Tag Archives: Kanazawa

Takeyama, 2016

The train to Takeyama wound through rice fields and rocky rivers into the pine forested mountains. The beautiful autumn leaves began to emerge the higher the train went.

We walked around the pretty little town with its wooden houses and an alpine feel. The river water was so clear that you could see koi swimming against the current.

After a little searching we found the Karakuri Museum. This puppet museum showcases acrobatic puppets used on floats in a festival that the town is famous for.

There was a rolling puppet that served tea and one that wrote calligraphy, from which my daughter was lucky enough to be given writings from. The museum also had a huge collection of lion masks.

Takeyama is also known for sake breweries, so we went into a local shop with the cedar ball hanging above the door signifying that the spirit was served there. After a tasting, we purchased a bottle to take home.

We had some rice dumplings on a stick, followed by lunch in a local restaurant. It was a family owned establishment where we had baked curry and a special kids meal with an origami of a flying crane on beautiful patterned paper for my daughter.

The day trip to Takeyama was one of my husband’s favourite days and it definitely made for a lovely sojourn.

It was dinnertime by the time we arrived back in Kanazawa, so we retested the theory of the best food being near train stations with a nearby sashimi restaurant that definitely delivered.

We also purchased our Japanese souvenir- a striking red kimono doll with the unique style of lacquer and woodwork combined.

The next morning we were back at the train station, leaving Kanazawa for Kyoto. While we were waiting for our train, the local TV station interviewed us about why we had come to Kanazawa, what we had done and what we liked. It was quite a thrill to be filmed and even nicer to be asked again at the end of our stay.

Related posts: Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

 

Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016

As my daughter’s choice of activity, we went to a Japanese phenomenon- Shidax karaoke. As we sang along to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and my pick Iggy Azalea, I thought, these people really know how to have fun. Singing, dressing up and playing games for beer. Why not?

The next day we had planned to go to Takeyama, but all the trains were booked out. So we booked for the following day and headed to the Nagamachi Samurai quarter instead.

Narrow, quiet, cobblestoned streets and long walls hid amazing tall wooden slat houses, some of which were open to the public. We found one with stables and a pretty garden.

The best one was the family of Nomura Samurai House. Samurai armour greeted us at the doorway to the house, which had two levels. The bottom level had detailed walls and a prayer room all set up. There was a translated thank you letter written during war and wooden carvings near the celling.

A winding stone staircase led to a teahouse on the top level, which had a view over the beautiful garden with water features, lanterns and koi.

Outside, we couldn’t find the Murakami candy tree mentioned in the guidebook, though we did find a lolly shop with lollies made in the shape of mushrooms. There was also a local eating a gold leaf ice cream. They are expensive, but lucky.

For lunch we had honten and Japanese curry at Full of Beans– a very funky café. Then we wandered around the shops including The Loft which had strange appliances.

It occurred to me that the best things about Kanazawa had been the unplanned parts where we slowed down, like the teahouse in the gardens, just wandering around town finding local restaurants and people watching. How does everyone stay so thin here with so much yummy food to eat?

Related posts: Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016

From the Omi-cho Market, we walked to the Higashi-chaya geisha district. On the way we passed many interesting buildings and more temples. Why are there so many shrines and temples in one place? Perhaps so there is always somewhere to pay respects.

As we crossed the river, we were mesmerised by the sight of lots of eagles hovering, swirling and occasionally diving into the clear water for fish.

The geisha district had lots of pretty alleyways with wooden slat houses and a view to the mountains behind. My favourite were the red coloured structures and one famous street in particular which had the perfect angle for a classic photo. The only question was, where were all the geisha girls?

Inside the Higashi Chaya Krukeikan Rest house, we saw vast living areas, a strange contraption for making tea that was hung from the ceiling and a cute little Japanese garden. My daughter had fun trying on a pair of geisha style wooden block shoes and getting a big stamp of the rest house from the staff there.

Next we picked up some lunch as a local bakery and went to the vast Kanazawa Castle Park for lunch. Many school children were there, also eating. Here we saw our first beautiful orange autumn leaves on trees.

Inside the castle gates, we went into one of the guardhouses that had views over the park and to other parts of the castle. It was a room of golden floorboards and we got our second stamp of the day.

In the grounds of the castle we found two very friendly ladies dressed in kimonos who were more than happy to have their photo taken with our daughter at the castle and wanted a picture for themselves as well. We learnt the word for cute in Japanese- Kawai. It was one we were to hear more as we journeyed around Japan with our daughter.

The highlight of the day was the most beautiful gardens that we went to in Japan- the Kenrouk-en Gardens. It was easy to see why they were heritage listed. The gardens were spectacular with bridges, ponds and views over the town.

We saw the well-known Rainbow Bridge that is depicted on manholes around the town with the Kotojitoro Lantern. The Horaijima Island was in the middle of a pond surrounded by pine trees hanging over the water and the Flying Wild Geese Bridge, made of stones in a point, was aptly named.

Our favourite part of the gardens was when we slowed down and took a seat in a traditional teahouse over the water of Hisagoike Pond. We had green tea that was actually green and muddy and a sculpted Japanese sweet.

As the sunlight bounced off the roof making pretty patterns on the ceiling and we could hear a waterfall trickling in the background, I got a glimpse of the peace that a Japanese garden can bring and didn’t want to leave.

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Kanazawa, 2016

The next day, we caught the fast train to the ‘small town’ of Kanazawa, which had less than 500,000 people. How is that considered a small town? Small by Japanese standards I guess.

We whizzed past canola fields, mountainous forests and the sea. We were greeted at Kanazawa train station by a huge gate and a waterfall. There was also a robot that gave directions from an iPad and looked up at you when you spoke.

In Kanazawa, we stayed in a great traditional Japanese house in Katamachi that was made of dark wooden slats and paper windows- thankfully also with glass on the outside. It had a communal sleeping room and cushions to sit on the floor in the living room. Why do people sleep and sit on the floor in Japan?

The town had its own busy Shibuya-like crossing, albeit smaller and with more pushbikes than cars. We found the pretty Saigawa River that ran through the town and that every block had a temple. There were some cute little houses and creative signage adorning bars and buildings.

For our daugther, we found a small kids play park nearby, stone statue children outside one of the large shopping centres to pose with and a character dressed up promoting a restaurant roaming the streets to meet and greet.

The mascot of the Kanazawa looks like a fat Russian nest doll, but it has a moustache and the town is known for its Samurai and Geisha districts. We were told that the Japanese came here to relax and buy kimonos.

For dinner we went to an authentic restaurant that served pork cutlets and Oden- meat and vegetables served in soup broth. Our daughter liked the complimentary cabbage leaves that you could dip in special sauce.

Our first day exploring Kanazawa started with the Omi-Cho market. It was filled with seafood and delicious croquettes. We found an apple for our daughter to eat that was half the size of her head.

We were stopped by a group of school children on assignment to practice their English who asked a series of questions and then gave us a paper crane as a thank you. One of the questions was- where would we prefer to live: Kanazawa or Tokyo? It was only the start of our first day here, but we already knew that with its slower pace and smaller size, Kanazawa would be our choice.

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Japan, 2016

I thought Japan would be more different, more like the other and difficult to converse in- a challenge.

However, it seems that Japanese culture is somewhat familiar and the locals are used to tourists, perhaps because so many Australians now go to Japan to ski. Even in the smaller places, everyone spoke enough English for us to get by.

Despite the lack of anticipated culture shock, it was still a wonderful trip with lots to see, do and experience. The people were polite, friendly and helpful and the place was incredibly safe. The thought of getting pick pocketed never crossed my mind.

Tokyo was a crazy mish-mash of so many different things in so many different areas that I could not say that I have a clear picture of the city. There were lots of people too of course.

The ‘smaller town’ of Kanazawa felt more traditional and there were some beautiful places and moments to be experienced there. From here, our day trip to Takeyama took us through lovely countryside.

Kyoto was full of temples and the top sights, but was also the place where we felt the most at home, perhaps due to our friendly daily coffee shop lady and the local supermarket close by. We also went to an onsen in nearby Nantan where there were no other tourists.

Osaka seemed like the most liveable city with a great atmosphere and our day trip to Nara from here was a surprising highlight.

Finally, the other world of Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea, transported us to the happiest place on earth and did it so well that we almost forgot we were in Japan.

Then of course, there is the culinary journey that is Japan. Rather than trying specific restaurants, we sampled the cuisine known in each area, as everywhere had good food. I discovered that it is true that the best food we found was near the train stations and I did get a bit rice and noodled out.

Through it all, many questions came to mind that made me want to read and learn more about Japanese culture. The mixture of tradition and modernity, Asian and Western, was intriguing. Even though Japan may not be the other, I think we still only scratched the surface and there is much more exploring needed to unlock the secrets of this interesting country.

Next time: we start the journey in Tokyo.