Kanazawa Castle Park is located next to Kenroku-en. Originally, Kenroku-en was an outlying garden of the castle before it was opened to the public in 1871. Kanazawa Castle (金沢城 Kanazawa-jō) was the seat of the powerful Maeda clan who ruled the Kaga Domain for fourteen generations from 1583 until the end of the Edo Period.
The castle was destroyed several times in battles (1592), by fires (1602, 1620, 1631, 1759, 1881) and by earthquakes (1858) but was continuously rebuilt and expanded. Due to its immense size, it was called 'the castle of 1,000 tatami'. The only original structure that remained is the impressive Ishikawa-mon from 1788. In 2001, the diamond-shaped Hishi-yagura and the Gojikken-nagaya, the armoury, were reconstructed using traditional methods as well as modern techniques.
Ishikawa-mon was constructed between 1762 and 1788 and is the only original structure that survived the fire in 1881. View of Ishikawa Bridge.
The outer gate of Ishikawa-mon. Kanazawa Castle Park was once the site of the Kanazawa Mido temple fortress established by the Kaga Ikki and the seat of Sakuma Morimasa (佐久間守正, 1554-1583), a retainer of Oda Nobunaga who was later captured by his rival Toyotomi Hideyoshi and beheaded. After the Battle of Shizugatake, Hideyoshi gave Kanazawa to Maeda Toshiie who commenced the full-scale construction of the castle.
Southern yagura (turret) at Ishikawa-mon.
The inner court (masugata) and the second gate (ni-no-maru) of Ishikawa-mon.
Gojikken-nagaya with the Hashizumemon Tsuzuki-yagura (left) and the Hishi-yagura (right) as seen from the third bailey (san-no-maru) adjacent to Ishikawa-mon.
Kahoku-mon at the third bailey (san-no-maru)
The reconstructed Hashizume-mon and the Hashizumemon Tsuzuki-yagura. The gate was built after the fire in 1631 as the front gate of second bailey (ni-no-maru). It is a so-called Masugata gate that consists of an ichi-no-mon (first gate), a masugata (a square space) and a ni-no-mon (second gate). It is the largest masugata of Kanazawa Castle.
The moat as seen from Hashizume-mon. The yagura of Ishikawa-mon is visible in the background.
Ni-no-mon (the second gate) of Hashizume-mon.
The Gojikken-nagaya building had seven separate ishi-otoshi (stone-dropping bay windows). Windows are attached to three sides of each dashi bay window. The slots under the windows could be used to throw stones on enemies climbing up the stone walls or to shoot at them with firearms and arrows. The Hishi-yagura has large and ornamented dashi windows with magnificent kara hafu and chidori hafu gables.
View of Kahoku-mon from Hishi-yagura
Diorama of Kanazawa Castle as seen from the northwest.
Inside the reconstructed armoury (Gojikken-nagaya). Gojikken refers to a length of 50 ken (98 metres).
Pillars and beams were joined with this unique technique: large base pillars (ashigatame) were joined crosswise and bound to foundation stones to increase earthquake resistance.
Visitors can play with wooden blocks and try to join pillars and beams based on the original techniques used at Kanazawa Castle.
The construction technique of namako (sea cucumber) walls used throughout Kanazawa Castle: black tiles are attached to the earthen wall and their joints hardened with plaster. The shape of the plaster resembles sea cucumbers, hence the name.
The roof was made of wood and covered with 1.8mm thick lead tiles. There are different theories as to why lead was used: either to reduce the weight on the roof or for aesthetic purposes. Some refer to the abundance of lead in Kaga Domain, while others believe that lead could be melted down in times of war to produce bullets.
The Sanjikken-nagaya was both a defensive structure as well as a storehouse. It was constructed in the early 17th century and destroyed in a fire in 1759. The current structure was built in 1858 and 30 ken (48.2 metres) in length.
The remains of Inui-yagura. Inui (乾) means northwest, as the turret was located northwest of the honmaru, the inner bailey. It was destroyed by fire in 1759. The honmaru was constructed by Maeda Toshiie in 1583 but burned down in 1631. It has never been reconstructed, as the central buildings were relocated to the ni-no-maru.
Gyokusen'in Maru Garden was constructed by Maeda Toshitsune, the third daimyō of Kaga Domain, in 1634 as a daimyō garden on what used to be the residence of Gyokusen'in, the wife of Maeda Toshinaga, the second lord of Kaga. It is held in classical chisen-kaiyū (池泉回遊) style with a central pond and strolling paths. Abandoned in the Meiji Period, it was reopened in March 2015. There are "light-up shows" on Fridays, Saturdays and on days before public holidays from dawn to 21:00 in which the garden and the surrounding structures of the castle are illuminated in magnificent displays.
Map of Kanazawa Castle Park:
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- Kanazawa Castle Park (Official website in English)
1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa 920-0937; phone: 076-234-3800, fax: 076-234-5292
Daily 09:00-16:30 (last entry 16:00); adults 310 JPY, children 100 JPY; for groups of 30 or more people: 250 JPY (80 JPY); free for senior citizens over 65 (you will have to show an ID).
By bus: a 5-minute walk from Kenrokuen bus stop, get off at Ishikawa-mon; a 7-minute walk from Korinbo bus stop, get off at Gyokusen-in Maru bus stop; a 15-minute walk from Owari-cho bus stop, get off at Otemon bus stop.
By taxi: about 10 minutes from JR Kanazawa Station.