Kenrokuen Gardens, Higashi Chaya District, Samurai Houses.
Located next to the Japan Sea, Ishikawa Prefecture covers most of what was once the wealthy and influential Kaga feudal domain.
With the city of Kanazawa as its capital, Kaga was famous for being a one million koku domain (koku is a unit used to measure the quantity of rice – in total about 150,000 metric tonnes.) Because of the area’s considerable agricultural wealth, Kanazawa became a thriving town with an estimated 100,000 residents in 1700 – on par with some of the biggest cities in the world at the time and putting it on equal footing with the largest Japanese cities of the time such as Edo, Kyoto and Osaka.
Due to this wealth, Kanazawa developed a thriving urban culture with Geisha, tea houses, beautiful gardens, refined architecture and some impressive civil works. The fact that Kanazawa is now only a fraction of the size of Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka means a considerable amount of this heritage remains intact. For more about this city, see our Kanazawa Super Guide.
Ishikawa used to be squarely in the Kansai sphere of influence, but with the recent extension of the high-speed rail Shinkansen into the prefecture, Tokyo feels a lot closer than it used to. The travel time on the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station is two and a half hours on the fastest Kagayaki service or about three hours on the slightly slower Hakutaka service. One way tickets to Kanazawa are between ¥13,600 and ¥14,320. The Shinkansen towards Kyoto and Osaka is not expected to be complete until about 2030, but meanwhile you can catch the Thunderbird express to/from Kyoto for ¥6,380 or to/from Osaka for ¥7,130. The travel times are slightly over 2 hours between Kanazawa and Kyoto and about 2 hours and 40 minutes to Osaka.
The prefecture is served by Komatsu Airport, located in Komatsu City in the south of the prefecture. There are regular flights to Tokyo Haneda, Chitose (Sapporo) and Fukuoka but none to or from the Kansai region as trains between the two areas are frequent, cheap and only take a couple of hours. Three airlines – JAL, ANA and Ibex provide domestic flights while there are international flights to Korea, Taiwan and China through various international airlines from those countries.
There are regular highway buses running from major Japanese cities to cities in Ishikawa Prefecture. The travel time from Tokyo to Kanazawa is about 8 1/2 hours, 5 hours 40 minutes from Kyoto to Kanazawa and 7 to 7 1/2 hours from Osaka to Kanazawa. Buses heading to/from Kyoto or Osaka start from around ¥3,000 while buses plying the Tokyo o Kanazawa route start at ¥2,280 but on average are about ¥4,000 to ¥5,000.
Ishikawa is handy to Gifu and Shirakawago as well as the neighboring prefectures of Toyama, Shiga, Nagano and Toyama, so there are plenty of reasons to take a detour instead of shooting off to Tokyo or Kyoto.
If you want to visit the far flung reaches of Ishikawa Prefecture, the most convenient method would be to get a rental car. Walking or cycling is the recommeded way to get around the relatively compact city of Kanazawa. For those unable or unwilling to walk, there are also bus passes available at Kanazawa Station for the hop on hop off tourist buses that pass all the major tourist attractions.