well. Inside the vast Kahokumon Gate, there are free displays about its history and construction.
The most impressive part of the complex is the Gojikken Nagaya storehouse and its two turrets. It costs ¥310 to enter, but you can learn more about the castle’s history, marvel at the interior, and take in the view from the turret windows. These windows were used as part of the castle’s defences to drop stones on enemies!
Fun fact: the roofs of the castle structures have a whitish color, because they are actually made of lead. As legend goes, this was so that the roof tiles could be melted down to make bullets in case Kanazawa Castle was attacked.
The grounds of the castle park are pleasant, particularly in the spring when there are cherry blossoms by the moat. Be sure not to miss the Gyokusen’inmaru Garden. This was a private space for the lord, and features a large pond, walking paths, and cypress trees. There is a light-up installation in the garden on Friday and Saturday nights until 21:00. This is free to view.
Kanazawa Castle is easy to access from the station via the Kanazawa Loop Bus. Get off at the Kenrokuen stop. It is a 20-minute bus ride from Kanazawa Station.
Name: Kanazawa Castle
Address: 1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0937
Open (grounds): 7:00-18:00 March 1-October 15; 8:00-17:00 October 16-February
Open (exhibits): 9:00-16:30 (last admission 16:00)
Post by Japan Journeys.