Kanazawa Castle Park

Opening hours: 7:00 - 18:00 from 1st March to 15th October, 8:00 - 17:00 from 16th October to 28th February 

Address: 1-1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Post code: 920-0937

Admission: free admission to the castle grounds, 310 yen for Gojikken-nagaya and turrets

Closest bus stop: Kenrokuen-shita (兼六園下)

Website: www.pref.ishikawa.jp/siro-niwa/kanazawajou/e/index.html

An intriguing visit to Kanazawa Castle Park and Oyama-jinja Shrine

Posted on 01/07/2015

Day two – the handy Kanazawa Loop Bus took us to Kanazawa Castle Park. Ishikawa-bashi Bridge connects Kenrokuen Gardens and the Ishikawa-mon Gate of Kanazawa Castle Park. Under the bridge is a moat called Hyakken-bori. This used to be filled with water and it played an important role in defending the castle and separating it from the Kodatsuno-dai area on the Kenrokuen side. After crossing the bridge, Ishikawa-mon Gate, one of Japan’s important cultural properties, awaited us. The gate has an impressive turret but was actually once a side entrance to the castle. Kanazawa Castle has three main gates: Hashizume-mon Gate, Kahoku-mon Gate, and Ishikawa-mon Gate. After going through Ishikawa-mon Gate, we reached a large square which used to be a part of the Kanazawa University campus. When I was living in Kanazawa, the area past the square wasn’t open to the public. After the university moved out, Kahoku-mon Gate, Hashizume-mon Gate, Hishi-yagura (turret), and Gojikken-nagaya (row house) were rebuilt and are now open to the public. They all look immaculate as it’s only been a few years since they were rebuilt.

After having a walk around Kanazawa Castle, we went to Oyama-jinja Shrine. The Shinto shrine can be described as being old and new at the same time. Lord Maeda Toshiie, founder of the Kaga domain, is enshrined here. Although the Maeda family was one of the major clans of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Toshiie was still a nonhereditary feudal lord so no shrine could have been built to enshrine him officially. Instead, a shrine was erected on Mt Utatsu nominally to enshrine another god but in fact it was built to enshrine Toshiie. This shrine was moved to its current location during the Meji era and was officially used to enshrine Toshiie. This is probably why Shin-mon (gate of God), facing Hyakuman-goku street, has an intriguing combination of Japanese, Chinese, and European styles. Past a traditional Japanese Torii gate, this enigmatic Shin-mon Gate stands as a symbol of Kanazawa today. The first time I came to Kanazawa, I felt some strangeness about this but I can now say that this is a symbolic view of Kanazawa. The four sides of the top tier of the gate have stained glass in five colors. In the old days, a candle was lit on the first tier to guide ships sailing on the Sea of Japan, like a lighthouse. On top of the gate stands a long lightning rod, said to be Japan’s oldest lightning rod. 

After going through Shin-mon Gate, the worship hall with Irimoya-zukuri (a style of hip-and-gable roof) appeared in front of us. The hall was relocated here from the old Kanaya palace during the Meiji era. It’s a shame I wasn’t allowed to take a photo but we saw a magnificent richly colored transom, carved from a piece of solid timber of Japanese Zelkova. On the right-hand side of the hall there is a Japanese shrine garden where you are able to stroll around a pond, surrounded by a densely wooded area of Japanese Black Pine, Red Pine, Japanese Cedar, Chinquapin, and Southern Japanese Hemlock, creating some tranquillity. Past the garden, there is another gate, Higashi (East) Shin-mon. It used to be the Kara-mon Gate of the second palace of Kanazawa castle but was moved to its current site in 1968 and is listed as a tangible cultural property by the government. Kanazawa Castle has suffered a number of fires over the years, but this gate has remained undamaged. It is believed that the two carved dragons on the gate called for water and saved it. The gate features a traditional Momoyama palace-esque style. Some kind of imbalance between the east and west gates of Oyama-jinja really intrigued me.

Oyama-jinja Shrine

Opening hours: 09:30 - 18:00

Address: 11-1 Oyamamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa

Post code: 920-0918

Admission: free

Closest bus stop: Minamicho (南町)