If Kanazawa stole your heart like it did ours, you might want to bring something back to remember it by—but what?
Choosing a souvenir for yourself or others may seem easy in a place like Kanazawa, famous for gold, gardens and geisha. There’s plenty to choose from—and that’s the problem. Choosing from the countless crafts is tricky, especially if you’re easily distracted by things that glitter. Finding the right Kanazawa souvenir for the right person is a challenge, so before you get swept up in the gold rush, here are some local speciality pieces to consider and the best places to find them.
1. Blotting papers: Good things come in small packages
Long-used by geisha and Kabuki actors in Japan, delicate blotting papers are the perfect way to lose shine, but avoid disturbing your makeup (even if it feels like it will slide off your face thanks to the humidity). Known as aburatorigami, the thin papers are made of abaca leaf and were placed between gold-leaf sheets to protect them during the hammering process.
With metalic properties, the paper absorbs oil in a visibly satisfying way and there are plenty of cute designs to be found in Kanazawa. Some luxury options are flecked with additional gold leaf, but the regular kind are great too. Often given as a gift to geisha, they’re the perfect size and weight if you’re low on suitcase space.
Where to find them: Easily found in all souvenir and gold shops as well as the new specialist store opened by Hakuichi called Utsukushiya in the Higashi-chaya district.
2. Kintsuba: If you’ve got a sweet tooth
A mixture of red bean paste and flour, sometimes fried, this traditional sweet is a regional delicacy in Kanazawa and a popular souvenir with Japanese visitors. A great option if you’re working in Japan and need to bring back omiyage (edible souvenir, a rule of workplace gift giving), you’ll find boxes of these individually wrapped sweets in a variety of amounts and qualities.
Where to find them: Souvenir shops near the station will have plenty of omiyage-style boxes while Nakataya is the fancy shop in town that specializes in them.
3. Kaga-Mizuhiki: Intricate designs
Another great option for those on the search for something small, mizuhiki are the small paper cords created in a variety of colors. Used as an eye-catching gift-wrapping decoration throughout Japan, the cords are made of twisted washi paper and seaweed which is then dyed or wrapped in gold before being wound into complex designs. Kaga-mizuhiki, the regional version found in Kanazawa, are differentiated by their intricate and auspicious 3D designs of blossoms, animals and other motifs.
Where to find them: Tsudamizuhiki is one of the most famous locations in Kanazawa and create incredible designs with modern and traditional examples (near the Nishi Chaya District).
4. Tsukudani: A sweet and salty treat
A great way to take some of this fish-famous town’s best produce home without worrying about keeping it cool, tsukudani is a dish of small fish preserved in a salty-sweet mix of mirin, soy sauce and sugar. Simmered carefully and left with a chewy crunch, the small fish make a great drinking snack or can be sprinkled on rice. While the dish exists across Japan and was originally invented in Tokyo, the local speciality here involves adding walnuts grown on Mt. Hakusan or goby (small fish from mountain streams).
Where to find them: You’ll find plenty available at Omicho Market, or you can explore the offerings of traditional store Tsukuda no Tsukudani which has stores around the city.
5. Kanazawa Shikki Lacquerware: The fancy option
Layering Japanese lacquer onto hard woods like cypress, Shikki Laquerwear was introduced to the region by master artisans from Tokyo and Kyoto. While lacquerware is popular across Japan, in Kanazawa the inclusion of powdered gold is the distinguishing feature. With decorations including pearl or shell inlays along with the gold and a smooth polish, the pieces are a beautiful way to take home a long-lasting souvenir.
Where to find it: Lots of shops willl catch your eye with beautiful examples, and one of the better known is Nosaku, a shop located in downtown Kanazawa.
6. Kukicha or Kaga-boucha: A change from matcha
Matcha may be the tea that springs to mind in Japan, but in Kanazawa, twig tea is a popular alternative. Once disregarded as a tea for commoners in favor of its greener cousin, the popularity of Kaga-boucha jumped when Emperor Akihito declared it delicious after trying it during his 1983 visit to the city. Using the stems instead of the leaves and roasted instead of dried, the tea has a smooth but nutty flavor with a delicious aroma.
Where to find it: Maruhachi is the place to go. They were given the task of creating the special blend for the Emperor, which you can try for yourself in their store at Kanazawa Station.
7. Everything gold: You know you want to
Ok, so we all want at least a bit of sparkle in our lives. And if you don’t, Kanazawa will change your mind. Luckily, here you can get gold in every form imaginable: atop ice cream, in sparkly nail varnish, added to sake, pressed into facemasks, and used in jewelry, pottery and more. Basically, there’s a hell of a lot of gold here. However, since it’s gold leaf (gold that has been hammered into extremely thin sheets), it actually isn’t that expensive, so you can still treat yourself (and others) without spending too much wannabe gold (aka money).
Where to find it:
If you love the ideas but hate shopping or carrying things, head to the Hykaubangai shopping and dining area of Kanazawa Station. Here you’ll find plenty of omiyage and gifts from the above-mentioned brands, among others.
Get from shop to shop within the town with our guide for getting around Kanazawa.