Top 10 Tea Houses in Kanazawa's Tea House District to Wind Down In
Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture has long been known as Kanazawa Sanchayagai and Kanazawa Chayagai ("chayagai" meaning tea district). This area is home to many traditional teahouses, and around two thirds of the 140 or so buildings still retain their traditional architecture. Here is an introduction to some of the best teahouses among the bountiful charms of this district. You may even get to see women enjoying some tea in their kimono during your visit!
Sep 18 2019 (Apr 15 2020)
Top 6 Teahouses That Also Sell Great Souvenirs
1. Fumuro Chaya
At Fumuro Chaya, you can enjoy unique confections made with fu (dried wheat gluten), as well as light meals and snacks. Dig into some shaved ice in the summer, or miso soup and sweet red bean soup in the winter. The Goshiki soup with grilled rice cakes and the fu somen (thin noodles) are also sure not to disappoint.
Fumuro Chaya offers fu and other Japanese cuisine for you to enjoy with your tea. The 'Kanazawa Tori-fu' uses small pieces of fu in the shape of flowers. Just adding this little flourish to an everyday dish can make it feel a little more special. Why not make a trip Fumuro Chaya and experience it for yourself?
2. Hakuichi - Higashiyama Branch
Hakuichi's Higashiyama branch has become quite famous due to their TV appearances and other media featuring their gold leaf ice cream. The ice cream is representative of the confectionary scene in Kanazawa, so much so that celebrities often come by. They also sell other products including cosmetics and alcoholic drinks.
This store, in fact, used to be a beloved bathhouse. While the bathhouse is no longer here, it is now renowned for its rich and decadent ice cream, which is topped with a whole sheet of gold leaf. You can also take the opportunity to purchase some of the gorgeous cosmetics at the teahouse.
3. Kanazawa Higashiyama Shitsurae
Kanazawa Higashiyama Shitsurae lets you get hands-on with some traditional Japanese crafts. In every room, there are exhibits of traditional crafts such as Kutani porcelain and Wajima lacquerware. In regular museums you can only see the exhibited object in glass casings, however, because these artefacts are out in the open, you can experience them up close.
At the Japanese cafe on the second floor known as Café Yanagi-An, you can enjoy some light meals and snacks. The cafe also has a view of the central courtyard, so you can relax and unwind while enjoying the culinary delights of Japan's four seasons. It is highly recommended to visit Shitsurae at least once during your visit!
The building that houses Kaikaro was built 200 years ago and has been designated as a preserved landmark by Kanazawa City. To this day, unfamiliar visitors are not allowed entry to this teahouse in the evening, so you can only peruse its interior during the afternoon. You can also purchase cosmetics adorned with gold leafing here, that are beloved by geisha.
Kaikaro is known for its unique golden Japanese arrowroot dish. The special arrowroot is steeped in brown sugar syrup, so that your whole mouth is filled with a gentle sweetness when you take a bite. Give it a try to take a luxurious break after exploring this treasured building!
5. KAGA Rakugan Sabon
6. Kanazawa Bikazari Asano
You can get your hands on some traditional Japanese crafts at Kanazawa Bikazari Asano. There are 36 different types of craft pieces available here, and many of these pieces can be used in everyday life. There are also gold-leaf cosmetics available, so you can bring them home and try a home spa experience.
On the second floor, you can experience working with gold leaf yourself. Pick your favorite product to make, such as a small mirror or jewelry box, and simply attach some gold leaves. Non-Japanese customers are welcomed, and children are admitted with a guardian. You can take home your completed gold leaf piece the same day, so it is sure to become a wonderful memory of your visit.
Top 4 Teahouses with a View
If you make the trip to Kanazawa's teahouse district, it is highly recommended that you pay a visit to Kan-son-an. It is a Nationally Designated Important Cultural Property and you can still experience the atmosphere of the Edo era as you enter the building. The second floor was installed with a space for art displays as a thank you for visitors.
Once you have experienced the building, you can have some green tea with seasonal Japanese sweets. The sweets are lauded for their flavor and many people come from outside of the prefecture in order to taste the confectionary here. This is a great place to experience its unique Edo atmosphere with some Japanese sweets.
2. Hana no Yado
Hana no Yado boasts over 200 years of history. During the afternoon, it functions as a coffee shop for the public, and in the evening, geisha entertain invited guests. A historical atmosphere still permeates throughout Hana no Yado, waiting for customers to come and experience it.
At nighttime, Hana no Yado operates as a teahouse where you can enjoy a cup of green tea with some Japanese sweets for an affordable 500 yen. Not only that, they also offer coffee and carbonated drinks, so you don't need to worry about your kids getting fussy if they don't enjoy the bitterness of the green tea.
3. Amanatto Kawamura
The popular Amanatto Kawamura leverages the best seasonal ingredients to create its signature amanatto (sugared red beans). This teahouse was originally frequented by geisha who would give their wares to customers as a form of souvenir. Today, anyone can come here to purchase gifts and souvenirs from Kanazawa. This is the only store in Japan that specializes in amanatto!
Amanatto also sells seasonal limited-edition products, with seasonal motifs. In spring, which is exam season for Japanese students, they offer products that pray for success in exams and in the summer, visitors can enjoy yokan (a jelly dessert with red-bean paste), a traditional summer dessert. Everything here is hand-made to ensure the taste and quality, so this shop only accepts customers with reservations. If you have never tried amanatto before, this is the place to do it.
Hayuwa used its prized matcha to make their sweets and parfaits. The teahouse, which is written in kanji characters that mean 'wave' and 'tie', takes its name from its history as a hair salon frequented by geisha. Wave refers to a particular Japanese hairstyle, and tie refers to the signature way in which the hair of geisha are tied. You can gaze down at the main street here while you enjoy your parfait and delightful sweets.
The shaved ice sold here in the summer comes highly recommended. If you are visiting in another season, the matcha parfait with elegantly garnished with rice flour dumplings, matcha cake and ice cream, is also a mouthwatering dessert. Avid matcha lovers in fact order multiple items for themselves. Visit her to get your fill of the finest Kanazawa matcha flavors.
Experience History at the Kanazawa Teahouse District
No matter which teahouse you visit, you will be able to get a taste of traditional architecture. In this particular district of Kanazawa, the historical richness of the historical buildings provides an opportunity for visitors to experience history just by looking at them. If you venture inside, you can enjoy their interiors and many teahouses still allow visitors to have a spot of tea with some Japanese sweets inside. In some teahouses, geisha perform songs and dances for customers. After a tiring day of sightseeing, why not take a leisurely stroll in the teahouse district and experience its history as you refresh and relax with some tea and sweets?
Header Image: gandhi / PIXTA
Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.