The Small Gem of Ishikawa
Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa prefecture, located by the Sea of Japan, close to the Japanese Alps. The old town, spreading around the Castle’s park and the famous Kenrokuen garden, is the witness of the traditional Japanese artistic craftwork and feudal architecture.
With about 465,000 inhabitants, Kanazawa is renowned for its trio of touristic attractions located in the same small area:
- Kenroku-en garden, one of the three most beautiful Japanese gardens in the country.
- The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art; and,
- The Castle 🏯.
Kanazawa, thanks to its artistic overtones, is twin city with Nancy (famous for its Art Nouveau monuments) in France since 1973.
Hokuriku Shinkansen: the direct line to Kanazawa from Tokyo
Ishikawa prefecture used to be difficult to reach, but thanks to the opening of the high-speed train line "Hokuriku" on March 14, 2015, it is not true nowadays. The travel time between Tokyo and Kanazawa is now 2h30 instead of 4 hours previously, and the transfer in Maibara is not necessary anymore.
The new Hokuriku Shinkansen 🚅 line cost ¥83 billion (~589.2 million dollars) of construction works between Nagano and Kanazawa. An additional travel class (aside the "standard" and the "Green car 🚙"), called the "Gran class", offers a more luxurious service to the travelers who can afford a lavish train budget.
Kanazawa is now easy to reach for tourists who come to explore its traditional heritage and the remains of its feudal past, marked by the rule of the Maeda clan until 1868. The local authorities are expecting 5 million visitors each year coming from Tokyo, including 10% foreign visitors (twice the number before Hokuriku Shinkansen). Nowadays, the city attracts eight million tourists per year, who mostly arrive by the great Tsuzumi-mon gate, at the exit of the JR station.
Following the steps of Takayama Ukon
Takayama Ukon (1552 – 1615), also known as Hikogoro Shigetomo or Justo (as per his Latin name) was a daimyo lord converted to Christianism, who was persecuted for his faith and who sought refuge in Kaga province (south of the present days’ Ishikawa prefecture). He was beatified in 2017 in Osaka as a Japanese catholic martyr.
Takayama Ukon received baptism at 12 years old by Father Dario and thus became a catholic Christian, or a kirishitan in Japanese. Later he pursued his career in the military, with several success, and got involved in the evangelization of the local population. His influence was put to a halt in 1587, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi became shogun and strongly opposed to Christianism.
Deprived from his belongings and power, Ukon escaped to Kanazawa where he benefited from the protection of Toshiie Maeda’s powerful clan. He lived 27 years in the region and put his architectural skills to work in participating in the design of the Castles of Takaoka and Kanazawa. He also continued to spread his beliefs, as attest Kanazawa Catholic Church and Kanazawa Holy Spirit Monastery Cathedral, two monuments that can be visited in the center of the city.