When to go
It can rain a lot in Kanazawa (according to a local proverb, ‘even if you forget your lunchbox, don’t forget your umbrella’) and in winter, the temperature plummets: this is Snow Country, after all. Come in spring for the flourishing cherry blossom and the Asanogawa Riverside Garden Party, held on the first weekend of April and featuring performances by local geishas; autumn is beautiful, too.
PlanesKomatsu is Kanazawa’s nearest airport: get international flights from Seoul and Shanghai, or fly domestically from Tokyo Haneda and Okinawa (with Japan Airlines), or from Narita Airport, Sapporo Chitose, Sendai and Fukuoka (with All Nippon Airways). You can hop on a bus from the airport to Kanazawa (50-minute journey), or get a bus to Komatsu Station and pick up a JR train from there.
TrainsKanazawa’s train station is worth taking a peek at it for its architecture alone: a futuristic marriage of a traditional temple gate with glittering glass and steel. The station is a stop on the West Japan Railway’s Hokuriku Line and can be accessed from Tokyo, either by taking the Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari train (one leaves every hour) and transferring at Maibara for the run to Kanazawa, or by to taking a Joetsu Shinkansen train to Echigo-Yuzawa and changing on to the Hakutaka train to get to Kanazawa. The former is more expensive but more scenic; both routes take around four and a half hours (www.jreast.co.jp/e/).
AutomobilesDriving around the old city will whiten your hair: the streets are a tangle of narrow twisting loops, and passengers will need to breath in at times. Parking is expensive, too. The more modern parts of Kanazawa are more car-friendly, and having wheels gives you the freedom to explore the Hokuriku and Hida regions. However, you must carry a valid Japanese or Geneva Convention International Driver's License at all times.