Kanazawa Castle

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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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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
Admin Year Visited 2006, 2016, 2020
Admin Visits June 10, 2006; Oct 29, 2016; Oct. 15, 2020
Friends of JCastle
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3.83
(40 votes)
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ARTShogun

21 months ago
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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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FurinkazanHatamoto

52 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

60 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

63 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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LidiamqPeasant

64 months ago
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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

88 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

116 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

120 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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RaymondWHatamoto

123 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

125 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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UsagiAshigaru

130 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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FurinkazanHatamoto

147 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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RaymondWHatamoto

158 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.