Kanazawa, Japan

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Located on the shores of the Sea of Japan, Kanazawa is a bustling hub with ships arriving and departing for South Korea, Russia and China. The port is just west of the city center—a former samurai town that was once one of the largest in Japan. Like Kyoto, the city escaped bombing in World War II, and its historic buildings provide a glimpse of old Japan. Of the three teahouse (chaya, in Japanese) neighborhoods, the most famous is the charming Higashi Chaya District. Contemporary Kanazawa has its attractions, too. Sophisticated restaurants serve delicious Kaga cuisine, which highlights the bounty of the sea. (Kaga is the traditional name for this part of Japan.) Shops sell Kaga-nui pottery, Kutani porcelain and other handicrafts. Major sights include Kenrokuen—a 17th-century garden that is a high point of landscape design in Japan—and Kanazawa Castle and its park. At the Kanazawa Noh Museum, visitors can learn about Noh theater and storytelling, while the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art features both Japanese and international artists (it’s located next to Kenrokuen). Nearby, there are hot springs to bathe in and the natural beauty of the Japanese Alps, Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park.