When you think of Japan, Tokyo usually pops up as the city most travelers should visit, but have you considered the other side of Japan – directly across from Tokyo?
In western Japan you’ll find beautiful Ishikawa, a prefecture that mixes Japan’s rural culture with a little big city flair. It’s capital city, Kanazawa, is the perfect mix between city vibes and small-town comfort, all easily accessible by bullet train.
How To Get To Kanazawa
From Tokyo, Kanazawa is accessible by bullet train or “shinkansen,” bus, car, and plane.
Tokyo to Kanazawa by TRAIN:
From Tokyo Station, you can take a bullet train directly to Kanazawa via the Hokuriku line, or you can take the shinkansen through Maibara for a small discount. Train rides will take anywhere between 3 to 4 hours.
In fact, there is a special pass you can buy to make traveling in Japan easier for you. The Japan Rail Pass is a railway pass targeted at foreign tourists on short-stay visas (less than 90 days) that allows pass holders to ride trains and some buses for free for a set day-limit. The pass is offered for 7-day, 14-day, and 21-day use and must be purchased before arrival in Japan, but it is definitely useful for stress-free travel. It can also be used when taking the train from Narita Airport and Haneda Airport when going to Tokyo Station.
Tokyo to Kanazawa by PLANE:
There are daily flights leaving from Narita or Haneda airports in Tokyo that fly direct into Ishikawa through Komatsu airport. The flight is only 1 hour and is usually around ¥14,000. From Komatsu Airport, you can take a bus or a train to Kanazawa Station in under an hour.
Tokyo to Kanazawa by BUS:
The buses that leave from Tokyo to Kanazawa are usually overnight buses, allowing you to sleep while you travel the 8-10 hour distance it takes to reach your destination. Prices start at around ¥5000.
Where To Stay in Kanazawa
While Ishikawa is a vast prefecture, its capital city Kanazawa is really where you should be. Kanazawa is essentially a smaller Kyoto and has a traditional district to show for it as well! If you want a little more tradition, you can check out the district called Higashiyama Higashi Chaya or visit the Ninja Temple, and if you want a little more modernity, you can visit the 21st Century Museum—all just a short bus ride from Kanazawa Station.
The city is compact and much less overwhelming than Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto combined. There are a ton of things to do and see in Kanazawa, and because it is becoming more popular with foreign tourists, it is not lacking for accommodations or attractions.
The name of the game for Japanese hospitality is “omotenashi” and whether you’re in a luxury hotel or a hostel, you will still find that “omotenashi” culture. Regardless of your budget, the hotels suggested below are centrally located, on the bus line and within walking distance to Kanazawa’s best attractions. They'll all offer you a great place to lay your head down at night after all that walking—believe me, you will have walked miles.
Budget Stay in Kanazawa
First Cabin Kanazawa is a chain hotel branch commonly seen in Tokyo and Osaka that offers normal hotel rooms and Japan’s infamous ‘capsule’ rooms as well. Although it is a 20-minute walk from the station, the hotel can be reached using most buses from Kanazawa Station for a flat rate of ￥200 (about $1.90 USD).
Where To Eat in Kanazawa
Japan has a particular kind of foodie culture that surrounds itself around cafés and coffee in the daytime and drinking when the sun goes down. If you’re not a café person before you visit Japan, you may be one after!
Japan does cafés the “Japanese way.” Instead of the chic feel of your French cafés, you find much more “insta-bae” (pronounced insta-buy-eh) in Japan. The more Instagram-friendly a café is, the more popular it will be, and living in Japan for over 3 years has really made me an insta-bae café connoisseur (no pinkies up, please!).
Japanese cafés mix foreign tastes with a Japanese flair. Whether it’s fried chicken, called “karaage,” or an omelet and rice, called “omuraisu,” you’ll find Japanese fusion that is a little more than traditional Japanese cuisine. The ingredients, tastes and look are all for a Japanese audience, even if it seems like a taste from home. Are you intrigued yet?
Here are the 5 best cafes in Kanazawa, Japan:
1. Curio Espresso and Vintage Design
Address: 1-13 Yasuecho, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0854
Curio Espresso and Vintage Design, like it’s namesake states, is a vintage-style cafe with Seattle tastes. The cafe owners met in Seattle, Washington, USA–one a Japanese native and the other from the United States–and continued their coffee passion in Kanazawa. The cafe is located near Kanazawa station, only a short bus ride or a 10-minute walk away, and down a breezy street with old-school cafes and shops. If you don’t speak Japanese, then don’t worry as the staff speak both Japanese and English. Although you don’t have to tip, only cash is accepted at this cafe.
My recommendation: The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich for the carnivore and the Vegetarian Chili for the herbivore
2. Doctor’s Creation Café 87
Address: 3 Chome-3-70 Hirooka, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0031
Doctor’s Creation Café 87 is for the healthy and gluten-free. Almost all of the dishes offered are made using rice-flour and they are balanced and colorful for a healthy diet. The name says it all—offerings at this café are doctor-approved! The space is open and airy with a clean feel, and the staff are quite friendly. Although the staff at this café can’t speak English, they are accommodating and have a booklet with pictures of the dishes and drinks they offer. Doctor’s Creation 87 is located on the quieter side of Kanazawa Station and only a 6-minute walk away.
My recommendation: Try the cold-pressed juices for a great cleanse
3. Café Dumbo
Address: 2 Chome-11-6 Korinbo, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0961
Café Dumbo is a two-story minimalist café only a 15-minute bus ride from Kanazawa Station. It is located near the luxury shopping street in Kanazawa and offers delicious meals, pastries, and coffee.
My recommendation: Try the pastries (especially the cinnamon bun)
4. Full Of Beans
Address: 41-1 Satomicho, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0998
Full of Beans is a café located in Kanazawa’s entertainment district, Katamachi. It’s a café that offers vegetarian and vegan western and Japanese food, and even offers Kanazawa’s “Hanton Rice,” a bowl of rice topped with a Japanese style runny omelet, white fish, ketchup and tartar sauce.
My recommendation: The Hanton Rice
5. Taste and Scent
Address: 5 Teramachi, Royal Hirokouji 1F, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 921-8033
Taste & Scent is a vegan café located near Katamachi, Kanazawa’s nighttime entertainment area, and the Ninja Temple. It’s located in a quiet area of Kanazawa that is a little off-the-beaten-path. Contrary to western-style vegan food, Taste & Scent is Japanese vegan, and uses ingredients used in traditional Japanese meals with Japanese flavors and seasonings. The café is open for breakfast and lunch, and closes at 4PM.
My recommendation: The Daily Vegetable Lunch Plate (ingredients change depending on the day)
With these five cafes, you too can be a Japanese cafe connoisseur. Kanazawa and greater Ishikawa has so much to offer that cafe culture is only the top layer of things to do in the prefecture.
About The Author:
Natasha is a part-time traveler from the US currently living in Japan. She is the founder of Away From Origin, a travel blog dedicated to sharing her ‘away from origin’ travel stories, travel tips and guides, and destination photography. Follow her on Instagram, on Pinterest , and at her travel and lifestyle blog, Away From Origin.