Kanazawa, Japan

One of Japan’s best-preserved cities, Kanazawa escaped war damage and natural disasters to reward visitors with a wealth of architecture as an important clan castle town from the mid-17th century until the middle of the 19th. The mighty Kanazawa Castle did not survive intact, but its famous Ishikawa Gate, the Sunjikken Longhouse and lavish Kenrokuen Garden hint at the grandeur. Of special note are the surviving Higashi Geisha District and Samurai District streets. The Temple area holds the Myoryuji Temple with its hidden passages and secret doors giving it the nickname the Ninja Temple. The Oyamajinja Shrine is a later addition, its three-story gate with impressive stained glass windows reveal a Dutch influence. Museums worth exploring include the Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum, with examples of the arts and crafts using the pure gold decoration for which the region is famous. Another museum celebrates the Buddhist philosopher D. T. Suzuki, credited with introducing Zen philosophy to the West, and a striking 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Nearby Mt. Utatsu is renowned for its Three Shrines.