This classic castle town, 180 mi/290 km northwest of Tokyo, offers streets of samurai houses and two geisha quarters around the partially reconstructed castle. The place's claim to fame is Kenroku-en, the garden adjacent to the castle, which is considered one of the three great gardens of Japan. It is best to visit early, before the crowds arrive.

Visit the Nomura Family House, an atmospheric old samurai residence, and stroll through the Higashi Chaya district. An old geisha house called Ochaya Shima is open to the public. http://www.ochaya-shima.com.

The city also has a long tradition of fine craftsmanship. Watch the production of gold leaf at Yasue Gold Leaf Museum (http://www.kanazawa-museum.jp/kinpaku) and hand-painted silk kimono fabric at Nagamachi Yuzen Kan (http://www.kagayuzen-club.co.jp).

Kanazawa is also the jumping-off point for the beautiful and still unspoiled Noto Peninsula, renowned for its seafood and fine Wajima lacquer.

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