Kanazawa Castle

From Jcastle.info

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History

The castle was first founded by Sakuma Morimasa, a retainer of Oda Nobunaga, and nephew of Shibata Katsuie in 1580. He started to build up the castle and castle town but was defeated and executed by Hideyoshi at the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583. After the battle, Maeda Toshiie, an ally of Hideyoshi, who held the neighboring Noto province was also given Kaga province. It was taken over by Maeda Toshiie, who built up the castle in earnest. In 1585, Maeda was also granted the lands of Ecchu, making him one of the richest lords under the Toyotomi regime. The Maeda clan established a prosperous province which allowed them to rule peacefully for 14 generations until the end of the Meiji period.

The castle originally had a large six-level main keep, but it burned down in 1602 and was never rebuilt. Kanazawa Castle had several fires that destroyed parts of the castle over the years. The Kenrokuen Garden was built at about the same elevation as the Honmaru of the castle in 1676 and gradually expanded over 150 years. Formally it was intended for entertaining, but if any attackers made it this far into the city it's the perfect location to build a base for further attacks on the castle, so it was lightly fortified as a satellite fortification of the main castle.


Visit Notes

This is an amazing castle. It has only three original structures; the Ishikawamon Gate, Sanjikken Yagura, and the Tsurumaru Storehouse, but the vast stone walls, excellent reconstructions, extant samurai homes, and one of the most famous gardens in Japan, make it a 5 Star must-see site for anyone. After three visits I think I can comfortably say that I've seen more than 90% of this castle, but I know that I still missed at least one samurai home and some of the Sogamae defense ruins. Depending on how throughly you want to tour this castle you could easily spend 3 or more days in Kanazawa just for the castle and related sites!


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Gallery


More Galleries and Feature Pages

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Inner Compounds

(39 photos)

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Ishikawamon Gate

(17 photos)

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Sanjikken Nagaya

(5 photos)

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Gojikken Nagaya

(14 photos)

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Nezumitamon Gate

(17 photos)

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Gyokusenin Bailey

(8 photos)

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Kahoku Gate

(6 photos)

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Stone Walls

(41 photos)

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Sogamae City Walls

(11 photos)

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Night Views

(21 photos)

Castle Profile
English Name Kanazawa Castle
Japanese Name 金沢城
Alternate Names Oyama-jo
Founder Maeda Toshiie
Year Founded 1580
Castle Type Hilltop
Castle Condition No main keep but other buildings
Designations Top 100 Castles, has Important Cultural Properties, National Historic Site
Historical Period Edo Period
Artifacts Ishikawa Gate, Tsurumaru Warehouse, Sanjukken Nagaya
Features gates, turrets, samurai homes, water moats, trenches, stone walls, walls, castle town
Visitor Information
Access Kanazawa Sta. (Hokuriku Line), 15 minutes by bus
Visitor Information Park open 7am to 6pm (March 1-October 15), 8am to 5pm otherwise. The Buildings are open 9am to 4:30pm. The castle buildings are 310 yen for admission or you can get a combination ticket with the Kenrokuen Gardens for 500 yen.
Time Required 180 mins
Website http://www.pref.ishikawa.jp/siro-niwa/kanazawajou/
Location Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
Coordinates 36° 33' 55.76" N, 136° 39' 33.41" E
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Admin
Added to Jcastle 2006
Contributor Eric
Admin Year Visited 2006, 2016, 2020
Admin Visits June 10, 2006; Oct 29, 2016; Oct. 15, 2020
Friends of JCastle
Malcolm Fairman Photography - Kanazawa Castle
Shirobio - Kanazawa Castle
Kojozan - Kanazawa Castle
Shirofan - - Kanazawa Castle
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Ken's Castle Storage - Kanazawa Castle
3.85
(41 votes)
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Anonymous user #1

3 months ago
Score 0 You

One interesting tidbit: I've noticed that the Ishikawamon gate complex include 8 separate Important Cultural Properties! These include the Ichinomon (the Karaimon gate), the Ninomon (gatehouse), the two-story turret, the L-shaped tsuzukiyagura, the long section of dobei on the left side of the complex, the long section of dobei on the right side of the complex, the short section of dobei on the left side of the Ichinomon and the short section of dobei on the right side of the Ichinomon. Honestly, not sure why those 2 last sections deserve their own separate ICP status (you could just lump them in with the Ichinomon, which is what they do with most dobei at Nijo Castle).

But anyway, the castle has 11 ICP, which is quite on the high side for a Japanese castle. Understandably, the wonderful reconstructions get the most attention, but I do really like the extant buildings too. The Ishikawamon is like a mini-castle in and of itself!
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RaymondWDaimyo

10 months ago
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I revisited Kanazawa Castle earlier this year with my wife. It was my fifth time to check out this splendid castle with a mixture of rebuilt and extant structures. Between 2008 and 2011, I visited Kanazawa Castle annually. This time round, I spent two whole days exploring Kanazawa Castle including some of its outer moats. It’s worth doing some “slow castling” as there is so much ishigaki (stone walls) to behold and photograph. In some ways, Kanazawa Castle’s stone walls can be quite impressive because you can get up close to most of them unlike at castles like Osaka and Nagoya, where in some sections of the castle grounds a visitor can only view the ishigaki from afar because of a wide moat. Add in hundreds of kokuins (stone seals denoting which daimyo was responsible for constructing that section of the wall), a castle fan can literally spend hours just viewing and photographing the stone walls at Kanazawa Castle.

Restoration work was being done on the Sanjikken Storehouse when we visited, so it was all covered in scaffolding and white tarpaulin.

Most of the Ninomaru (Second Bailey) was fenced off as they have been carrying out an archaeological survey of the site before the planned reconstruction of the Ninomaru Goten (Second Bailey Palace.) From both signs on site and talking with a staff member, it looks like the local authorities will rebuild the palace in three stages. There was some information about which sections of the Ninomaru Goten will be rebuilt in the first and second stage, but there is no signage about the third stage on site. The staff member we chatted with speculated that it will probably take 10 years or more to rebuild the palace. I’m not surprised as the Ninomaru Palace, that was rebuilt after the 1808 fire and then burnt down again in 1881, was 10,000 square metres in its entirety. I wonder if Kanazawa City will have the financial resources to rebuild the whole Ninomaru Goten.

Kanazawa Castle is very generous in what it charges for tourists to visit this magnificent castle. You only have to pay for entry into the Gojikken Nagaya, Hishi Yagura, Tsuzuki Yagura and Hashizume Gate. Everything else is free such as entry into the extant Ishikawamon and reconstructed Kahokumon and Nezumitamon. If this was at another Japanese castle, you’ll likely be charged an entry fee for these structures. The extant Ishikawamon (Ishikawa Gate), Sanjikken Nagaya, and Tsurumaru Storehouse were all open to the public for free when I visited.

Eric, the JCastle administrator and owner of the website, has done a magnificent job of putting together a detailed and informative profile about Kanazawa Castle. Use it as guide for your trip to this castle and castle town, and you won’t miss much there. It would be nice if people who use the profile post a comment afterwards as it takes time and effort to create a castle profile, let alone something as comprehensive as what Eric has put together here. It’s also free, so I’m sure Eric will appreciate a comment on this profile after one has visited this magnificent castle.
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Matthew WardGunshi

10 months ago
Score 1++
By the way, according to the Japanese-language Wiki page for this castle, the Tsurumaru Storehouse is the largest surviving Edo-period castle storehouse in Japan.
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RaymondWDaimyo

10 months ago
Score 1++
There are two sets of explanations at Kanazawa Castle about the relative size of the Tsurumaru Storehouse, which was built in 1848, when compared to others castle storehouses around Japan. The much shorter explanation in English is vaguer about comparative size of the storehouse merely stating that it is one of the largest storehouses in Japan, while the more detailed Japanese one states that it is the largest storehouse found on any castle grounds.
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Matthew WardGunshi

13 months ago
Score 1++

I visited Kanazawa Castle for the second time earlier this year, and was even more impressed than I was the first time. Since my first visit in 2017, they have added the Nezumi Tamon and Nezumi Tamon Bridge. Apparently, next the Ninomaru Goten will be rebuilt!

Obviously, the castle has some of the most authentically reconstructed castle buildings in Japan, with the Gojikken Nagaya and the attached turrets and gates being the star. The rebuilt gates are also wonderful.

But there are also a number of original structures. The Ishikawamon Gate is really a collection of structures, including the gate itself, a yagura and a watariyagura, plus walls, and even if that were the only structure on-site, it would still make this a worthwhile castle. The Tsumaru Storehouse is said to be the largest castle building of its kind in Japan, and the Sanjikken Nagaya is an impressive building. Those are the ones listed as Important Cultural Properties, but there's more. If I understand right, the little stamp gate is also an original structure, albeit relocated to a different places on the castle grounds, and the Gyokusenin Log Drum Wall is also original. And there are some seriously cool stone walls and yagura foundations. I just wish the moat was more extensive.

There are also some surviving structures outside of the castle--for example, Ozaki Shrine, which is right next to the castle to the north, is actually the renamed Tosho Gongen and is the oldest surviving castle building. The Ninomaru Goten Karamon has been moved to Oyama Shrine, which is also practically next to the castle. With the plans to rebuild the Goten, I wonder if it might be possible to relocate the original Karamon back to the castle grounds? Finally, the Ninomaru Noh Stage has been moved to Nakamura Shrine, which is a little farther from the castle than the other two relocated structures, but it's still within walkable distance.

And also there are a lot of other remnants of the castle and castle town in Kanazawa. Kenroku-en was originally in the larger castle grounds and contains some stonework that appears to be remains of the larger castle. And then there is Nagamachi, one of the better samurai districts I have visited.

Anyway, I really can't recommend Kanazawa Castle enough, and can't wait to visit it again after the Goten is reconstructed.
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ARTShogun

13 months ago
Score 0++
Thanks for the tips about the surviving shrine structures at Ozaki & Nakamura shrines. Though not defensive structures, it's certainly interesting that they were originally at the castle.
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ARTShogun

56 months ago
Score 1++
This summer I had a sneak preview of the Nezumitamon (gatehouse) currently being reconstructed at Kanazawa Castle. The gate's original structure is known in some detail from old photographs that survive from the Meiji Period. It seems that the gate survived several decades into the industrial era but burnt down in a fire, possibly due to neglect. The reconstruction process can be viewed by members of the public where a gallery has been set up looking in through the scaffolding. Information about the reconstruction is also displayed, including photographs of the teams of skilled craftsman working on the project: a team of ishigaki experts, a team of earthen wall builders, a team of roof builders and so on. The ishigaki (piled stone rampart) next to the gate is the yaguradai (turret platform) for the Nezumitamon-yagura. When the reconstruction is completed in 2020 it seems that it will be connected to Omiya Shrine by a bridge spanning the road (the road was originally the location of a moat), giving entry to the Gyokusen'inmaru Bailey.
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FurinkazanDaimyo

87 months ago
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This is my 3rd visit to Kanazawa. The 2 first visits were in organized tours and the castle wasn't on the schedule. The first time i saw the Ishikawamon from the entrance of the Kenrokuen and the second time we went through this gate and i saw the Gojikken nagaya with its turrets, but that was it. Today i made the tour completely. I began with the Oyama shrine, where a nice statue of Maeda Toshiie on horse, stands. I went to the castle grounds and made a tour before the buildings opened. Sadly during the week the Sanjikken nagaya and the Tsurumaru storehouse stay closed. Apparently they are only open during the weekend. The reconstructed buildings are really a must see. From the castle i went to the Seisonkaku. I skipped the Kenrokuen. I saw it 2 times before. The Seisonkaku has very beautiful shoin zukuri and sukiya zukuri rooms. It is very well known for this. I went on to the Prefectural history museum and the Kaga-Honda museum. These are former storehouses in red bricks. They have some nice artifacts. I went there after to the nagamachi. I visited the Maeda Tosanokami museum, the Shinise merchant house, the Nomura house, the nagayamon of the former Takada home and the ashigaru Shiryokan. These are all interesting buildings. This evening i went back to the castle. To see the castle lit up. There was also a light and music show in the inner garden. There is a calendar for it. I received it at the information booth in the Kanazawa station, when i asked about the castle. I highly recommend to visit this site.

Don't forget to ask an english pamphlet in the Kahokumon. You receive one on request.
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SnoworionGunshi

95 months ago
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Visited on 13 October 2015. Intending to visit the next-door gardens but spent some time in the castle grounds and explored the magnificent stone walls that still stand today. There still remain some original buildings but the castle itself is slowly being rebuilt.
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DiegoDeManilaAshigaru

98 months ago
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Visited a second time on 01 July 2015 (https://with...1-july-2015/). The Hashizume-mon - destroyed in an 1881 fire - had just been reconstructed, so I was glad for the opportunity to see the new addition to the castle grounds. I regret not visiting the newly restored inner garden (also just completed that year) but it's something to look forward to for next time. Not sure what reconstruction they've lined up next (assuming that the Hashizume-mon and the garden wasn't the last of it), but I'm definitely hoping to see something new when I swing by again.
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Anonymous user #1

99 months ago
Score 0++
There's no castle but still some of the building that have been reconstructed. It is a very nice place to be when the cherry trees in flower
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Kiddus i2003Gunshi

123 months ago
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Have made three trips to Kanazawa and every time something new is started or finished at Kanazawa-jo.
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BryanbaierPeasant

151 months ago
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The grounds are nice but only the main gate is original. A nice thing to see in conjunction with Kenrokuen
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Frank T.Gunshi

155 months ago
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No keep, but this is a great site. The town itself is worth the visit as well.
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RaymondWDaimyo

157 months ago
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I went to this castle on the weekend as well as visiting three other castle sites in Fukui Prefecture. It was my third time visiting this castle. Kanazawa Castle rocks! As Rebolforces has already mentioned below, the local government is consistently working on improving this castle site. The Kahoku Gate, which was being reconstructed when I last visited in 2009, is now completed. They rebuilt it based on old photos and original plans using authentic materials including four different kinds of timber. The reconstruction finished in April 2010. Apart from adding the Kahoku Gate to the list of original and reconstructed structures, the local authorities have also restored the Imori Moat and filled it with water as it was during the Edo Period. Next to the moat, they have rebuilt one of the bases of an outlying turret. Still, these guys are not done yet. They are currently renovating the Ishikawa Gate and a section of the northern wall. Also, they are rebuilding the Ninomon of the Hashizume Gate, restoring it to its original masagata style with a first gate(rebuilt awhile back) and the second gate (under construction and to be built in a yaguramon style), and a solid killing zone from three sides in the middle. One of the staff also told me that they will be clearing some of the trees and bushes obscuring the ishigaki on the western side of honmaru. This castle site is getting better and better. I was lucky with this visit as I could go inside almost all the structures: Sanjikken Storehouse, Gojikken Storehouse, Ishikawa Gate, and Kahoku Gate. Also, the castle is signposted in both Japanese and English, and there are plenty of educational displays explaining the construction of Japanese castles using traditional methods and materials. This is a fabulous reconstructed castle to visit. This castle is definitely worth a 4 star rating.
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RebolforcesAshigaru

160 months ago
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Combined with Kenrokuen, this is a must see. They are constantly researching and rebuilding using old techniques
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Anonymous user #1

164 months ago
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Large grounds with many sakura, omiyage shops, and interesting museum. Tremendous castle town surrounding as well.
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FurinkazanDaimyo

182 months ago
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I visited this site in january last year. I liked it because the walls are very beautiful and it was the first time i saw castlewalls like these. Some parts of the site were closed for reconstuction purposes. So i guess there is more to see now.

About the samuraiquarter: these are really nice dwellings with very beautiful streets.
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RaymondWDaimyo

192 months ago
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Love your website here and have used it many times to plan my visits to some castles. Kanazawa Castle or rather its ruins and reconstructed parts are quite impressive. I went there just this past weekend. Right now, they are working on reconstructing the Kahokumon or the Kahoku Gate. The reconstructed Gojikkennagaya Storehouse with the two turrets on either end gives the visitor an idea of what the inside of a Japanese storehouse / fortified wall is like when it was newly built. Some nice displays inside about its reconstruction and how wooden joints are made inside the storehouse. Entry is just 300yen.

Just one question. I noticed the model of the original Kanazawa Castle on display did not show a central keep in its Honmaru section. Do you know where I can go to check if this is correct or not? I asked one of the staff there about it, but my Japanese is not so good. I think she said something about this castle not having a central keep or tenshu. Sometimes, I wish I can speak Japanese better, so I can get a fuller grasp of what's going on.