Kanazawa Travel in 24 hours

Luxurious stay in Michelin starred Asadaya Ryokan and best of what Kanazawa has to offer (24 Nov 2017)
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In celebration of Y’s big 40 last year, we went for a nice girlie getaway with some of her best gal pals to Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture. This post describes the first part of the trip where we stayed in Asadaya Ryokan in Kanazawa for the first night, before moving on to the Kaga area to stay in Kayotei for the next 2 nights. It was definitely too short a trip, as there was so much to do and see, but what makes Kanazawa so convenient is also its proximity to Tokyo, which means I could come back here again in the near future!

Getting to Kanazawa

The best way to get to Kanazawa is via the Hokuriku Shinkansen, it’s about a 1 hour and 35 minutes ride from Tokyo Station. At this point in time, for convenience, we had gotten the concierge at Capitol Hotel where we stayed to help us book the tickets in advance for the shinkansen. Otherwise, you can easily purchase the tickets up to 1 month in advance online via the JR East website, all you need to so it to create an account, and have your credit card ready. Alternatively, if you are the type of traveller who prefers to purchase the tickets when you arrive in Japan, you may do so, except sometimes especially during peak periods like the Golden Week and their public holidays, you may not be able to get the class ticket that you prefer. I love sitting in the gran class, it’s so luxe and there’s plenty of space to put the luggage in the front and back of the cabin. However, the green class is decent too for short rides, and if you don’t have such bulky luggage.

Waiting for the Kagayaki train to arrive at Tokyo Station.

On board my seat in Green Class. 

Bento boxes from the train station.

The weather in Kanazawa is notorious for its many rainy days. Apparently, one of the local chefs told me that it rains around 300 days out of the full year which makes it almost necessary to have an umbrella or rain coat with you at all times! Very important tip, especially for tourists like us who explore a lot of the place on foot. Once we deposited our luggage in Asadaya Ryokan, we started exploring the city including a quick local sushi lunch.

1 – 2.30 pm: Lunch at Sentori Zushi (〒920-0935 Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa, Ishibiki, 1 Chome−17−2; www.sentorisushi.com; Tel: +81 76-221-5057)

This was recommended by the proprietor at Asadaya Ryokan, but I can’t say I liked it very much. It’s a very simple casual sushi, nothing to rave about. But there are supposedly really good ones in Kanazawa which unfortunately I couldn’t get a table at. The ryokan tried to book for me for one of the top 3 tabelog sushi restaurants in Kanazawa at that time which was Mekumi, Taheizushi and Komatsu Yasuke Sushi. All of them were fully booked, and Komatsu Yasuke Sushi was fully booked for the whole year of 2017! So please tell me if you ever get to dine at any of these places.

At Sentori Zushi.

Some of the sushi I had at Sentori, ending with the negitoro and cucumber roll.

3 – 5.30 pm: Higashi Chaya District

After our sushi lunch, I decided to explore the Higashi Chaya district, located on the eastern side, and is one of the 3 famous well-preserved chaya districts since the Edo Period. It’s now occupied by many nice teahouses, dessert shops and homeware shops, including lacquerware which Kanazawa is famous for producing.

For good picture moments, you can choose to get off at the west side of this area, near the bridge and start walking into the town area. A pity the rain was so heavy when we arrived that we had to escape to my next stop which was some of the dessert shops, not that I mind!

Ukokkei – Famous gold leaf soft serve shop (1 Chome-3-1 Higashiyama, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken 920-0831)

What’s really interesting about this place is it carries many products made from eggs such as puddings which makes great souvenir gifts, and the soft-serve here is iconic for its super eggy taste and gold flakes. Not to be missed! They use gold leaf, as it’s also a Kanazawa specialty.

Sabouyanaginan Cafe 茶房 やなぎ庵 (matcha ice cream etc) : 〒920-0831, 1 Chome-13-24 Higashiyama, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken 920-083

There’s tons of other cafes including traditional tea houses where you can savour tea, so if weather is on your side, you can explore the others. We plonked ourselves here barely 5 minutes after stepping out of Ukkokei just to get some hot drink into our system and waited for the rain to die off a little. We had a simple French press coffee served with a wagashi – red bean mochi on the side. This 2-storey shop has some really beautiful lacquerware that you can admire and purchase if you have the deep pockets for it, as they are really expensive.

Ukkokei shop famous for its gold leaf soft serve.

Enjoying my gold leaf soft serve! 

Just relaxing in Sabouyanaginan Cafe.

My French press coffee set and mochi.

The Higashi Chaya district is a perfect setting for some nice pictures if you can just try to get a shot without the gazillion tourists around. It was a little tricky for me to do a nice shot especially in this rainy weather, but it made it all the more memorable with the gals. After our afternoon tea, we walked around and checked out some nice shops, and my special recommendation will definitely to head to Kihachi Lacquer.

Kihachi Lacquer 喜八工房・金沢店 (〒920-0831, 1丁目-26-7 東山 金沢市 石川県 920-0831, Japan; Tel: +81 76-251-1151; www.kihachi-web.com

This shop does beautiful handmade lacquerware, which seemed slightly less crazy in prices than the ones we saw at Sabouyanigan Cafe, but not very cheap either. They have lovely bowls, cups in the signature red lacquer, as well as brown and black too. A pity they didn’t have enough pieces of the one I liked otherwise I would have snapped it all up!

Beautiful lacquerware at Kihachi. 

Posing in front of one of the converted old shops. 

In classic rainy Kanazawa in Higashi Chaya distict.

Kenrokuen Garden (1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0936, Japan, 〒920-0936 石川県金沢市兼六町1, Tel: +81 76-234-3800)

This was meant to be my visit post-shopping in Higashi Chaya district, but didn’t make it here due to the horrible heavy rain, and all the gals were pretty tired. Talk about being so close yet so far, since this was just a mere 15 minutes walk from our lodging Asadaya Ryokan. Such a pity, as in autumn, this garden is accented by the beautiful fall colors which I was looking forward to seeing, and I’ve heard it’s one of Japan’s most notable beautiful landscape gardens. It looks beautiful any season of the year! So please put this on your itinerary if weather is on your side!

Warming up from the cold rainy weather in Asadaya Ryokan.

5.30 pm to next day 10 am  – Accomodation with dinner and breakfast at Asadaya Ryokan (23 Jikkenmachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0906, Japan, +81 76-231-2228) We booked the Furou, Takao and Kumoi/Aoi room through Michi Travel.

Life at Asadaya Ryokan began since 1867, and it is now run by the 15th generation family member, a really impressive feat. A cosy 4-room only ryokan, we felt like we almost had the whole place to ourselves since our group occupied 3 out of the 4 rooms. After we came back from our shopping in the evening, and were also soaked a little from the rain, one of the ladies in yukata ushered us into a quaint Japanese room to warm up and have some refreshments. The ryokan is in an authentic Sukiya style building, and the rooms though not very large or luxe compared to some other ryokans I have stayed in, it has its own character and is definitely a great location to stay in when visiting Kanazawa, given its proximity to the nearby Kenrokuen Gardens, and the 21st century Museum of Contemporary Art. Asadaya Ryokan is very well-known for its cuisine, no surprise it has garnered a 1 Michelin star in the Ryokan category in the Japan Michelin Guide. The food is typically served in the individual rooms but they kindly arranged for us to have our dinner and breakfast in another larger separate room so that we could eat together.

Where’s everybody? Can’t wait to dig into the sumptuous dinner at Asadaya.

Asadaya is known for their traditional Kaga style kaiseki cuisine, utilizing seasonal local products including fresh seafood. It was such a joy for me to appreciate the beautiful ceramics and lacquerware the food was served in. Remember when booking to check for the additional specials that may be available during the time you are visiting. For a little more top up, I think it’s worth it to try the specials. During our stay, I chose the Noto beef roast (approximately 6000 Yen per 80g) to add on for our dinner as a sharing portion on top of our kaiseki course. Noto, is an area, north of Kanazawa, facing the Sea of Japan. Noto beef is characterized by its high-quality fat containing a high ratio of oleic acid, which creates tenderness and aroma in the beef, and is not a beef you can eat anywhere, so I was so glad I ordered this! And if you love your alcohol as much as I do, ask the host to recommend a suitable sake to pair with your meal, given Kanazawa is famous for sake brewing, it only makes perfect sense! The best part about drinking in a ryokan, is how we can just roll into bed after that!

My lovely Noto beef roast. Just yums!

My lovely kaiseki dinner at Asadaya Ryokan.

Morning breakfast at Asadaya Ryokan.

We were pretty tired after dinner, and everyone just headed back to rest, to get ready for an early start the next day. Do take note that Asadaya does not have a hot spring bath like what some ryokans may have, but definitely makes up for this with its warm hospitality and wonderful food.

Tucked in bed! 

Chilling out in the room post dinner.

Posing in front of one of the converted old shops. 

2nd day – Post-breakfast 10 to 10.45 am : Visit to Omicho Market  (〒920-0905 Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa 上近江町50)

No matter how little time we had on our 2nd day, I had to visit Omicho Market, just across from Asadaya Ryokan. It is Kanazawa’s biggest fresh food market operating since the Edo Period, and is known for its fresh seafood catches amongst the many shops there. It’s also one of the oldest and largest fish market in Japan. Close to 200 stalls are here, selling everything from seafood such as my favourite crab, to fresh meat, dried food, grocery stores etc. There’s also fresh sushi shops here, for those who wanna eat a simple chirashi don, or sushi, but a pity I didn’t get to try. We had some stomach post breakfast to eat the piping hot oden which was pretty delicious on this cool morning. It’s best to visit here in the mornings and it gets really busy during the lunch crowd apparently. I would definitely love to come here the next time on my last stop before heading back to Singapore to purchase some goodies.

Buzzy Omicho market when we visited.

One of the many fresh seafood shops.

Oden oden! 

10.45 to 11.20 am : Coffee fix at Curio Expresso and Vintage Design (1-13 Yasuechō, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken 920-0854, Japan, Tel: +81 76-231-5543)

There were so many things I wanted to eat and drink this morning, but if I had to choose, I opted for a coffee fix after visiting Omicho Market, which is something I need every morning. I had read on some coffee blogs about this newish place – Curio Expresso in Kanazawa, and decided to walk there from the market since it was pretty close by. Definitely glad we came here, as the Seattle-style coffee was as described, it was smooth, robust and close to what I would get in a good Australian style coffee place. It also has a cute little cafe vibe, and seemed to serve decent breakfast grub for those (yes I was peering at what others were eating) who want to eat something other than Japanese food for breakfast. Definitely a nice welcome from the typical light Japanese drip coffees that I am not so akin to.

Enjoying a fine cappuccino at Curio Expresso.

11.30 am to 12.45 pm: Quick visit to the 21st Century Museum of Modern Art (1丁目-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken 920-8509, Japan, Tel: +81 76-220-2800. Closed on Mondays)

I always love to incorporate some art when I visit cities, and Kanazawa is known for its few museum notably the 21st Century Museum of Modern Art. The museum is shaped almost like a circular UFO, with white walls and a lot of full glass around it, seated in a large garden. It was pretty busy when we came, and we had to queue for a short while to get the tickets, which shortened the time we had around here. It’s most noted for its ‘Swimming Pool’, an installation like a swimming pool, and is a really fun and immersive experience. They have a permanent collection as well as changing exhibitions with a large representation of Japanese artists. I recommend to give yourself about minimum of 1.5 – 2 hours to walk around the different exhibits.

I would have loved to grab some cakes at Patisserie Ofuku, the patisserie in the museum here, or Le Musee De H nearby but didn’t have a chance, as we were getting late for lunch, our last stop here in Kanazawa.

Posing in the gardens at the museum.

Iconic Swimming Pool installation.

1 – 2.30 pm: Tempura Koizumi (34 四番丁 池田町 Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0987, Japan, Tel: +81 76-223-0023. Reservations a must.)

Definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Kanazawa, was the meal here. I had discovered this place while doing extensive research on eats in Kanazawa, and apparently this restaurant had garnered a 1 Michelin star during the one off special edition guide they did back in 2016. It was also rated the highest for Tempura in this area in Tabelog (my go to guide for Japanese eats), so I had to try it. The restaurant is hidden in a simple detached house, along a row of houses, in what looked like a residential street. We were the only ones at this time and we occupied the wooden counter in front of chef Seijiro Koizumi. The lunch course comprised of 12 courses, including a Tendon at the end followed by Yuzu sorbet to end off. I noticed how the chef was grating lots of horseradish when we sat down, and in some of the courses, the horseradish pared with the tempura sauce was just lovely and gave a different taste to the typical daikon usually in tempura sauces. My top favourites had to be the Buri fish with horse radish and a spicy sauce, and his spanish mackeral tempura style was so awesome. But honestly every piece of tempura was so good, I can’t even find one item to complain about. The batter is light and yet delicate and crispy. I would definitely come back to eat here if I ever visit Kanazawa again, a very memorable meal.

Enjoying my tempura meal lovingly prepared by Koizumi-san.

Medley of amazing tempura at Tempura Koizumi in Kanazawa.

After enjoying a wonderful meal at Tempura Koizumi, we went back to Asadaya Ryokan to get our bags, and off we went in our chartered car to our next stop Kayotei Ryokan. Honestly, 24 hours in Kanazawa is just not enough, there’s so much things to do, and decent shopping we noticed from the shops that passed us by as we headed out of the city. This brief discovery of this beautiful city, just gives me a reason to come back again in the future, I just can’t wait!

Goodbye to the lovely prioprietor and the head manager at Asadaya.

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