Higashi Chaya District is the largest teahouse district in Kanazawa and has many beautiful buildings to enjoy. However, they are mostly inaccessible to wheelchair users due to steps.
In the Edo period, teahouses were exclusive restaurants where geisha would perform songs and dances for guests, usually in designated districts on the outskirts of cities. Higashi Chaya District, or East Teahouse District, is one of three geisha districts in Kanazawa, with the other being smaller Nishi Chaya District, West Teahouse District, and Kazuemachi.
Higashi Chaya District is the largest of the districts and has three parallel rows of wooden buildings in traditional architectural styles. A variety of shops are located in the buildings including teahouses, a gold leaf shop, a bar, and tourist shops.
Most shops in the area are open from 9:00-18:00.
Higashi Chaya District can be accessed from stop number RL5 on the tourist-oriented Kanazawa Loop Bus. All buses on the Loop Bus are wheelchair accessible. The area is few minute walk from the bus stop.
The roads in Higashi Chaya District are very smooth and wide, so those in wheelchairs should have no problem moving around. Unfortunately, the majority of teashops and stores are NOT accessible as they either have a step at the entrance, or a step inside at the genkan.
A few places can be entered including the famous Hakuza Gold Leaf Store that sells gold leaf products, which are a specialty of Kanazawa. Inside, there is a traditional Japanese warehouse that has been turned into a tearoom with walls that are completely covered inside and out with gold leaf. The warehouse itself is not accessible, but the inside is visible from the doorway. The pathway to the warehouse has small rocks and a pathway made of blocks, so while it can be approached in a wheelchair, it may be uncomfortable.
The public washrooms in the area have an accessible toilet.
Those hoping to go to a teahouse will likely be disappointed by lack of access to buildings. However, the neighborhood is very beautiful and makes for fantastic pictures of traditional Japanese buildings, so, if you have gone all the way to Kanazawa, there is no reason to not visit Higashi Chaya District.
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