Best Things to Do in Japan: Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go

It was on a winter break that I finally have a little time (and willingness) to romanticize a trip I did to Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. I got a lot of blast because it was my first actual trip outside Kansai area after the whole semester studying abroad and my first decent snow experience which make me overly excited, since the city I lived wasn't snowing so much. I never dreamt about traveling with friends to a complete strange place which I only saw the pictures from Instagram. Never did I really plan about this trip which eventually became one of the best memories I made in Japan. Everything feels pretty surreal and magical.
It was me and five other friends on the bus headed to Kanazawa. It took us 6 hours by a night bus from Osaka to Kanazawa station. Early in the morning we were welcomed by snow falling the whole day. I did expect the snow, but never really think how cold would it be to walk all day under the snow, and I figured out that I will not do it ever again, especially without a proper winter boots. With the basic knowledge of the city and some help from the hostel staff, we started our trip walking (literally) around the city. It wasn't that bad to walk from one place to another since most touristy destination we chose were mostly located in the city centre. We got to see the central traditional market, the charm of Kenroku Garden which were fully covered with snow, warmed up ourselves at 21th Century Museum of Modern Art, and found a little old Japanese town which was kind of dead due to the snowstorm.

The landmark of Kanazawa city JR Station. You can access the city by JR train or bus. For me, I chose night bus from Osaka and got of at the bus stop just beside this train station and it cost me 4,000 yen one way. 

Kanazawa Omicho Market is the central and the biggest traditional market in Kanazawa. As the typical Japanese traditional market, you will easily find fresh seafood around that you should try. Any types of fish, scallops, sea urchin, octopus, and many other seafood you can find starting from 500 yen. One speciality from the market is surprisingly oden, a kind of steamed seafood skewers which is very warm and nice to eat during winter. You can get each piece for around 200 yen.




Kenroku Garden is one most recommended place to visit for the charm it has in every season. So if you plan to visit Kanazawa anytime soon, don't need to worry if the garden won't be as good as it is in a different season. The garden is located in the centre of the city, right beside the castle so it is not really hard to find.



To be able to get into the garden, you are required to pay for around 330 yen and walk around this part.


From my personal observation towards Japanese, museums and art museums are a thing if you are traveling to other cities. They have such an attachment to educate themselves while spending their leisure time. No wonder 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is very famous, also for its iconic 'underwater' exhibition room. As can be predicted from its name, this museum exhibits mostly modern art 2Ds and 3Ds, and always changed every 3-4 months.





Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art costs me around 800 yen to get inside and explore  some part of the exhibition. We should pay more for other special exhibition. If you don't want to pay, you can still enjoy few installation outside the museum. 

With a little exhaustion left from the first day, we went to Shirakawa-go in Gifu Prefecture to spend the day exploring the area. We took a day bus which take us there after nearly 2 hours drive. Thanks to the heavy snow from the previous day, we got to see the best view of the traditional Japanese folk house made of wood and straw with a little breeze but no snow which makes it even more perfect, even if we couldn't get to the observatory deck. The whole village was just white and beautiful, but slippery too. Regardless, we still did a little hike to see the view from atop and it was kinda worth it. For me personally, it was the best moment I had in my life so far because I've been dreaming to visit this place for a very long time and it finally happened.

There are many other alternatives to reach Shirakawa-go. I paid 1,750 yen one way for the bus from Kanazawa. You can also go from Takayama or rather stay overnight in Shirakawa-go itself. 




Last day was sunny and a little warmer that we went to the old town district or known as Higashi Chaya District with those Japanese old style building and lots of shrines. Also, we went to small local brewery across the street which I recommend to enjoy a chill day in the city. We wrapped up the trip by going to an onsen inside APA hotel, just beside Kanazawa station. 




Kanazawa Oriental Brewing.
They serve varieties of tap beer from stouts to IPAs. My personal preference was the IPA because it wasn't too stiff yet not too plain either. It costs me 700 yen per glass, normal price to get a glass of craft beer in Japan. 

After all, what I love the most from the city is that the less touristy and quiet atmosphere that makes it very comfortable to enjoy. We don't have to struggle a lot to take pictures without being photobombed (despite the fact that I was too excited on the first day and my phone screen broke). You can also find many accommodation options from cheap bunk-bed hostels to the fancy five-starred hotel. For me, I stayed in Blue Hour hostel, 6 minutes walk from the station, and I paid for 2,500 yen per night which is very decent for the cleanliness and hospitality. If I was given a second chance to visit Kanazawa, I would visit the samurai house which used to be the real samurai house in the past time.  Nonetheless, I would say that Kanazawa is my most favorite city in Japan, so far. 

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