The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa as a new-style art museum different in image from conventional art museums was opened in October 2004. This art museum is round in shape as if it were the sight of a UFO that has touched down, all the walls are made of glass, and the building has five gates, which looks like a part opened in all street directions.
The museum exhibits experiment-type contemporary arts that visitors can touch or sit on, and includes zones where visitors can enter free. Both adults and children can experience an excited time in the museum. Some of the highlights of the museum are commissioned works, i.e., arts integrated with the building structure. These arts include a work that enables visitors to feel as if they stand on the bottom of a swimming pool, the surface of a wall colored with flowers gathered from the suburbs of Kanazawa, and a room with an opening on the ceiling through which visitors can see the changes of the sky.
The museum’s shop offers a wide variety of products, such as original items in the image of the museum, accessories, and selected goods.
The shrine that enshrines Maeda Toshiie was moved to the present location in 1873. The main gate is a peculiar mix of traditional Japanese, Chinese, and European religious architectural elements. This gate, which was designated as Japan’s important cultural assets, was completed in 1875.
One of the highlights of Oyama Shrine is the garden in round-the-pond style with an artificial island and bridge in the images of old musical instruments, such as the biwa (Japanese short-necked fretted lute).
The remains of the Nomura family are also open to public. The family successively held executive posts from generation to generation under rule of the Maeda family.
The house has a coffered ceiling totally made of Japanese cypress and fusuma-e (paintings on sliding-door panels) created by the Maeda family’s personal painter. The garden inside the residence has a Japanese bayberry over 400 years old and a meandering stream surrounded by ancient and strangely shaped rocks.
Chaya is a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha (traditional female Japanese entertainers) have been entertaining people by performing dances and playing Japanese traditional musical instruments since the Edo period. The central part of Kanazawa was dotted with a number of chaya houses in the past. These chaya houses were moved into three districts distant from the central part in 1820.
The largest one of the chaya districts in Kanazawa is the Higashi Chaya district. The construction of two-story houses except chaya houses was prohibited in the Edo period. A chaya house is characterized with a beautiful lattice called “kimusuko” on the outer side of the first floor and Japanese-style guestrooms located on the second floor. When you enter back streets, you will soon find a maze of continuous alleys.
The historical rows of this teahouse town along with Kyoto’s Gion and Kanazawa’s Kazue-machi have been designated as Japan’s cultural assets. There are no other chaya districts designated as Japan’s cultural assets. The district includes facilities where you can see the interior of a chaya house that was built almost 200 years ago. Besides, quite a few old buildings have been renewed into restaurants, teahouses, and souvenir shops.
It takes three minutes on foot to the bank of the Asano River from the Higashi Chaya district. The Higashi Chaya district and Asano river area are places where you can enjoy strolling and become acquainted with Japanese history and culture. Kanazawa City Tourism Association holds a geisha performance show in the three chaya districts of the city every Saturday.
In 1583, Lord Maeda Toshiie, who was Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s first retainer, moved to Kanazawa. The Maeda family resided in Kanazawa Castle and governed the Kaga Clan (the present Ishikawa and Toyama areas) for more than 280 years henceforth. The castle tower was burned down by a fire in the past and has not been rebuilt, but other fortress buildings were reconstructed repeatedly. The Ishikawamon Gate, which was rebuilt in 1788, and the Sanjikken Nagaya (50-yard-long warehouse), which was rebuilt in 1858, still remain. Both of them have been designated as Japan’s important cultural assets.
The place was used as a base of the Japanese army. Later, Kanazawa University used it as a campus. The place was repaired in 1996, and the Hishiyagura (diamond-shaped turret), Gojikken Nagaya (90-yard-long warehouse), and Hashizumemon Tsuzuki Yagura (turret protecting the nearby gate) were restored and the park opened.
In the time of the Maeda family, moats surrounded Kanazawa Castle. The castle had a fort function with loopholes for matchlocks on the outer wall to defend the castle from enemies. The beautiful white tiles that grace the roof are weathered lead and the wall is made of white mortar with flat tiles attached to it. The stone walls vary in type with each place, and it is apparent that the stonewalls were built in separate periods. The stone walls include those built more than 400 years ago.
Kenrokuen Garden is a beautiful Japanese garden with an area of 11.4 hectares located on the heights of the central part of Kanazawa and next to Kanazawa Castle. The Maeda family, who ruled the Kaga Clan (the present Ishikawa and Toyama areas) in feudal times, maintained the garden from generation to generation. From its scale and beauty, it is regarded as one of the most beautiful feudal lords’ gardens in Japan. Kenrokuen Garden has a big artificial pond, and hills and houses are dotted in the garden. Visitors can appreciate the whole, dropping in at them.
The big pond called “Kasumigaike” was compared to an open sea, and an island, on which an ageless hermit with miraculous power was believed to live, was constructed in the pond in hope of the long life and eternal prosperity of the lord. Kenrokuen, which means “having six factors”, was given the name because of the six attributes that bring out the perfect landscape of the garden: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water cources, and magnificent view from the garden.
There is a stone lantern designed in the image of the Japanese koto (harp) by the pond, which becomes the symbol of Kenrokuen Garden. There is a fountain created using the natural pressure of water flowing from the higher pond. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the flowers and trees, such as plum and cherry blossoms in spring, azaleas and irises early in summer, and colorful red and yellow leaves in autumn. Besides, visitors will have a glorious view of seasonal natural beauty including the snow-covered landscape with yukitsuri (literally means snow hanging), which is performed for approximately one month from November 1 every year. This is a method of protecting the branches of the pine trees in the garden with ropes attached in a conical array to the trees in order to prevent the branches from breaking.