Kanazawa Castle showcases samurai era wealth and power

Kanazawa Castle Park is the central show piece of this historic city, showcasing the power and wealth of the samurai era’s great feudal lords.

From 1583 for the next 280 years Kanazawa Castle was the home of the Daimyo (lord) of the Maeda family, who ruled over the Kaga Clan domain incorporating modern Ishikawa and Toyama Prefectures.

Kanazawa Castle storehouse reconstruction
Reconstructions are done to original plans (kept by the Shoguns) © Carmen Price

With fertile well watered plains for agriculture, abundant natural resources – from seafood to gold – it became the second wealthiest feudal domain in all Japan during the Edo era. Only the Tokugawa Shoguns outranked it in wealth and power.

Kanazawa was for centuries the 2nd most important castle in Japan © Owain Price

The scope of the Kanazawa Castle Park today lets visitors appreciate the scale of the compound, if not the original buildings. Strategically located between the Asanogawa and Saigawa rivers, it spreads over 30 hectares. The central enclosure rises 60m, 30m or more above the town surrounding town below.

Moat at Kanazawa Castle
Impressive stonework is everywhere on the 28.5 ha Kanazawa Castle site © Carmen Price

A massive fire in 1759 destroyed the castle tower and most of the other buildings in the compound. The tower was never rebuilt, but the impressive Ishikawa-mon gate and Sanjikken Nagaya storehouse (a 50 metre long warehouse) were rebuilt in the Edo era and have been preserved since. They are now designated important cultural assets. 

Much of the massive original stone work of the interior and exterior walls and moats remain, some areas restored and maintained in excellent condition. The moat walls are very impressive. Don’t miss hiking up to the Ushitora Yagura Turret and Rokoyaguradai Turret Platform for a dominant view across the city below to the mountains behind.

Inside view of the Ishikawa-mon main gate © Carmen Price

The Ushitora Yagura tower was lost in the great 1759 fire, but its impressive wall, built in the Nozura-zumi style with natural unshaped stones, dates to 1592.

The largest castle building on the site now, the Hashizumemontsuzukiyagura Turret and adjoining Gojikkennagaya Storehouse, is in fact a detailed reconstruction made directly from the original plans. The Shoguns, having united Japan after centuries of almost incessant fighting, required all castle plans to be submitted to them for approval in case of rebellion, so plans were preserved intact. The Shoguns also only allowed one castle per domain, the reason many smaller castles were abandoned and/or destroyed.

Sure, having a central tower (or almost invariably, a reconstruction of one) is the lure for most famous Japanese castle sites like Matsumoto or Aizu Wakamatsu. But for history buffs the sheer scope of Kanazawa Castle more than makes up for it. Appreciating the skill and scale of the stonework is a good start.

It’s all parkland now, with well tended paths running through woods and open grass, so it’s good for families with younger kids to give them room to roam. There are several amenity blocks scattered around, and a coffee shop at the Tsurumaru Rest House near the main Ishikawamon Gate. You can leave bags at the entrance rest area past the gate.

The imposing main entrance © Owain Price

The other big attraction here is Kenroku-en Garden, right opposite the castle over a bridge spanning busy Ohonidori Avenue. The garden is far more popular than the castle, so doing the garden first thing before it gets too crowded, then heading over to the castle, is the best order.

Both Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenrokuen Garden are open 0700 – 1800 from March 1st to October 15th, from 0800 – 1700 the rest of the year. Entry is free to the outer Castle Park areas, ¥320 adults, ¥100 children to the main central part.

Kanazawa Castle is just over a bridge from Kenroku-en Garden © Owain Price

Where is Kanazawa Castle?

Kanazawa Castle Park is literally the heart of the old city, a 15 minute bus ride from Kanazawa JR Station or 10 minute taxi ride.

The Kanazawa Loop Bus One Day Pass is best, only ¥600, hop on and off at other sights and attractions along the way. They run at 15 minute intervals on both the Right and Left Loop routes. Single sector fares are ¥200.

If driving

  • Hokuriku Expressway From Kanazawa West IC (about 30 min.)
  • Hokuriku Expressway From Kanazawa East IC (about 30 min.)
  • Hokuriku Expressway From Morimoto IC (about 20 min.)

Accommodation deals Kanazawa

Just enter your target dates for the latest Booking.com deals – we recommend staying in the old town area for easy access to attractions like the castle and the great restaurants and lively nightlife there.

Booking.com

More Info

Ishikawa tourism official site

Kanazawa tourism offical site