Kanazawa and Awazu Kiyoshi

Chillin in Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden, considered among Japan’s most beautiful.

History matters and the Japanese City of Kanazawa has been lucky that way. The city’s good fortune began before it was a city when a farmer found flecks of gold in Kanazawa’s water as he was digging for potatoes. Things went uphill from there. The powerful Maeda family moved in during the 17th century and, for 300 years, invested in the arts, infrastructure, and education, creating a thriving, beautiful city. Also lucky — in the 20th century, Kanazawa was spared the devastation of WW II.

The result of all that good history is a wealthy, modern city with a focus on the arts, parks, historic neighborhoods and local foods.


My visit was short, but I had time to hit the highlights:

Part of the castle of the Maeda Family that ruled for 300 years.

Ozaki Jinja Shrine is actually cute

Kanazawa celebrates its good fortune with ice cream covered in gold leaf. Only $5 but seems like a waste of good gold….

The historic neighborhood of Higashi-Chaya.











My favorite cafe — fresh crab rice bowl and a beer for $12

I also had one of those special experiences in Kanazawa that felt (and feels) really personal. I went to an exhibit of Awazu Kiyoshi at Kanazawa’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.

The artist late in life — he had a bad eye from an injury and didn’t like that eye to be photographed. Photo by Ahn Sang-Soo

Awazu is one of Japan’s most important 20th century graphic artists. He broke the rules of commercial art in post-war Japan with a style that appeals to human emotion and speaks to social causes. Rather than deploying his talents in the lucrative commercial arts industry, Awazu kept his art accessible by getting it on magazine covers, posters and book covers. He made it relevant by incorporating familiar symbols of Japan’s history, traditions and folk lore, like crows and samurai and turtles. He collaborated with architects, design firms, and the film industry. Awazu was so prolific and his work is so varied, it is hard to believe it was all created by one person. (All of the photos here were taken off the internet  — the museum did not permit photography)

Poster for the amazing movie, “Woman in the Dunes.”

Juxtapose Magazine cover

Awazu died in 2009 but he left the world hundreds of works of art that engage and surprise us while reminding us of our common humanity. I love Awazu’s work and his commitment to his community.




  1. Hope to see Kanazawa next time I visit. I had never heard of Awazu but the art he produced was incredible. Thanks for keeping me awed by your trip! Keep ’em coming.

  2. Love all your posts! Being a graphic artist myself, I love seeing Awazu Kiyoshi’s art work! Thank You, Kim!

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