Experience Samurai Martial Arts in Kanazawa! Model Itinerary for 3 days/2 nights

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During the Edo period (1600-1868), the Kaga domain, known as “Kaga Hyakumangoku” (Kaga one-million goku), was the second largest Taihan (domain with over 10,000 goku area granted by the Shogun during the Edo period) after the Shogun Tokugawa families. Kanazawa, the capital of the Kaga domain, inherited this history and still retains a strong trace of samurai culture.

Participants can experience martial arts such as Kyudo (Japanese archery), which is associated with the Kaga domain, tea culture, which was considered an essential accomplishment for samurai, former samurai residences, gardens that fuse samurai and tea cultures, and the samurai food culture. Also, D.T. Suzuki, a Buddhist scholar who globally spread Zen, which is associated with the martial arts and tea culture, was born in Kanazawa.
Through martial arts and traditional cultural experiences, participants to this castle town of Kanazawa can feel the true samurai code and spirit.

Table of Contents

Day 1

9:30 a.m. Stroll Through Kenrokuen Garden, Feeling a Sense of the Feudal Lord’s Mind

Kenrokuen Garden embodies Kaga Hyakumangoku culture. It is one of the three major Japanese gardens, along with Mito Kairakuen Garden and Okayama Korakuen Garden, featuring a strolling-style garden plan belonging to a feudal lord of the Edo period.
Inside this strolling-style garden awaits a large pond in the center, paths around the pond, artificial mountains, small islands in the pond, and tea houses dotted across the spacious grounds. Visitors can admire the scenery by strolling through the garden, which is opposite to the appreciation-style gardens, where visitors are welcome to enjoy the garden view from a tea house.

The feudal lord’s garden conveys the glory of Kaga Hyakumangoku. 
(photo courtesy of Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League)
The feudal lord’s garden conveys the glory of Kaga Hyakumangoku.
(photo courtesy of Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism League)

10:30 a.m. Kyudo Experience at the Ishikawa Prefectural Budokan

Kyudo (Japanese archery) has thrived in Kanazawa since the Edo period. A beginner usually needs several months of practice to draw a bow, but in this program participants can learn how to safely shoot an arrow at a target in 90 minutes under the instruction of experts.

In this 90-minute Kyudo experience program, participants will learn the basic posture, how to aim an arrow and shoot at a target on the archery range.
In this 90-minute Kyudo experience program, participants will learn the basic posture, how to aim an arrow and shoot at a target on the archery range.

2:00 p.m. Kendo Experience at Saishikan

After lunch, participants can try their hands at Kendo. You may think of Kendo as an intense combat sport, but in this program, it is represented as “KENDO” (Kind, Enjoy, Natural Design, Open), that even beginners can enjoy. The instructor is a skilled coach who led his middle school team to a national championship.

During this program, participants will learn basic kendo etiquette, how to grip and hold a shinai (bamboo sword), and how to strike with it, all in an easy-to-understand manner.
During this program, participants will learn basic kendo etiquette, how to grip and hold a shinai (bamboo sword), and how to strike with it, all in an easy-to-understand manner.

Day 2

9:00 a.m. Appreciate Japanese Swords at Shijimaya-Honpo

Japanese swords can be seen at many museums, but in this program, participants can actually hold and appreciate real samurai swords. Guests will also have a chance to see a thrilling performance of Iaido, a martial art that uses real swords. The owner is a rank holder and will explain everything in English.

Many Japanese swords have been collected in Shijimaya-honpo’s storehouse since ancient times. Visitors here can appreciate a variety of Japanese swords from various eras.
Many Japanese swords have been collected in Shijimaya-honpo’s storehouse since ancient times. Visitors here can appreciate a variety of Japanese swords from various eras.

11:00 a.m. Feel the Spirit of ZEN in the Contemplative Space at the D. T. Suzuki Museum

Zen is strongly linked to Japanese culture, such as Japanese martial arts and the art of tea. This facility embodies the philosophy of D. T. Suzuki, a Buddhist philosopher who spread Zen and other Eastern and Japanese cultures and philosophies to the world. His philosophy is reflected in this museum, including the architecture, which resembles the “hojo” style in which Zen monks live, and the exhibition style, in which no explanations are provided near the works.

Space designed after “Hojo”, the place where Zen Monks meditate.
Space designed after “Hojo”, the place where Zen Monks meditate.

1:30 p.m. Experience a Tea Ceremony at the Nishida Family Garden

An experience in afternoon tea ceremony. The samurai not only practiced martial arts, but also tea culture as a social accomplishment. Participants can learn everything from basic tea ceremony etiquette to “Gojifuku,” where they prepare tea by themselves, in Kanazawa’s oldest tea ceremony room at the 400-year-old Nishida Family Garden. English interpretation services are also available.

Participants can experience “Jifuku,” where they prepare tea on their own.
Participants can experience “Jifuku,” where they prepare tea on their own.

3:00 p.m. Visit the Nomura Residence and the Garden in the Samurai District

The Nagamachi Samurai District is an area where the samurai of the Kaga domain lived, the historic remnants of which you can still see today. The Nomura residence stands in a corner of the area and is a “shoin-zukuri” style building, a common style of samurai residences, and a prestigious garden that fuses samurai and tea culture. Samurai swords and armor are also on display in the residence.

Despite being near downtown, the inside of the residence remains tranquil like the mountains, giving visitors the feeling like they are back to the time of the samurai.
Despite being near downtown, the inside of the residence remains tranquil like the mountains, giving visitors the feeling like they are back to the time of the samurai.

6:30 p.m. Enjoy the Samurai Cuisine at a Long-established Japanese Restaurant Otomoro

The ancestors of Kanazawa’s long-established Japanese restaurant, Otomoro, where hocho samurai (samurai chefs) who served the Kaga domain. Participants can enjoy the art of samurai cuisine that has been passed down from generation to generation, including banquet dishes served to feudal lords, samurai, and VIP guests from other domains.

The restaurant serves samurai dishes in the stately Japanese-style room.
The restaurant serves samurai dishes in the stately Japanese-style room.

Day 3

10:30 a.m. Experience Zen Meditation at Eian-ji Temple

Zen was deeply ingrained in samurai culture and served as a spiritual pillar for samurai. Participants can practice Zen meditation in a peaceful setting at Eian-ji Temple, which is closely associated with the Maeda clan, the feudal lord of the Kaga domain and located far from the bustling city. The chief priest, dressed as a mountain priest and having backpacked around the world, will provide an overview of Zen and Japanese religion in English.

Practice Zen meditation at a temple associated with the Kaga domain to reconnect with yourself.
Practice Zen meditation at a temple associated with the Kaga domain to reconnect with yourself.

Summary

Feel the samurai code and spirit through samurai-themed cultural experiences in the historical town of Kanazawa.

How’s about this 3-day/2-night model itinerary through the castle town of Kanazawa and the experience of samurai culture?
Through experiencing Japanese martial arts such as Kyudo and Kendo, the traditional cultural experience of tea ceremony, which was a samurai’s accomplishment, and visiting a samurai residence where you can glimpse the samurai life, you will be able to feel the samurai code and spirit firsthand. Try any that strikes your fancy and see deeper into this truly remarkable area.