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‘Kanazawa’ means ‘golden marsh’, which is appropriate given its history. During the 15th century, Kanazawa was under the control of an autonomous Buddhist government, which was ousted in 1583 by Maeda Toshiie, head of the powerful Maeda clan of retainers to the shōgun.

Then the fun started.

Three centuries of bountiful rice production made the Kaga region Japan’s wealthiest; it was known as Kaga-Hyaku-Man-Goku for the one million koku (about five million bushels) of rice produced annually. Wealth allowed the Maedas to patronise cultural and artistic pursuits, and today Kanazawa is one of Japan’s key cultural centres. During WWII, the absence of military targets spared Kanazawa from destruction, preserving its historical and cultural sites, although it is an undeniably modern city with its share of functional (and some fanciful) contemporary architecture.