Kanazawa (金沢) (II) (Engl.)

The piece of gold on the west coast: Time honoured shrines & modern architecture

Titel Kanazawa 2

Eine deutsche Version dieses Artikels finden Sie hier.
A German version of this posting you can find here.

Already posted on that topic:

Kanazawa (金沢) (I) (English version)
– The piece of gold on the west coast: Drums, markets & a gorgeous castle

Since we were in this area already during our first walk, our tour today also leads from Kanazawa station (or wherever you might want to start it) to the business and shopping district in the southeast – and by doing so, we will come, once again, very close to Kanazawa Castle.
On the northeastern edge of the castle’s grounds you will find the Osaki shrine (尾崎神社 / おさきじんじゃ), which, at least at a first glance, looks like it would deserve some new layers of colour. But just because of these looks it isn’t any less worthwhile visiting, because it is in fact a rather gorgeous example of architecture of the early Edo period.
1643 built by the third lord of Kaga, Mitsutaka Maeda, as a place of worship for the sun goddess Amaterasu. If you know a little about Japanese history, it will be interesting to learn, that Mitsutaka Maeda was a nephew of the third Tokugawa Shōgun, Iemitsu. And as such he was even – at least for a while – considered a possible successor to the thrown of the childless shōgun. Furtheremore, the shrine is home to various important cultural assets (e.g. its main hall).

Just a few hundred metres further south of the Osaki Jinja we are passing the highly modern building of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (商工会議所 / しょうこう・かいぎしょ) on the right hand side of the street.

Industrie- und Handelskammer (,商工会議所)

Chamber of Industry & Commerce (商工会議所)

Alongside the sturdy walls of Kanazawa Castle (on your left), the Oyama shrine (尾山神社 / おやまじんじゃ) may attract your attention. At least it should, as it is an absolute must, when you visit Kanazawa – and an impressive one, too! In this shrine, the founder of the Maeda clan, Toshiie Maeda (前田 利家 / まえだ・としいえ), is being worshipped as a diety*. Don’t get upset about the fact that a human being can become a diety! In shintō everything and everybody as the potential of being divine – on the other hand, shintō gods are neither deemed omniscient nor are they almighty. Try to see it that way: Catholicism makes it (theoretically) possible for everybody to become a saint (and as such pretty close to what a shintō diety might be).
* Of course, I know that it is not really correct to translate the shintō word “kami” with “diety” – I’m just using one of the most common translations (it would require more than just an appendix to explain what “kami” really means).

This Toshiie Maeda (whose impressive equestrian statue can be seen close to the shrine’s garden) lived from 1538 to 1599 and was a general under Nobunaga Oda (織田 信長 / おだ・のぶなが) and his successor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (豊臣 秀吉 / とよとみ・ひでよし), and as such had significant influence on the Japanese unification and the foundation of the Tokugawa shōgunate.
The shrine itself was built upon a request by Maeda’s successor on a nearby hill, called Utatsu (卯辰) and only 1873 it was re-located to its present location (and that’s also the year that is regarded as the official day of foundation of the shrine).
Besides the really striking main building, also the picturesque garden (do yourself a favour and spend some time there!) and the “Gods’ Gate” (神門 / しんもん) are of particular interest. The gate especially, as its architecture doesn’t seem to fit to the ancient-looking other buildings of the shrine. In fact it was only built in 1875 (i.e. after the shrine was moved to its present location) and represents an awsome example of architecture of the Meiji aera – the time when virtually everything coming from the west seemed to be desirable. The fact the gate is topped by a lightening rod may rouse the suspicion that the shrine and its “kami” weren’t too sure where they were in the good books of the gods for thunder and lightening (the Kojiki (古事記 / こじき), the ancient historical record of Japan, written in the 8th century, knows eight different thunder-gods alone!)… The 25 metres tall gate combines western architecture and Japanese elements and can rightly be called “interesting”. It may be in the eyes of the beholder, whether it should also be called “beautiful”. Be that as it may, in 1950 it was registered as an important cultural asset.

About 500 metres south of the Oyama shrine, just next to Kanazawa’s famous garden Kenroku-en (兼六園 / けんろくえん) – which we are going to enjoy next time – another highlight is waiting for you, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館 / にじゅういちせいきびじゅつかん, which was opened in 2004. The Japanese name of the museum doesn’t really indicate that the museum is dedicated to “contemporary art”, nevertheless: That’s what this museum exhibits with an emphasis on art that was created after the year 1980. At the same time, the whole building of the museum is contemporary art. The complex was planned by Kazuyo Sejima (妹島 和世 / せじま・かずよ) and Ryūe Nishizawa (西沢 立衛 / にしざわ りゅうえ) – well-known, at least in circles of experts under the name of their architect’s office, SAANA – both renowned stars on the firmament of Japanese modern architecture.

What may look like a UFO landed in the middle of the city  – its circular footprint has a diameter of 112.5 metres, but may seem smaller than it is – is actually a highly modern museum- and event venue. The complete outside facade consists of windows. This way the interior of the building remains connected to the surrounding park, the borders between the both appear to be flowing. There are actually no words to describe the fascination this architecture evokes (to me more from the inside than the outside). Even the pictures attached below represent a rather poor image of it. One simply has to “feel” the magic of this building. And also don’t forget the installations of art in the garden! Just try them! What may look like a meaningless piece of art, may prove to be an interesting phenomenon. For example, the circular installation of multi-coloured glass walls offers an unexpected view of “reality”. Or have a closer look at the trumpet-shaped metal objects that seem to grow out of the lawn – or, even better, examine their acoustic abilities! Those cones are interconnected and open new (well, one also might say: old) modes of transmission of sound.


Address of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art:

1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa, Japan 920-8509
920-8509 石川県金沢市広坂1-2-1

Opening hours of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art:

10:00 am to 6:00 pm (Friday and Saturday until 8:00 pm)
Closed on Mondays (if a national holiday falls on Monday, the exhibitions remain closed on the following working day instead) and during the New Year holidays.

Public Space:
9:00 am to 10:00 pm
Closed during the New Year holidays.

Admission fees for the museum:

There is no admission fee for regular exhibitions. For temporary special exhibitions the admission fee depends on the exhibition (about 400 to 1,000 Yen).


Do you feel like seeing even more modern architecture? Well, then don’t hesitate to extend your walk just a little longer and enrich it with yet another (and rather new) gem: the  D.T. Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館) which was opened in 2011!

It doesn’t really matter whether you are familiar with or interested in the life and oeuvre of the Buddhist philosopher D.T. Suzuki (1870 to 1966) which are on exhibition here – the museum is certainly worth a little detour. The three wings of the actual museum building are gathered around a vast open expanse of water, called the “water mirror garden” – an ensemble that impressively demonstrates that architecture doesn’t require any decoration to be breathtaking.

Follow the main street between the “21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art” and the Ishiura Schrein in southern direction, passing the Kanazawa Hirosaka Post Office (金沢広坂郵便局 / かなざわひろさかゆうびんきょく) and the prefectural libarary of Ishikawa (石川県立図書館 / いしかわけんりつとしょかん) (on the left side of the street). About 70 metres south of the libary just keep on walking straight (not following the main street) and then turn left following the signs. It sounds more complicated than it is!


Address of the D.T. Suzuki Museums:

D.T. Suzuki Museum
3-4-20 Honda-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0964

920-0964 石川県金沢市本多町3丁目4番20号

Opening hours of the D.T. Suzuki Museums:

Daily, except on Mondays from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm (last entry: 4:30 pm).
Closed during the New Year holidays (December 29th to January 3rd) and during the installation of new exhibitions.

Admission fee for theD.T. Suzuki Museum:

Adults:  300 Yen
Seniors (65 years of age or older), disables persons: 200 Yen
Children (up to highschool age): free

There are discounts for groups of 20 or more persons.


To be continued!

Also have a look at:

Kanazawa (金沢) (I) (English version)
– The piece of gold on the west coast: Drums, markets & a gorgeous castle

Kanazawa (金沢) (III) (English version)
– The piece of gold on the west coast: Horticulture & Samurai


3 Responses to Kanazawa (金沢) (II) (Engl.)

  1. […] Kanazawa (金沢) (II) (English version) – The piece of gold on the west coast: Time honoured shrines & modern architecture […]

  2. […] englische Version dieses Artikels finden Sie hier. An English version of this posting you can find […]

  3. […] Kanazawa (金沢) (II) (English version) The piece of gold on the west coast: Time honoured shrines & modern architecture […]

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