Chaya Districts, commonly known as Geisha Districts, are well preserved historical neighborhoods which maintain a strong feudal era atmosphere. Cha-ya, literally meaning tea house, was the name given to an exclusive type of entertainment houses, in which Geishas performed songs and dances to high class samurai, wealthy merchants and noblemen. These districts were set at the outskirts of the city and featured narrow streets lined with dozens of Cha-ya.
Kanazawa features three Chaya Districts, of which the Higashi one (located at the eastern part of the city) is the largest and most interesting of them, thanks to the variety of sites that offers to visitors. Nowadays these districts retain its refined atmosphere, thanks to its well maintained traditional wooden houses and elegant paved floor. While some Chaya are now open as a museum house or as a souvenir shop, others still operate as they did centuries ago and it's not uncommon to find Geisha on the streets at nights.
The Nagamachi is a well preserved historical district located at the foot of Kanazawa Castle, where samurai and their families used to live during the feudal days. Located between two canals, Nagamachi consists of a network of narrow winding lanes lined with mud walls, private gates and ancient wooden residences (known as buke yashiki), which offer a good image of Kanazawa's streetscape during the samurai days.
Some of the residences are still lived in nowadays, while others are open as shops or museums. A good example is the Nomura House, which is open to visitors for a small fee and features one of Japan's best private gardens.
Omicho Market is a busy fresh food market with a history of about 280 years, known as the "the kitchen of Kanazawa's citizens". It is formed by a network of covered streets crammed with hundreds of stalls, in which lively merchants sell fresh fish, seafood and vegetables. The market is especially worth a visit during mornings, in order to appreciate its vitality and take a look at the most desired local products.
The market also contains several restaurants, some of which are only open for lunch, which specialize in local cuisine and offer a great opportunity to try Kanazawa's well known fish bowls.
Kanazawa Castle was originally founded in the late 16th century by the Maeda Clan. It was damaged, burnt down and reconstructed in several occasions along its history, until it was finally destroyed by fire in 1881. Nowadays only a few of the original structures remain, such as the Ishikawa Gate, but the rest of the castle's buildings are slowly being reconstructed since the early 1990s.
What makes Kanazawa Castle's reconstruction most interesting, is that only traditional construction and carpentry methods are being used in order to restore its 1809 original appearance. The Hishi and Tsuziki Yaguras and the Gojiken Nagaya, two watch towers and a long armory between them, were completed in 2001, while the former's main entrance and the castle moat were restored in 2010. The turrets and armory can be visited by paying a fee of 310 yen, while the castle grounds are free to explore.
All of Kanazawa's attractions are conveniently connected by the Kanazawa Loop Bus, which starts from Kanazawa's train station. The bus runs in two lines covering both directions of the loop (named right loop and left loop) with a frequency of about 15 minutes and has a price of 200 yen per ride.
A 1 day bus pass is available for 500 Yen and includes several discounts for admissions to Kanazawa's main attractions, so it is highly recommended.