Japan’s Kanazawa Castle stretching out.

Most visitors to Japan gravitate to the East Coast industrial belt that stretches from Tokyo all the way down to Hiroshima.  Which is fine, as it leaves more space for the rest of us to enjoy the West Coast.

Kanazawa is one of the biggest cities in the West, and is a rare urban phenomenon in Japan, a sizable city to have not been targeted by the Allies during World War II.  In fact, it’s the second largest city in the country after Kyoto to have escaped any bombing. Consequently it’s home to some top historical sights.

There are three well preserved tea house districts here where, back in the day, high rollers would come to be entertained by geisha and, well, drink tea!  Wandering around the beautiful streets today makes you feel like you’re in a Hayao Miyazaki animation.  The Nagamachi district west of the center is a former samurai stronghold and one can imagine oneself as a latter day version  as you poke around their high-walled residences.

Right in the center of the city you’ll find Kanazawa Castle, hangout of the Maeda Clan.  The grounds are huge with the castle spreading out to maintain a more low-rise profile rather than try to intimidate with height.  Actually, this castle has proven to be highly flammable over the years and for decades the grounds were used to house one of the city’s universities.  Since the 90’s though, a massive reconstruction project has been underway, using traditional materials and building techniques.  The results of this Sisyphean task are spectacular and Kanazawa Castle now basks in the glory of being one of the most attractive and unique castles in the country.

This picture was taken in August when the weather is so hot and sweaty as to be almost debilitating.  But that’s OK, because Kanazawa is gateway to the dramatic Noto Peninsula where ocean breezes and swimming beaches await.

Garden enthusiasts should know that Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen is considered one of the best three gardens in the land.