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The Tsuzumimon, in lacquered wood, at Kanazawa Station.
The main street of the Higashi Chayagai geisha district.
The Hashizume-mon of Kanazawa castle.
  • Japanese: 金沢 (Kanazawa)

Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa prefecture, and was previously the central castletown of Kaga han.

Kanazawa was already home to a few thousand people when Sengoku Period warlord Maeda Toshiie made it his chief castle headquarters in 1583. With the construction of Kanazawa castle (beginning in 1592), the city grew quickly, reaching 50,000 inhabitants by 1630, and 120,000 by 1700, becoming one of the largest cities in the world, rivaling Rome, Amsterdam, and Madrid, though never approaching the far larger populations of cities like Osaka and Edo. Though provincial, and not as prominently influential as Kyoto or even Nagoya, Kanazawa was nevertheless a bustling and significant city in the Edo period, and saw many visiting Noh and kabuki troupes (as well as local jishibai performances), as well as being home to nearly 25 printers and publishers.[1] The city was also a destination for notable travelers; the ukiyo-e painters Kitagawa Sôsetsu and Katsushika Oi, for example, may have each lived in the city for a time.[2]

Like all cities in early modern Japan, Kanazawa suffered large fires on a number of occasions, including in 1635, 1690, and 1759, but was frequently quickly rebuilt.

Kanazawa is still today home to one of the few active geisha districts remaining in Japan: the Higashi Chayagai. Kanazawa's second geisha district, the Nishi Chayagai, was also prominent and active in the late Edo period. Other significant sites in the city include Oyama Shrine, the so-called "Ninja Temple" of Myôryû-ji, and the Kenrokuen gardens, regarded one of the three most beautiful samurai gardens in the country. A number of samurai homes (buke yashiki) also survive in the city today.

The castle was demolished in 1873, but has been partially rebuilt as a tourist destination and historical site in the postwar era. A large bronze statue of Yamato Takeru, erected in 1880 in the Kenrokuen gardens adjoining the castle grounds, is the earliest modern-style, bronze statue of a "national" figure erected in Japan.


  1. Henry Smith, "The History of the Book in Edo and Paris." in James McClain, et al (eds.) Edo & Paris: Urban Life and the State in the Early Modern Era. Cornell University Press, 1994, p342, citing Inoue Takaaki. Kinsei shorin hanmoto sôran 近世書林版元総覧. Nihon shoshigaku taikei 14 日本書誌学体系14. Seishôdô Shoten, 1981. p6.
  2. Gallery label, Kitagawa Sôsetsu, Poppies, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 29.100.524.; Kobayashi Tadashi and Julie Nelson Davis. "The Floating World in Light and Shadow: Ukiyo-e Paintings by Hokusai's Daughter Oi." in Carpenter, John et al (eds). Hokusai and his Age. Hotei Publishing, 2005. pp93-103.