Daishoji is located in today's Kaga city in Ishikawa Prefecture. This was once a thriving castle town within the highly productive million-koku branch domain of the Kaga Domain.
Daishoji is a place where history and tradition live. The streets still retain a mellow and relaxed atmosphere evocative of the Edo period. At the base of the Kinjo mountain castle are the old Zen and Nichiren Buddhist temples standing side by side. Visitors come all year round to see the historical sites here.
Among the temples, Jisshouin is famous throughout Japan for its beautiful wisteria. The gilt-painted shoji screens are also magnificent. Choryu-Tei pavilion and garden, located in the grounds of the Enuma Shrine and once part of the mansion of Daishoji's 3rd lord, seem to imitate the Kenrokuen garden. Here the elaborate and detailed drawing room and tea room are interesting. This garden is designated as an important national asset.
Katano-kamoike is a permanent freshwater lake in Katano-cho, Kaga City, Ishikawa Pref. It has an area of 1.54 ha and a depth of 3.6 m. The Lake is designated to a Ramsar Site as well as a Natural Monument of the Prefecture. The Lake is surrounded by rice paddies, the depth of which is designed to be shallow so that they can go under the water when the water is dammed in fall. That is, the rice paddies filled with water are connected to the pond, creating an expanded marshy area. The site is an important stopover point for many species of birds in winter. The number of species and individuals are said to be the largest in Japan. Rice agriculture taking advantage of the geese behaviors has been practiced in this area. As weed is eaten by geese flying over to rice paddies in search of food, farmers don’t have to use chemical herbicides. Their droppings function as organic fertilizer. This harmonious coexistence with geese is ideal, but on the other hand, there are several problems seen in recent yeas including a decrease in the number of rice paddies, increasing use of dry farmland, and a decline in the number of migrating birds.
Kanazawa still feels like a castle town. It is the site of a castle as well as many samurai houses. In addition, the romantic teahouse streets have not changed at all.
Nishi Teahouse Street is to the south of the Sai River, and is synonymous with Kanazawa. In the third year of the Bunsei period, the Kaga Domain had the street built along with Higashi Teahouse Street.
Even today, Japanese-style restaurants and geisha-girl delivery stores produce items of great elegance. After dark, the sounds of the shamisen can be heard, lending the streets further charm.
In olden times, most teahouses used to refuse first-time customers. This was the case with Higashi Street, but now there are Japanese-style hotels, souvenir shops and cafes lining its sides. It is most enjoyable to walk down the street.
Nishi Teahouse Museum is located in the building where Seijiro Shimada, a writer born in Mikawa, Ishikawa prefecture, lived when young and there are items exhibited here describing his early life.
The 1st Kaga domain head, Maeda Toshiie, adopted the Chudo spirit of the Nichiren Buddhist sect and Hogekyo as his political philosophy and built Myoryuji Temple as a place to pray for the domain's peace. This was in the 13th year of the Tensei period (1583). Later, in the 20th year of the Kanei period (1643), the 3rd domain head, Maeda Toshitsune moved the temple to its present place.
At the time of Toshitsune, the Tokugawa government had established its base and sent spies to various domains. Toshitsune let his nose hair grow and pretended to be stupid in order to deceive the spies. But Toshitsune is also famous for developing industry and the performing arts, and built temples as emergency barracks. Myoryuji Temple is the main temple among these.
It might look two-storied from the outside but in fact it is four-storied with seven layers. There are many contraptions everywhere in the temple such as a hidden walkway, room, stairs and changeable fake walls, holes for escape, double doors and various traps. This is the reason why the temple is also called Ninja (Spy) Temple.
Takaoka lacquerware originated about four centuries ago in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture. Takaoka lacquerware crystallises the wisdom and skills of this craft and is closely linked to the history of this area.
Takaoka lacquerware was first made in the early Edo period, when the head of the Kaga Domain, Maeda Toshinaga, built Takaoka Castle and needed the locals to lacquer weapons and daily commodities for him, such as drawers and trays with legs.
The local craft further developed when techniques for coloring lacquer, known as 'tsuishu' and 'tsuikoku', were imported from China. Other features of this craft are lacquering techniques that use ground powders ('sabi-e'), beautiful stones or iridescent shells to decorate surfaces with scenery, figures and patterns.
In the mid-Meiji period, another technique was established. Known as 'chokoku-nuri', it builds up various colored lacquers to give a three-dimensional sculptural effect that elegantly recalls the Kamakura period.
The mastery and skill of this craft were recognised in 1975, when Takaoka lacquerware was designated as a National Traditional Handicraft.
Yamanaka lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft handed down for 400 years in Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture. This craft dates back to the Tensho era (1570-1592) during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, when wood turners from Echizen (present-day Ishikawa Prefecture) moved to this area and taught turnery to the local workmen. In the Edo period (1603-1868), the techniques of lacquering and makie were introduced, by which the town became famous as the producing center of tea utensils.
Yamanaka lacquer ware is characterized by rokurobiki, or wheel wood carving skills, by which a block of wood place on a wheel is shaped into a bowl or a teacup holder. At the summit of wheel wood curving skill is kashoku-biki, or pattern adding wheel curving, in which quality of wood and beauty of grains are fully utilized. The turned pieces are perfect in shape without any deformation and they are works of art in themselves. In Yamanaka lacquer ware, the excellent skills of turners, which are beyond all imagination from the simple appearance of the finished works, are hidden behind the application of lacquer.
Ohi pottery is a traditional handicraft handed down for about 330 years in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture. The making of Ohi pottery dates back to 1666, when the fifth lord of the Kaga domain, Tsunanori Maeda, invited the founder of the Urasenke school of tea ceremony, Senso Soshitsu, from Kyoto. At this time the first Chozaemon Ohi accompanied him to make tea utensils. Chozaemon found suitable clay at Ohi village and started making tea bowls and jugs that suited Soshitsu’s taste. He became the founder of Ohi pottery.
Ohi pottery masters have succeeded the name of Chozaemon Ohi and now the tenth generation of Chozaemon Ohi carries on the tradition.
Ohi pottery is made in a unique process, which uses no potter's wheels. The pottery is shaped by hand and working-out of the details is given by knives and planers. A special glaze is used to produce a unique amber coloring, which gives a very sensitive and mysterious impression.
The works of the successive generations of Chozaemon Ohi are displayed at Ohi Pottery Museum, which is located next to the kiln of the present generation.
It is Kanazawa gold leaf that has given glitter to Kinkakuji Temple, Nikko Toshogu Shrine, and many other handicraft works such as lacquer ware, Buddhist altars, fabrics, and Kutani ware. The city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture has a 400-year history of producing gold leaf and is the only place in Japan where gold leaf is still made.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), the Tokugawa Shogunate set up a gilders’ guild and confined the production of gold leaf only to Edo and Kyoto. However, the Kaga domain maintained production a secret in order to promote the domain’s industry. With a lot of rain and snow, the climate in this area was suitable for making gold leaf, which contributed the development of this craft. During World War I, when supply of gold and silver leaf from Germany was stopped and replaced by Kanazawa leaf, it secured itself an important position in the world.
Kanazawa gold leaf craftsmen can pound a piece of gold in the size of a 10 yen coin evenly into the size of two tatami mats. Even though gold leaf is so thin that we can see through it, the brightness and evenness of the final leaf are not lost. Pounding gold leaf requires refined techniques for each process, which enabled numerous cultural properties to be handed down to the present day.