Kanazawa dining and nightlife best in west Japan

Kanazawa dining and nightlife is the best in west Japan, especially in the downtown Katamachi / Kohrinbo area. Canals from the old town moat survive today, to give the area an extra character, a hint of Venice or Amsterdam perhaps?

You can certainly find some great little European restaurants here, along with plenty more serving delicious local specialties and the freshest seafood.

You could spend a couple of weeks happily eating your way round Kanazawa’s Katamachi area © Carmen Price

For more action busy izakaya and music bars offering everything from jazz to play-your-own rock are dotted around the zone. Take out beers encourage patrons to wander, and you could quite easily just graze rather than sit down in one place for a full meal. Grab some sushi, drop in for a slice of pizza, enjoy some fried crunchy stuff at an izakaya.

Sapporo’s Susukino District is rated as Japan’s largest entertainment district north of Tokyo, packed with bars, restaurants and stores. Don’t miss it if you are heading to Hokkaido.

Sushi is pretty healthy anyway, but more so if you dance it off at Zawa Zawa © Carmen Price

In western Japan, Jsummer’s roving reporters have found nothing to beat Kanazawa for dining and nightlife. This historic city has been on a roll since the Hokuriku shinkansen arrived 5 years ago, putting it just 2 hours 28 minutes away from downtown Tokyo.

That has boosted business investment and visitation, with the area around the award winning new station another foodies’ delight. The office towers there provide a busy lunch and evening after work scene.

Kanazawa dining Katamachi old town/downtown

But the Katamachi old town’s character and variety in a small area of just a few blocks is the best. You can pretty much follow your nose and seek out whatever takes your fancy here.

Looking for fresh sushi? Tuna heads on ice outside the door are a good indication it’s as fresh as it gets inside.. and it is!

Fresh tuna heads outside sushi restaurant in Kanazawa's old town
The cold currents off shore from Ishikawa deliver the richest rewards – caught today, eaten tonight! © Carmen Price

Lots of small establishments with owner-chefs are well worth a look. Don’t worry if the menus are not in English in many of these smaller places, apps come to the rescue these days.

On-the-ball staff will scan and show you if you don’t have your own translate app already to do it yourselves.

Uva Uva Italian Restaurant, Kanazawa Katamachi district
Awesome Italian with fresh local ingredients and lovely owners is the winning formula at Uva Uva © Owain Price

We couldn’t go past cosy little Uva Uva (Grape Grape), which was almost packed, all the tables full (always a good sign eating out anywhere on the planet). Hungry from a big day checking out Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden, we were happy to find the last couple of spots at their little bench inside the entrance.

Some quick translation and we were soon enjoying a delicious fresh feast, washed down with some very generously poured Italian uva juice. In big restaurants a glass of wine in Japan can be what we might consider the tasting test drop in the west, but in owner-operated businesses a more generous serving regime usually applies. It certainly did at Uva Uva. Delicious fresh salad, a pasta dish and grilled swordfish made for a perfect meal.

Casa de Live Spanish restaurant, Kanazawa
Owner/chef at Casa de Live has been cooking up a Spanish storm for 40 years in Kanazawa © Owain Price

The next night we moved a couple of blocks away, and a bit further round the Mediterranean cuisine wise, discovering Casa de Live, another special little place with loads of character and great Spanish cuisine.

The owner/chef has been cooking up a paella and mariscos storm for 40 years! We couldn’t resist sampling the huge local oysters as well. Tapas is pretty much the European rendition of izakaya in Japan, or vice versa, so it’s not surprising it caught on.

Kanazawa giant oysters mornay at Casa de Live Spamish restaurant
Now that’s an oyster! © Carmen Price

For real Indian and Nepali curry lovers (and a great option for vegetarians finding it hard to escape the ubiquitous porky pig in almost everything) Aashirwad in the Nagamachi Samurai house district adjoining Katamachi along the canal does lunch and dinner daily except mondays. It’s great value too.

If you want to kick on there are plenty of little music bars catering to most tastes. Whatever genre it is has no shortage of enthusiasts fully into their preferred taste.

Music Bar Minshia allows customers to play, kind of karaoke with the instruments.

The Jazz Bistro Tsuki Usagi was too smoky for our tastes (hopefully the latest new laws on smoking will finally reduce this problem), but the music was good.

Of course you can go more upmarket in the downtown district too, like the superb French cuisine at the Marais D’Or in the Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel, which sits on top of the Tokyu Square Korinbo shopping mall and is among the very best hotel options here, for location and quality.

Kanazawa Omicho Musashi Market area

For lunch it’s hard to beat Kanazawa’s buzzing Omicho Market in the Musashi area. Endless stalls offer a huge variety of fresh produce – especially local seafood and vegetables – and lots of little and big (especially upstairs) restaurants offering snacks and meals at very affordable prices.

No reservations here, you can see the popularity by the queue sitting outside deveral waiting their turn in the main lower markets area. If you don’t want to wait for a spot go upstairs where they are not quite so busy.

Hyakumon-Goku Udon is one of the best for noodle nuts, while Morimori Sushi is the go for absolutely fresh classic converyor-belt sushi. Morimori is arguably Kanazawa’s most popular sushi option, with three branches – the markets, Katamachi and at the station.

If local steak is more to your taste try the Steak House Daizen in the basement floor of the Maitetsu M’za Department Store opposite the market. They do hot lava stone grill-your-own style.

It’s also a handy spot to pick up any souvenirs you need to take home for family and friends t a good price.

Omicho Market is only a couple of blocks from the Kuro-man gate of Kanazawa Castle Park, so is the perfect refuel stop after a morning checking out Kenrokuen Garden and the Castle.

Or use the loop bus.

Kanazawa Station area dining options

Kanazawa Station is where the modern action is business wise, and buzzes with life and people daily supporting a lively lunch trade and plenty after work action. From quick and casual to smart upmarket business hotels there’s a range to suit most budgets and tastes.

Hotel buffets are pretty good value if you’re not on the corporate tab, plus plenty of places offer the local specialty, oden – a fish cake stew with other local ingredients that is very filling.

Hizuki Izakaya near the East Gate is good for this. Another good izakaya here is Daian, their seasonal local vegetable tempura is a treat.

For Mediterranean flavours in the East Gate area The Olive Oil Kitchen does great seafood paella and nice pastas, using a selection of the best Italian and Spanish olive oils.

Kanazawa is kind of a Goldilocks city – not too big, not too small, but just right – for discovering plenty of variety without being overwhelmed by crowds.

You can walk or get the Loop Bus pretty much everywhere interesting too.

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.

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More Info

Kanazawa attractions not to miss/do include:

Kanazawa Castle Park

Gold Leaf museum and craft experience

Kenrokuen Garden

Ishikawa tourism official site

Kanazawa tourism official site