Travel Back in Time in Kanazawa’s Kazue-machi Chaya District

Guide to Japan Travel Culture

The main street of the Kazue-machi Chaya district in Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture) runs beside the Asano River, which flows through the city at a leisurely pace. Along the street is an orderly row of traditional ryōtei (high-class Japanese restaurants) and chaya (teahouses). Most are two stories high, though some are three. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the district was a popular pleasure quarter, and the streetscape preserves the look of days gone by. The area has been designated an “important preservation district for groups of traditional buildings.”

Visitors can also turn off the street and investigate the alleys that join it. One of them is called Kuragari-zaka, literally “slope of darkness.” In the past men used to slip down this dark alley and try to avoid being seen as they ducked into teahouses offering pleasures other than tea. Another alley, running parallel to Kuragari-zaka, was nameless until it was dubbed Akari-zaka, or “slope of lights” by Itsuki Hiroyuki, a renowned author who chose Kanazawa as his home.

(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television.)

Kanazawa Ishikawa tourism