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A scenic route to explore the allure of samurai culture

Theme of the Scenic Route



  • Traveled : July 2018 Ian Livingston
    Reside in USA
  • Traveled : July 2018 Dana Macalanda
    Reside in Tokyo
    Home country: USA

Visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, created on the site of a samurai residence, and let the evocative landscape take you back in time. Next, travel to the renowned garden at Kenroku-en Garden, once home to feudal lord Maeda in the Edo period (1603-1868). Close to Kanazawa Castle and historical samurai residences, Kenroku-en Garden offers stunning seasonal views ranging from spring cherry blossoms to the iconic yukitsuri in winter. Experience samurai culture in Ishikawa Prefecture, where the past remains to be enjoyed today.

Official Tokyo Travel Guide

Local government official website

Ishikawa is located in the northwestern part of Honshu in Japan and part of the Hokuriku region which has nature, culture and historical environment. As Ishikawa prefecture is on the coast of the sea of Japan, visitors can enjoy the best scenery spot with a magnificent view and experience the natural beauty such as the mountains, peninsula and the magnificent sea.
One of the best trip routes is to start from Tokyo by experiencing the modern and historical Japan’s culture and then stopping at Ishikawa which will give you a sense of history.
You can find a route that will guide you from your arrival in Tokyo to Ishikawa, Japan.

Los Angeles International Airport

ANA105 Examine the directions from your country

  • Ian Livingston

    ANA's 777-300 offered a wide seat plus a smooth ride, and once again the service aboard and at the departing gate at LAX was outstanding. I particularly appreciated the menus detailing food options from which I selected the "Simmered rock fish with soy sauce" for breakfast.

Haneda Airportmore

Haneda Airport
The airport serves as an air gateway for Tokyo. The passenger terminal is filled with various commercial facilities, and visitors can command a panoramic view of Tokyo Bay from the rooftop observation deck, so that every one, even those who are not flying, can enjoy the terminal.

Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Day1 - Visiting Tokyo to Ishikawa


Todoroki Valleymore

Todoroki Valley
This 1km valley, situated at the southern tip of the Musashino Plateau, is one of the few valleys in the Tokyo area.
Go down the steps at the entrance to Golf Bridge, a 3-minute walk from Todoroki Station, and find the walking trail that follows the Yazawa River downstream.
Hear the rustling of the Japanese zelkova, konara oaks, and dogwood trees in the breeze, the murmuring of the river, and the wild birdsong; so close to nature you would never think you were in the city.

*Due to tree trimming and other work, entry to Todoroki Valley and its walking trails is currently closed. Please check Setagaya City's official website for more information. (As of May 2024)
  • Ian Livingston

    A jungle oasis inside Tokyo. The world of rush green spreads just a hundred or so feet below streets supporting cars and large crowds. The noise and heat are insulated by dense slopes of bamboo-leaf oaks, Japanese zelkova and Yedo hornbeam. Shallow water trickles alongside the footpath. I found our Saturday morning walk through to be remarkably calming.

    Shuuichi, near the Todoroki stop on the Oimachi Line, is a beautiful way to follow a morning spent wandering Todoroki Valley. The cozy second-floor shop does dipping noodles and curried flavors notably well, but I pressed in (on the ticket vending machine) an order of the black sesame tantamen, which was absolutely delicious. On my next visit to Tokyo, I will return for another bowl.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Todoroki Valley:
    It only takes three steps for the urban backdrop to fall away during the descent into this jungle oasis. This blissfully quieter corner of Tokyo is a world of its own with tree cover blanketing neighborhood folk and photographers walking along the narrow, well-kept path that winds along the gentle Yazawa River.

    No matter how hot it is, ramen is always an option. Shuichi may resemble an old-school kissaten (traditional coffee shop), but it’s a popular ramen shop that serves a great curry tsukemen (cold dipping noodles served with hot or cold soup).

Tokyu Oimachi Line

Tokyu Meguro Line
(35 minutes) *From Todoroki to Yotsuya

JR Chuo Line
(6 minutes)

Sake tasting experience
(Meishu Center Sake Shop Ochanomizu)

Sake tasting experience<br>(Meishu Center Sake Shop Ochanomizu)
Meishu Center is a pop-up shop of sake carefully crafted all over Japan.
With a lineup of more than 150 different sakes ranging from famous classics to hidden gems, you can sample them at a low price.
You can also purchase the sake you like.
Please compare the differences and take your time to find the sake you think you like.
If you are not sure which sake is the right one for you, ask our staff for advice.
The staff will give you a hand in finding one just right for you.
The shop also has plenty of snacks that pair with sake as well. The shop has everything from rare sake to desert sake, so enjoying comparing them and finding the right match for you.
  • Ian Livingston

    I didn't know you could do this, and I loved it. I don't know much about sake, but in Japan, as anywhere, I like to let the local customs around alcohol consumption teach me something. Sake tasting by the glass is a great way to learn.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Meishu Center is a treasure. It’s a delightful feeling to be able to grab any bottle from a wall lined with around 100 variations of sake and a few other spirits such as umeshu (plum wine). Ample signage in Japanese and English is a bonus.

Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line
Ochanomizu--> Shinjuku-gyoenmae
(21 minutes)

Shinjuku Gyoenmore


Shinjuku Gyoen
Completed in 1906 as an imperial garden, Shinjuku Gyoen was opened to the public in 1949. Inside the 58.3-hectare grounds, there is a Japanese garden,a formal garden, and a landscape garden, all skillfully designed.
Famous for cherry blossoms in the spring and red foliage in the fall, Shinjuku Gyoen is a place for rest and relaxation, an oasis in the city.
  • Ian Livingston

    Shinjuku Gyoen is a giant breath of green space. Once, it belonged to a daimyō (subordinate to the shogun). Later it was an imperial garden, almost flattened in WWII. Today it's a park and a great place to unwind.

    Shinjuku is a rabbit hole, and I was happy to get to step inside for a short while. Curious, brave travelers must budget time for Shinjuku's sensory bacchanal, if only to visit Golden Gai. Even though it was mostly dormant in the late afternoon, it was a favorite.

    Mimiu, in Shinjuku, is part of a chain of restaurants that dates back nearly 250 years. The house specialty udon-suki dinner is centered around a communal pot of slow-simmered dashi broth, alongside which comes a tray packed with udon noodles, proteins, and vegetables ready to be cooked in it. The noodles and mushrooms were great.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Shinjuku Gyoen is an idyllic space to picnic and stroll within the central Tokyo area. Keep an eye out for the soft-shell turtle near water and a pot of Naito tōgarashi peppers, a nod to the family that cultivated them when they lived there during the Edo Period.

    A quick walk through Golden Gai and nearby Bicqlo — a cross between clothing giant Uniqlo and electronics retailer Bic Camera Inc. — makes for great people watching.

    A hot pot isn’t supposed to be a photogenic dish, but the staff at Mimiu know how to make udon-suki pop. Phone cameras are encouraged as an assortment of colorful vegetables, tofu and other goodies are artfully piled atop simmering udon noodles.

Shibuya Tokyu REI Hotel

  • Ian Livingston

    From Shibuya station, you can walk to Shibuya Tokyu REI Hotel in just minutes. This makes it a convenient homebase from which to explore Shibuya. The combination of location, attendant staff and breakfast spread (including some dynamite fresh-blended carrot juice) make it a good place to stay the night.

  • Dana Macalanda

    The hotel staff speaks English, the rooms are clean and there’s Wi-Fi. The ultimate luxury is that the building is mere minutes from Shibuya’s scramble crossing, completely eliminating the stress of having to curb schedules to catch the last train of the night.

Day2 - From Tokyo to Ishikawa, Japan’s City of History


Tokyo Stationmore

Tokyo Station
October 2012 saw completion of the preservation and renovation work on the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building. The red brick facade long loved as the symbol of Tokyo Station has made a comeback, along with the history and grandeur of the original building dating nearly a hundred years back. The occasion also saw the reopening of Tokyo Station Hotel and Tokyo Station Gallery. The former is the only hotel situated within an important cultural property of Japan. The interior is designed in a sophisticated, classical European style to blend with the splendor of the Marunouchi Building exterior.

JR Hokuriku Shinkansen

  • Ian Livingston

    It is so very easy to ride the Shinkansen around Japan. You can travel from Tokyo to Kanazawa by Hokuriku Arch Pass, and the rail stations are well-marked (including in English), departures are punctual, and seats are comfortable with plenty of legroom. My reserved seat came with an empty seat beside it and clear views of the green countryside rushing past.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Despite rocketing from one end of the country to the other at roughly 260 kilometers per hour, relaxation comes easy when riding the Hokuriku Shinkansen. It’s a smooth journey, complete with the luxuries of wider seats and decent leg room.

Kanazawa Stationmore

Kanazawa Station

There is a reason why Kanazawa Station was chosen as one of the 14 most beautiful stations in the world by Travel+Leisure in 2011. It is characterized by a dome supported by massive pillars modeled after Japanese drums used in traditional performing arts. Furthermore, the inside of the station is decorated with local traditional handicrafts as if it were a museum.

  • Ian Livingston

    Kanazawa's bustling rail hub is a beautifully easy space to navigate, and just plain beautiful. Help is available, as it often is at Japanese transit hubs, to English speakers in the form of help desks, luggage storage and delivery service, and free volunteer tour guides of the city. Within the walls of its rail station, Kanazawa proves it can handle even the least prepared English-speaking travelers.

    Such a wonderful meal. This is the kind of experience that will keep me returning to Japan for as long as I'm able to travel. A selection of ten pieces were placed delicately, one by one, in front of us with a request that they be eaten wihout edit within three seconds (to preserve the flavors intended by the chefs).

    Kanazawa is responsible for 99% of Japan's total gold leaf production. The world of gold leaf was mostly foreign to me prior to visiting this part of the world, so I was happy to dive inside it on a quick visit to Gold Leaf Sakuda. Inside I witnessed again the respect for craftsmanship by hand. I also liked my matcha ice pop rolled in gold leaf and gold-specked roasted tea. Nearby at Shima Teahouse, the wooden world of the chaya ("teahouse") tradition was given texture. The house was beautiful.

    Higashi Chaya district is a great place for an after-lunch walk. Rows of wooden chaya have stood two-stories tall since 1820. The old chaya are today great for pictures and effective in transporting visitors like me far, far from home to the romantic Japan of their imaginations. The soy sauce ice cream added to the experience.

  • Dana Macalanda

    A straightforward and beautifully designed station that combines Kanazawa’s balance of chic modernity with ancient traditions. One-day bus passes are only ¥500 and the visitor information counter is just past Hyakuman-san, an adorable golden daruma doll that serves as the city’s mascot.

    Not a sushi fan? A trip to the Hokuriku region may change your mind. The chefs have been honing their skills in this area home to a variety of fish, and served us with fresh sushi.

    Learning about gold leaf and geisha is surprisingly accessible in this elegant tea district with a welcoming atmosphere and none of the expected airs that usually follow precious metals and high culture.

    Kanazawa has its share of unique treats nestled among the geisha houses and specialty shops; soy sauce ice cream (with optional syrup for an even more concentrated flavor) is at the top of the list.

Joka-machi Kanazawa Shuyu Bus (Kanazawa Loop Bus):
Kanazawa-eki Higashiguchi --> Kenrokuen-Shita, Kanazawajo
Around 17 minutes

3 minutes by foot

Kenroku-en Gardenmore


Kenroku-en Garden
Kenroku-en Garden is one of the three most famous gardens of Japan, and it is the most beautiful "samurai garden" that has taken around 180 years to establish. The garden offers enjoyment of different views for every season of the year; cherry blossoms in spring, rabbitear irises in summer, autumn colors in the fall, and "yukizuri (poles and ropes to prop up trees in winter)." Visitors can also tour the neighboring Kanazawa Castle. The town of Kanazawa was developed around the castle, and there are numerous historical and cultural facilities nearby.
  • Ian Livingston

    I was happy to find Kenroku-en Garden, one of Japan's three finest gardens, in peak summer form on the day of my visit. Kanazawa is given tremendous service by Kenroku-en Garden and its many trees. Peace is easy to find inside, as is historical context.

    The "park-like" 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the most enjoyable museums I've had the pleasure of visiting. In 2004, it opened on the grounds of a shuddered school. Today its magnificent, clean-white lines (drawn by architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) provide contour for both permanent and temporary exhibitions while the perimeter greens host satellite exhibits that engage—for free—adults and kids alike. The musuem attracts art lovers from across the world but also, notably, provides a rare window into modern art for the uninitiated.

    Hacchouya's dinner includes a ton of food. I liked the tempura skewers, among other things, and the meal as a nice close to an evening in Kanazawa.

  • Dana Macalanda

    This sprawling garden is located adjacent to Kanazawa Castle and is home to an impressive array of living history that dates back to the Edo Period. It’s heartening to see nature cared for so diligently; gardeners tend to the garden’s iconic neagarimatsu (raised root pine) tree that’s around 170 years old, removing dead needles by hand.

    You know it’s a good museum when kids and adults alike are encouraged to interact with the exhibits. Intended as a space where the public could stop by freely and also display their art alongside professionals, this museum is always a joy to return to. Leandro Erlich’s “The Swimming Pool” is by far the most popular permanent exhibit, but there are plenty of gems to be found.

    A filling kaiseki (traditional multicourse meal) dinner at Hacchoya included jibuni, a delicious local dish of stewed duck. Staff was also very accommodating of food allergies and offered to substitute certain dishes.

Kenrokuen Shuttle: Kenrokuen-Shita, Kanazawajo --> Korinbo
Around 5 minutes
(10 minutes on foot)

Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel

  • Ian Livingston

    The Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel is to my understanding a step above the standard rooming options in Kanazawa. It's western-style, clean and well-appointed. My room on the top floor was spacious and comfortable, but its best feature may have been its views of the mountain-backed city below. The service was also outstanding.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel: room, service, comfort, breakfast, etc.: The hotel’s stylish interior design is reflective of the city’s love of craftsmanship. It is comfortably located within walking distance of several landmarks, including the samurai district.

Day3 - Explore Ishikawa Japan’s Culture

Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel

2 minutes by foot

Naga-machi Bukeyashiki District(Nagamachi Samurai Residences District)more

Naga-machi Bukeyashiki District(Nagamachi Samurai Residences District)
This is the site of former middle-class samurai residences of the Kaga Domain. The townscape retains the atmosphere of the days of domain rule when samurai walked the streets, with ocher mud walls with wooden tile roofs, water channels and "nagayamon" gates with "bushimado" windows. Moreover, the mud walls are covered in "komogake" in winter to protect them from the snow, a seasonal tradition in Kanazawa. The gardens here are also worth seeing, having been ranked third by the Journal of Japanese Gardening, an American journal, in 2003.
  • Ian Livingston

    The samurai history of Japan is alluring, I think, even to visitors who don't know its deeper history. I for one found the guided walk through the samurai district and Nomura Samurai House to be a highlight of my time in Kanazawa.

    I love a market like this, and so I loved Omicho Market. I purchased and ate, for just a few hundred yen: a green tea soy latte, baby scallops on a skewer, and unagi on a skewer. All were delicious. The unagi skewer was unforgettably good.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Compared to the opulence of Kyoto’s ruling class, samurai homes displayed power through rustic beauty, evident in the cypress ceilings and intricate garden at the Nomura Clan Samurai House. Combined with sword displays and other artifacts of battle, the residence itself is a tranquil haven.

    The roughly 300-year-old Omicho Market continues to thrive today. Housed within a sleek new building, the winding paths reveal a plethora of seafood and produce begging to be savored by locals and visitors alike.

Joka-machi Kanazawa Shuyu Bus (Kanazawa Loop Bus):
Korinbo --> Kanazawa-eki Higashiguchi
Around 15 minutes

JR Kanazawa Station --> JR Wakura Onsen (around 1 hour)
*JAPAN RAIL PASS may be used

  • Ian Livingston

    To arrive on Notojima from Kanazawa, it's an hour's JR train to Wakuraonsen and then a short bus onto the island over a small bridge. The rail leg, like all trips by rail I have taken in Japan, was easy, comfortable.

  • Dana Macalanda

    A pleasant ride on an express train out of the city, made all the better by an ekiben (station bento) from an impressive selection at Kanazawa Station.

Wakuraonsen Station→Kodamiyanomae (around 25 minutes)

2 minutes by foot
* Some ryokans provide a shuttle service to and from Wakuraonsen Station.

Notojima Cycling Tourmore

Notojima Cycling Tour
This is a cycling tour around Noto's Satoyama and Satoumi, which were designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. Visitors may see the traditional lifestyles of people living in harmony with nature and the four seasons.
  • Ian Livingston

    The looping roads of Japan’s Noto Island ("Notojima") are ideal for cycling, both to the east and to the west, but also for examinations-by-bicycle of the rice paddies, overflowing vegetable patches and fish-filled waters. The tour was long but not strenuous, informative but not boring.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Easily the highlight of the visit to Ishikawa Prefecture. This inspiring cycling tour along Notojima’s coast was led by two young men who left Osaka to work more closely with the environment. Having a resident show you around fishing docks and their neighbors’ farms while chatting about wild boars eating their crops is an illuminating look into a world not many ever see.

Sansuiso guest house

  • Ian Livingston

    Each nightly feast at Sansuiso guesthouse is an affair to be remembered, built of rainbowed fish caught hours before in water you can see from your room. Mine included a wooden boat packed with fresh sashimi and supplementary dishes like yellowtail (buri) with radish and sweet glaze. It was one of the best meals I can remember.

    Sansuiso guesthouse is a dream. Each of the four beautiful tatami-mat rooms can sleep a family of four. The genial owner speaks little English. His family, too, communicates largely in smiles and hospitality, which in season includes trips to a neighbor's dock to view neon-glowing crustaceans and lightning bugs in the rural darkness.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Sansuiso’s owner is a chef, fisherman, diver, father to three adorable children and he’s ridiculously good at his job. It’s not very often the person handing you your dinner can say they caught part of it that morning and prepared it; the entire meal was extravagant, but the sashimi boat (complete with flower arrangement) was something out of a dream.

    Just go. Book it through an agent, rent a car and go. As well as the food, the traditional rooms and onsen (hot spring) bath are enjoyable.

Day4 - Experience Ishikawa’s Local Atmosphere

Sansuiso guest house

Community bus to Wakura Onsen-eki (around 25 minutes)
* Some ryokans provide a shuttle service to and from Wakuraonsen Station.

Noto Tetsudo: Wakura Onsen Station --> Anamizu Station (around 40 minutes)

  • Dana Macalanda

    The quiet journey back to the mainland began with boarding a “wrapping train” covered in anime girls — a hilarious contrast to the area’s rural beauty.

Hokutetsu-Okunoto Bus
Anamizu Ekimae --> Wajima Ekimae (around 40-55 minutes)

  • Ian Livingston

    I really enjoyed seeing Wajima by electric bike beneath the warm summer sky I was granted. The efficiency of our Wajima visit is a credit to Wajima's, as well as all of Japan's, tourism preparedness.

  • Dana Macalanda

    The former Wajima Station now serves as a visitor information center, complete with gift shop, luggage storage service, and electric bike rental (worth it) to give you a boost as you explore the town.

14 minutes by foot

Wajima Morning Marketmore

Wajima Morning Market
The Wajima Morning Market is one of the three most famous morning markets of Japan with a history of over 1,000 years, making it the oldest market in the country. Around 200 shops line the 360-m street. Women from local farms and fishermen sell fresh seafood, vegetables, processed goods and folk handicrafts, such as Wajima lacquerware. Bartering while having a conversation is another way of enjoying the market.
  • Ian Livingston

    Wajima's morning market (every morning from 8am to 12pm) is roughly 1,000-years old. That alone makes it worth checking out, but my quick walk through also allowed me a chance to taste a handful of new treats, including egara manju just before it sold out.

    For a hidden-away Italian restaurant in Wajima, Japan, this was a delicious lunch. I got the tagliatelle with Noto pork with cream sauce and zucchini off the list of daily specials.

    Wajima's famous lacquerware, another of Ishikawa's traditional crafts, comes to market only after an extraordinarily hands-on process. At Wajima Kobo Nagaya I tried my own hand at finishing in gold some black lacquerware chopsticks for my girlfriend. An experience like this is required, I think, for a full appreciation of lacquerware and the respect reserved for craftsmen in Ishikawa.

    There are more than 200 festivals in Ishikawa between July and October. In pursuit of a full understanding of what this means, I found the Kiriko Art Museum to be a worthwhile stop. The videos of the festivals, in which raging fires and delirious crowds pop off the screen, bring life to this critical aspect of Ishikawa life. As a museum, I found the experience efficient.

  • Dana Macalanda

    Complete with a space to grill seafood immediately after buying it, this daily market packs a wealth of opportunity for adventurous foodies. Its history spans around 1,000 years, placing it among one of Japan’s three oldest and largest markets.

    Orizzonte, hidden away in Wajima on the Noto Peninsula, serves delicious Italian food. Lunch beneath a lacquerware surfboard (an homage to the owner’s late father who was an artisan) was a generous appetizer plate and pasta complemented by local ingredients.

    I learned the appeal of lacquerware by visiting Wajima Kobo Nagaya and seeing artisans’ work spaces and taking part in a gold leaf decorating class. A lot of love goes into the monthslong process of creating pieces built to transform the more they’re used.

    The pride is evident and excitement infectious in this awe-inspiring museum housing enormous kiriko lantern floats that are distinct to festivals in the region.

Wajima Morning Market→Wajima Station
14 minutes by foot

Hokuriku Rail Road Bus: Wajima station(Wajima-eki-mae) --> Noto Satoyama Airport(Noto Satoyama Kuko) (25 minutes)
(Furusato Taxi (shared taxi)
Reservations required (0768-22-2360))

Noto Satoyama Airportmore

Noto Satoyama Airport
It is not only an airport, but a composite facility with an observation deck, souvenir shops, a restaurant, a Michi-no-Eki (Roadside Station), a tourist information center, and a rent-a-car counter.

ANA (ANA Expericence JAPAN Fare) Show details

Haneda Airport

  • Ian Livingston

    In Tokyo, I once again found the energy of a world-class city. In Ishikawa, I found restful nights and communities proud of their historical contributions to this same, multi-faceted Japan of today. As a whole, Japan showed me once again that is fit to welcome all travelers—including those returning for a fourth time. I can't wait to return.

  • Dana Macalanda

    A phenomenal opportunity to explore locales unknown to international tourists and still upcoming among Japanese travelers; the relatively new route carved by the Hokuriku Shinkansen has made the previously secluded west coast oh so easy to travel to.

    This trip represents a more lifestyle-based tourism that encapsulated the region's undeniable pride in its traditions, history and artisanship. Overall, it was an invaluable glimpse into the fight to simultaneously preserve the old ways while evolving.


Japan continues to impress me. The ways to spend your time in Tokyo seem endless, as do the venues for memorable meals. Of particular note on this trip were the moments and corners committed to calm, found easily via Shinkansen in Ishikawa (and Notojima especially) but also, somehow, amid the bustle of Tokyo.

Ian Livingston
Reside in USA
  • Hobby

    Food, basketball, natural drama

  • Number of visits to Japan

    3 times


Tokyo’s greener side was the star of this tour that proves it’s possible to escape the city without ever leaving. Excellent guides, quality drinks and a few encounters with great people made for a day that would appeal to various visitors.

Dana Macalanda
Reside in Tokyo
Home country: USA
  • Hobby

    Reading, photography

  • Length of stay in Tokyo

    3 years

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