Kanazawa Castle

OK, back to Japan. We left Tokyo, going by train to the much smaller city of Kanazawa, a historic castle town.


One of the gates to Kanazawa Castle.


Kanazawa is on Japan’s western coast, facing the Sea of Japan (with Korea on the other side of the water).

Outer moat and walls of Kanazawa Castle.

The region around Kanazawa was once known as Kaga. In 1488, an alliance of farmers and Buddhist monks drove out the local feudal lord, and Kaga became known as the “Kingdom of Peasants”, or the Kaga Ikki.

Senior citizens have a nice chat in the shadow of the castle walls.

The Kingdom of Peasants had its share of internal strife, but it survived for nearly 100 years. In 1582, the feudal lord Maeda Toshiie and his allies conquered Kaga after years of bitter fighting. He then set about consolidating his rule by building Kanazawa Castle.


While much of the castle perches on steep hillsides, on this side it looks down on a broad, flat lawn. There’s an aquatic garden with cattails and waterlilies near one of the gates.


Another entrance to the castle.


Kanazawa Castle has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. It is an imposing edifice of stone, timber, and metal. Recent reconstructions have tried to scrupulously use the same building techniques that were employed in the 1600s.


That’s a big door hinge.


Here’s an inner moat.


A watchtower.


You can go inside the watchtowers and climb up to the top. The stairs are extremely steep. You have to take off your shoes and I was worried that my stocking feet would slip on the smooth wooden steps. I was clinging to the railings and carefully taking one step at a time.


A view  of the City of Kanazawa from the watchtower.


The whitish roof tiles are made with lead.


A view from the top of another watchtower.


The castle has multiple sections divided by walls and moats.




One of the buildings has extensive indoor displays on the construction techniques used in the construction of the castle.


The craftsmanship was pretty impressive. All the wooden parts of the structures were joined without nails or screws. And some of the wooden posts were diamond-shaped, making for some complicated joinery.




If you go to Kanazawa Castle, I would also recommend visiting the Ishikawa Prefectural History Museum, which is pretty close by. It provides more context for understanding the times which inspired the building of the Castle.

Kanazawa Castle has a compelling aura. It recalls the monks and farmers who struggled against a feudal order centuries ago, as well as the noblemen who reasserted their control over this region.

19 Comments on “Kanazawa Castle”

  1. Thanks for this recommendation, Jason!
    Today I talked with my husband about going to Kanazawa. In March I fly again to Japan to visit him. Our plan is to see in about 4 days the most important attractions from Kyoto, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Miyajima. What do you think, is it makable?

    • That would be too much for us, but we hate being rushed. Kyoto is amazing. Will you be there for the cherry blossoms? I think you’ll be a little bit early, but I’m not sure. It would be amazing to see cherry blossoms, but you need to plan it well in advance, because most places get very crowded.

      • You are probably right! We are still thinking about what’s most important for us. I will be there before cherry blossom so that I miss the crowds. 🙂 Cherry blossom starts mid March.
        By the way your post about Kanazawa’s Omicho market came just right for me.

  2. What beautifully crafted buildings, no nails & screws, and in true Japanese style, there is perfect attention to details. Thanks for showing us a place less known to tourists ( I imagine?) I’m thrilled to think the farmers & monks were in charge for a while.

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