To celebrate 60 years of our sister city relationship, here are 60 things you might not know about Kanazawa!
Essential Facts About Kanazawa
1. Kanazawa is surrounded by the Sea of Japan and the Japan Alps.
2. The word “Kanazawa” (金沢) literally means “Gold Marsh”.
3. The story of how the city received its name came from a peasant farmer who accidentally stumbled upon shiny gold dust flakes while he was digging for potatoes!
4. Kanazawa Castle features the original Ishikawa Gate from 1788.
5. The gate is designated as a National Important Cultural Property, one of many to be found in the city.
6. Kanazawa is the capital and largest city in Ishikawa prefecture.
7. Kanazawa is 483 km from Tokyo, about the same distance as Buffalo to Albany.
8. Thanks to the Shinkansen high-speed rail, travel time from Tokyo is only about 2½ hours.
9. The Maeda clan, great patrons of the arts, ruled Kanazawa for nearly 3 centuries.
10. Kanazawa has been spared the worst from major wars or major weather disasters for the last 500 years!
11. Because of this, the city has its original geisha, samurai, and castle districts from circa the 1600s.
12. This rich artisan history makes the city well-known for gold leaf, lacquerware, mizuhiki knots, and more.
13. Kenroku-en Garden is known as one of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan”.
14. The gate entrance at the Kanazawa station is called the Tsuzumi-mon and is ranked in the top 14 most beautiful entrances to a transit station in the world.
15. Kanazawa is often affectionately called “Little Kyoto” due to its cultural charms.
Sister City Facts
16. Buffalo is Kanazawa’s FIRST sister city! The long-lasting friendship began on December 18th,1962, the day the sister city agreement was signed between Buffalo Mayor Chester Kowal and Kanazawa Mayor Doi. We have been friends ever since!
17. Robert G. Flershem was the person that recommended Buffalo to Kanazawa as a good potential sister city choice. He was an author, college history professor, and former Buffalo sales representative for Gypsum in 1937-1938.
18. In 2002, Mr. Flershem was awarded honorary citizenship by Kanazawa. He passed away in Kanazawa at the age of 92 in 2006. He is now a permanent resident of Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.
19. In 1964, Kanazawa sent Buffalo a beautiful kotoji-tōrō stone lantern in honor of our new friendship.
20. In 1976, over 300 citizens of Kanazawa came to visit and explore Buffalo.
21. The very first Kanazawa marathon was held in 2015. A delegation was sent from Buffalo consisting of 4 supporters and 2 runners that participated in this once in a lifetime event.
22. Buffalo’s well-loved Japanese Garden behind The History Museum, was a gift given by Kanazawa in 1971 to recognize our friendship. Work was completed in 1974.
23. Three Buffalo Mayors have visited Kanazawa — Mayor Stanley Makowski in 1975, Mayor James Griffin in 1992, and Mayor Anthony Masiello in 1999.
24. A bronze statue of a buffalo was given as a gift to Kanazawa and can be seen in the city’s Sister Cities Park.
25. Kanazawa has four distinct seasons, just like Buffalo!
26. Buffalo has “Lake Effect” snow whereas Kanazawa has “Sea Effect” snow.
27. Kanazawa has a population of approx. 451,000, almost twice the size of Buffalo’s population of approx. 278,000 (though it is also about 4x as large as Buffalo by area!)
28. Buffalo has Kanazawa beat in snowfall though! Buffalo averages about 95 inches per year while Kanazawa gets about 62 inches per year!
29. Maestro Joann Falletta of The Buffalo Philharmonic visited Japan in 2006 and conducted a performance with the Kanazawa Philharmonic.
30. In 1977, Kanazawa & Buffalo entered into an agreement to promote friendship with a pen pal system in honor of the then 15 year anniversary.
31. Kanazawa’s Jazz 21 & Junior Jazz Group and The Hamburg High School Jazz Band have performed together to promote friendship through an international youth exchange.
32. In 2011, seven members of Nakayama Ballet of Kanazawa visited Buffalo’s Neglia Conservatory of Ballet to study different ballet techniques and methods.
Arts and Culture
33. There are over 80 museums in Kanazawa!
34. The DT Suzuki Museum is one of the most popular museums, featuring a Water Mirror Garden designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi (who designed the MoMA in NYC!)
35. Like father like son, Yoshio’s father, Yoshiro Taniguchi was a Kanazawa native who designed MOMAT (The Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art).
36. Kanazawa is known for Noh! Noh Actor of the Hosho School Mr. Toshihiko Yabu, designated by the Japanese government as an “intangible cultural asset” performed at Buffalo Seminary in 2010.
37. A Buffalo sister city delegation visited Yabu-sensei at his workshop in 2019 and practiced a few musical and theatrical techniques!
38. Kanazawa’s largest festival is in June and is called Hyakumangoku Festival. It celebrates the entry of Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the Kaga domain, into Kanazawa Castle in 1583.
39. The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art’s grand opening on Oct 9, 2004 was attended by Japan Culture Center of WNY’s former president Dr. Takako Michii.
40. In the Nagamachi district, you can see the original homes of the samurai and learn about the amazing lives these warriors once lived.
41. Asano Taiko Company, established in 1609 is the oldest and largest taiko drum manufacturer in the world! It’s located in Hakusan, a 20-minute drive from Kanazawa City Hall. The company also has a gift shop and free museum with 400-year-old drums!
42. Kanazawa is the #1 producer of gold leaf in Japan. Gold leaf is used extensively in decorating temples and shrines, as well in folk crafts and even food!
43. Kanazawa’s paper umbrellas called bongasa are made by a famous artist Hiroshi Matsuda and are highly sought after around the world!
44. The Fukushima Shamisen Shop is run by 5th generation artist Mashahide Okabe where all shamisen instruments are made by hand.
45. Kaga Yūzen silk dyeing developed five centuries ago in the Kanazawa area. It is characterized using 5 distinct colors and realistic motifs without decorations.
46. Kanazawa’s government symbol and flag is purple with a stylized rendition of the city’s first kanji in an outline of the plum flower in the Maeda Family crest, in honor of the family that that once ruled the area.
Unique Things About the City
47. Kanazawa is the Ice Cream Capital of Japan!
48. The oldest fountain in Japan is located in Kenroku-en Garden.
49. The city is also known for decadent gold leaf “kinpaku” ice cream!
50. Kanazawa’s main temple district Teramachi has about 70 shrines and temples, including a “Ninja Temple” famous for its trap doors and secret rooms.
51. Kanazawa has several geisha districts — The largest is Hagashi Chaya District which means “East Tea House”.
52. Yukitsuri is the “roping of trees”, a winter art form in Kanazawa! The triangle shaped rope webs cover the entire tree to keep branches from bending and breaking during snowy fall and winter months.
53. Instead of plows and shovels, Kanazawa uses a system of warm-water sprinklers to keep roads and sidewalks clear.
Delicious Cuisine and Spirits
54. In Higashi-Chaya, you can find a unique kind of pressed sushi called “Oshizushi”.
55. Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery is the largest & oldest sake brewery in Ishikawa prefecture, open since 1625.
56. The bustling Ōmichō Market is home of some of the freshest fish and seafood in Japan!
57. The brand-new Sister City Café in the Future Creation Building will serve Buffalo cuisine! And not just chicken wings.
58. Kanazawa curry is a specialty in the city since 1955! It’s thicker than regular Japanese curry. Turban Curry restaurant is listed as a favorite by the residences of Kanazawa.
59. There are 15 local varieties of vegetables unique to the Kanazawa area. They are called “Kaga” vegetables.
60. Kanazawa is famous for its confectionery, particularly the block-shaped sweet chōseiden.