It's Perfect!The first guide to enjoying the Higashi Chaya District
The rows of red latticed machiya (traditional townhouses, a type of residence or store in the central area of a city, most of which were constructed in the feudal age) is an other-worldly scene! Many tourists who come to Kanazawa for the first time visit this popular sightseeing area.
Since the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, new shops and cafés have sprung up in quick succession, making it even more enjoyable place to walk around in and explore its back alleyways. Even if you have already been to the area once before, it’s definitely worth another visit. A local writer will tell you about how best to enjoy the area.
What kind of place is the Higashi Chaya District?
The Higashi Chaya District was once a bustling geisha quarter. It has been preserved as a conservation area for historically important buildings, and many of the renovated townhouses are now occupied by souvenir shops and restaurants. Because it has such a beautiful townscape, there are people who mistake it for a theme park, but in fact it is a type of shopping area. There are no opening hours or entrance fees.
Almost all of the shops are open from 10:00am to 5:00pm.
What kind of place is a chaya (teahouse)?
In spite of the name, it is neither a place to drink tea, nor a shop where tea is sold. Chaya are social meeting places for adults, where geishas entertain guests with elegant performances. The custom of refusing customers without an introduction from a regular customer has been maintained to this day, and in the Higashi Chaya District there are five chaya that are in operation and ten-odd geishas. Without an introduction from a special person, one cannot enter a chaya. It is possible for the general public to experience chaya culture at Shima, a chaya that was built in the Edo period, and at Kaikaro, a chaya that is only open in the daytime.
How long does it take to sightsee? What is the recommended route?
It is recommended that you combine a visit to the Kazue-machi Chaya District, which is on the other side of the Asano River, with your visit to the Higashi Chaya District. If you are only planning to see the townscapes, it will take you about one hour. The recommended route is: Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge — Hiromi — Higashi Chaya District — Utasu Shrine — Kannon-machi Street — Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge — Kazue-machi Chaya District — Kuragari Hill (or Akarizaka Hill).
However, if you stop along your way to look around shops that take your fancy, or to try the popular gold-leaf soft ice cream, before you know it two hours will fly right by. Also, if you leave the main street to explore the small side streets, you will discover hidden-away cafés and specialty shops.
The location of the nearest bus stop, Hashiba-cho, depends on which bus line you take. If you get off the bus at the farther away bus stop, first head towards Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge. The bus ride from Kanazawa Station to Hashiba-cho takes about seven minutes.
Tips for taking great photos
The square called Hiromi is the usual place from which to photograph the main Higashi Chaya District street. There are many details on the houses, such as a type of lattice called kimusuko, that are interesting to photograph. The elegant atmosphere of Utasu Shrine, at the back of the chaya district, is also lovely.
The Asano River has a series of photogenic bridges: Nakanohashi Bridge and Umenohashi Bridge for pedestrians, as well as Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge, which has been designated as a tangible cultural property of national importance. At night the bridges are lit up, and in spring the illuminated cherry blossoms are especially beautiful.
The view of the Kazue-machi Chaya District from the other side of the Asano River is impressive. If you look towards Asanogawa Ohashi Bridge from Nakanohashi Bridge, you will see a graceful scene that is typical of the Asano River, which is also known as the "female river".
If you are going to take pictures in this atmospheric area, how about changing into a kimono?
Special experiences available in the Higashi Chaya District
The five most popular experiences in the Higashi Chaya District are:
1.Walking around the streets wearing a kimono
2.Enjoying matcha and Japanese sweets in a townhouse café (in a long-established confectionery store)
3.Experiencing chaya culture.
4.Enjoying shopping (There are many unique shops.)
5.Trying your hand at gold leaf pasting or another cultural experience (traditional performing art, traditional craft, tea ceremony, incense-smelling ceremony, etc.)
The typical Kanazawa experiences that you enjoy in the historical atmosphere of this area will become wonderful memories of your trip.
While visitors without an introduction cannot received by chayas in the Higashi and Kazue-machi districts, there are also bars and Japanese-style pubs for the general public, some of which are in buildings that were once chaya.
After enjoying a drink, how about taking a romantic stroll along the streets lit by gas lamps? This is a great way to enjoy the chaya district at night.
The chaya district bars may seem pricey, but if you use "Kanazawa BIMI" restaurant and bar coupons, there is no need to worry about going in for a drink.
Implementation location MAP
Recommended plan list5 plans
Reservation requiredWorkshop no.54 Feel Japanese culture Tea ceremony
2,500yen (tax included)green tea, sweet
Reservation requiredEvent no.45 One and only opportunity to enter an authentic Geisha house! Kanazawa Geisha Experience
5,000yen (tax included)Price is per adult. Student price is 2500 yen.
Reservation possible on the day Reservation requiredWorkshop no.117 You can experience if there are seats available! 【Kinpakuya Sakuda】 【3-minute walk from Higashi Chaya Street】Gold Leaf Embellishment Experience.
700yen (tax included)～Prices start from 600 yen (including tax + materials cost).
Reservation requiredWorkshop no.53 Feel Japanese culture Kimono+Tea ceremony
6,000yen (tax included)green tea, sweet, kimono
Reservation requiredTour no.80 Experience the connection between nature and authentic dyeing technique of Kana Kaga Yuzen and Nature
15,000yen (tax included)The price includes insurance, tea and snacks.