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Introduction > The samurai heritage of Kanazawa

The samurai heritage of Kanazawa

The history of Kanazawa is closely linked to the samurai caste, the warriors of feudal Japan. Surrounded by mountains in the east and the Sea of Japan in the west, Kanazawa is blessed with a strategic location and fertile land, which bolstered its economy and allowed its culture to flourish for three centuries under the reign of the powerful Maeda lords.

Kanazawa is a typically constructed feudal Japanese castle town, situated between the Asanogawa and Saigawa rivers. The city has a labyrinthine layout centered around the castle. The city is partitioned into quarters, which reflect the caste system of the time. In the west, by the Saigawa River, lies the Teramachi district. Many temples were built in this quarter in the hope that religious or superstitious invaders would be deterred at the sight of these sacrosanct structures. In the east, between the Asanogawa River and Mt. Utatsu, is the Higashi-Chaya-gai quarter. Dotted with tea houses, this quarter is where the wealthy elite came to relax and to be charmed and entertained by geishas. Samurai residents were dispersed between the western and eastern quarters. Some of their traditional residences can still be found in the Nagamachi quarter. Through the patronage of the Maeda lords, Kanazawa became a prosperous and dynamic city of handicrafts. Many important shopping districts emerged around Kanazawa, some of which still exist today in the Musashi, Korinbo-Hirosaka, and Katamachi areas.

The samurai are long gone, but because Kanazawa was one of the few major cities spared from destruction during the Pacific War, the refinement of this period’s traditions is still found in Kanazawa’s architecture, its craftwork, its cuisine, and its samurai heritage.