A trip to Kanazawa
In March 2015 the Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened as far as Kanazawa. The new line was an extension of the existing Nagano Shinkansen opened in 1997. It meant that bullet trains could now travel directly from Tokyo to Kanazawa. The total distance is 453 kilometres or 283 miles.
Kanazawa is located in the central part of the mainland of Japan on the Japan Sea coast. It is a very attractive city with plenty to see and do for the visitor.
We had visited Kanazawa a few times before. During our trip back to Japan in August 2015 we decided to check out the new service and visit the city once more.
We flew to Japan on Qatar airlines and spent one night in Tokyo.
The next morning we headed to Tokyo Station to catch the new train.
The fast limited-stop service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen is named the “Kagayaki” (“glitter”) and the services are operated by brand new E5 and W5 train sets. They look very stylish in their blue, white and gold livery. They are very comfortable too. We were in regular class but like all Shinkansen trains the leg room was more than ample and the window was perfectly aligned to the seat.
We jumped on a mid-morning Kagayaki departure and headed out of Tokyo. The first part of the journey, via Omiya, is on the Joetsu Shinkansen line that opened in the early 1980s. The Hokuriku branch only begins after 108km at Takasaki. Like all the later Shinkansen lines the amount of scenery you get to see is limited by large amount of tunnels. Nevertheless, we were briefly treated to some excellent views especially after Nagano.
It took us about 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach Kanazawa. We arrived just about lunch time and checked into a hotel across the road from the station. The place was obviously still in the process of celebrating the arrival of the shinkansen. The station had been extensively modernised and featured a beautiful “Drum” monument outside it. There were posters and models featuring the “E5 / W5” trains everywhere.
We spent two days in Kanazawa and wandered around the usual sights.
The city was the second largest, after Kyoto, to escape WW2 bombing and as result it has some beautiful Edo era buildings in the Higashi Chaya district
Kanazawa is also a port and this is well reflected in the large amount of sea food in the Omicho market. We love wandering around markets anywhere and Omicho is a great example of a Japanese one.
Kenrokuen garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan and is always worth a repeat visit.
Ninja Dera is a temple with lots of hiding places for Ninja. The building has lots of secret doors and traps and is a lot of fun.
The Nagamachi samurai district with its high walls, narrow lanes and little canals is perfect for an evening wander as the sun starts to set.
In the evening we went to “Itaru” a wonderful Izakaya (Japanese pub) that we had visited previously. The place is just fantastic. It is quite old and has a cozy atmosphere. The food is terrific and the place has even featured in reviews in foreign newspapers including the Telegraph and Guardian in the UK.
We left Kanazawa heading on the conventional train down to Kyoto and Osaka and eventually to Yamaguchi.
As we twisted and turned along the curvy old line we could see the construction work to extend the Hokuriku Shinkansen all the way to Kyoto and Osaka. Shinkansen building is slow in Japan these days though and the line is not scheduled to reach Shin Osaka until 2045. Whether we will ever get to ride on it I am not sure. We certainly hope to get back to Kanazawa before then.
On the way back we spent some time in Tokyo particularly the area around Tsukiji fish market.