Japan // Central Honshu //

Higashi Chaya and around


Kanazawa is the only place outside of Kyoto to support the old-style training of geisha. Of the three districts in which this happens, Higashi Chaya (東茶屋), a fifteen-minute walk northeast from Kenroku-en across the Asana-gawa, is the largest and most scenic.
Several old teahouses are open to the public. The Ochaya Shima (お茶屋志摩) is the most traditional, while opposite is Kaikarō (懐華樓), decorated in a more modern style, including an unusual Zen rock garden made entirely of broken chunks of glass and a tearoom with gilded tatami mats. At both you can take tea (without geisha, unfortunately) for a small extra fee. Tea is also part of the deal at the venerable Shamisen-no-Fukushima (三味線の福島), where you can learn to pluck the Japanese stringed instrument, the shamisen. Walk off all that tea by exploring the scores of temples nestling at the foot of Utatsuyama in the north area of Higashi Chaya.

On the south side of the Asanagawa bridge is the smaller, but equally scenic Kazue-machi Chaya geisha district; there’s a teahouse you can stay in here. Five minutes’ walk south of here is the Ōhi Museum (大樋美術館), displaying and selling exquisite examples of amber-glazed pottery refined over four centuries for the urasenke style of tea ceremony.

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