old samurai quarters
Nagamachi buke yashiki district, kanazawa
My night in the smokey business hotel was fairly good and the reception staff tolerant of my internet use, requests for ice for my failing Achilles, and where to find a chemist!
Like clockwork I woke at 4 or 5am, to a very bright morning, no rain, and calm weather. The early sunrise has been the case ever since my arrival and time spent in Kyuushuu farther south. I cannot, however, get my head around how a country similar in latitude to New Zealand can have such an early dawn.
Kanazawa has several districts that provide evidence of it's once fame as a feudal stronghold - the family known as the Maedas settled in this area, established several cultural identities, and maintained control over the early Kanazawa town. It is now a large city with many industries, and tourism seems to be a key part of this! Art museums, history museums, the gorgeous Kenrokuen garden which I have to say was a highlight, the castle grounds and 'joo' itself are all worth a visit.
As for the districts there are several that attest to the samurai past. I was very fortunate to be given these tickets from a
higashi chaya district
get your geishas here!
carnet of 10 that these American tourists no longer needed when I arrived. They handed them to me at the train station about to leave themselves, being the only other gaijin around, and encouraged me to to try the old style bus tour the following day, being today. This bus takes in all the key sights in a hop on hop off manner, tourist style, with a demure and cute sounding japanese guide come driver that provides a running commentary all the way. I am not usually one for this, but found it a good opportunity to get farther afield ina short space of time.
The samurai quarter in Naka Machi Buke Yashiki district was lovely....loads of wood panelling, built as resilient to fire and destruction, and an old home to the samurais of Kanazawa past. I imagine the doorways were wide for that reason! Ah, proof that an obese Japanese exists??!! I also got to the Kazui machi chaya and Higashi Chaya districts in the eastern part of town - this is where many traditionally dressed japanese and geisha are. The are are also loads of temples to visit - I got to only three, by mistake mainly...but
they drill holes through hills mountains and highways over foreshore...imagine this happening in NZ??
that is often nice...called ozaki jinja, oyama jinja (both shrines) and higashi betsuin temple. The second shrine had some beautiful scultpures on show leftover from yesterdays festival. Likewise, the castle and garden parks seem full of nude and clothed statues, in various war like or caring poses with children, as evidence of the creative spirit of this town. A delightful stay that could easily fill another day or two.
So onwards to Akita ken over an eight hr stretch it was. The train left late morning and toured via Toohoku ken, Ibaraki ken, and straight up the centre of japan past Morioka and the westwards to Akita. Today being Sunday is busy on the trains, and only once did I not have someone next to me to chat to. The shinkansen runs up the centre to Hachinohe (Akita line), whereas other trains are double deckers with airplane style seating (6 across, 3/ side) and run across the centre of the country. I realised I have collected a few meishi (business cards ) since being here, and that they have nearly had all the same profession...university professors going on business to TOkyo! I had interesting interactions with two in particiular
next train due??
bustling Omiya station...the lonely planet was wrong yet again, it is OMIYA, not OYAMA!!
who spoke good english....we got to the differences between aussies and kiwis, and why is it that japanese don't seem to smile much. The response that it is 'seriousness' and not bad teeth was what I had suspected!
There was one concern I had about this train trip...after the vast plains of Fukushima, Morioka and surrounds, we started going backwards. I had heard that the carriages would split from 1-10 and then from 11-15! No, not another train adventure unplanned! Well the backwards bit was right, and assuringly the food hostess said no worries, I would get to Akita. Like clockwork it arrived on time, and I then trawled the station until finding a phone to call the naniwa ryokan. Mrs naniwa ryokan spoke little english, and by phone I tried hard to say I would wait at the wets exit, which I did. Except this exit is 200m wide and full of taxis, overhead walkways, and a pay and display car park that always seemed to be coming and going....so 10, then 20, then 25 misn past, and I was getting a bit short by now and ready to head east for what the LP guide calls hotel central. Another
call to her was unproductive and just as I was heading east to get a bed and some erst for the night, this lady approached me asking for Poor-rine...of course it was me! Gomen nasaias were repeatedly exchanged, and I since found out that husband Takayada was out of town, and having promised to pick me up could not.
She bought her bike as a substitute, and we doubled together with me in the basket, and her carrying my 7kg front pack with a it of a huff puff struggle despite my protestations it was too heavy and I really didn't mind carrying it. The ryokan, called a hotel, is 5 mins from the station, and a lovely change from sterile business hotels. The bath was amazing, and the best wooden smell I have had in a ryokan bath yet! I can see how the Ofuro is an institution in Japan, and a source of deep source of Zen like relaxation that a hectic japanese, and japanese touring, life needs!
Tomorrow is Tazawako, and a few changes north to Hakodate, the southern most port of Hokkaido and home to a brillian fish market I am told!
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