I love being surprised by a city. Usually I have a strong mental picture about what a place is going to look like. Over active imagination is a must in being a teacher and it has spilled into other areas of my life. Kanazawa was a city where I really didn't have any real expectations and I ended up having the best time there!
I set out for the long 5 hour train ride to Kanazawa. I passed through wide farms, beautiful mountains, and little cities that dotted the train tracks. Mostly, I tried to keep to myself, watch some Anothony Bourdain that I had downloaded on my iPod, and relax on my first day of vacation. I got into Kanazawa station around 3pm and I had to find my way to my hotel. When I had made reservations, the women didn't speak any English, so she couldn't direct me on how to get there and told me to ask the tourist information office when I got in. They gave me vague directions at best. All I got was a, "take this bus and then you will have to ask somebody". This advice turned into me wondering
around the Samurai House district with my LP out and then finally giving up and asking somebody, who was nice enough to actually walk me to the front door.
I stayed at Yamadaya. It, according to the lady running the place, used to be a samurai house and she has opened it up as a hotel/ryokan. I had a pretty large room all to myself, and I'm not sure if there were any other guests there. When I tried to ask the lady she told me there were other people staying there, but I never saw them.
Since I had gotten in a bit late, most of the houses in the samurai district were closed, but one was still open. I ran inside and enjoyed the 30 minutes before closing. That house was absolutely beautiful. There were open rooms that lead out to an amazing garden. There was a second floor that you could go up and get a wider and more beautiful view of the garden and the house. The most relaxing place in the whole city. The sun was setting and it was the perfect thing to end a long day of traveling. I spent the
rest of the night walking around the district. It's pretty large, a good couple of blocks, and walking along the tall outer walls is a great night walk.
I was out of the hotel around 10 and trying to make my way to Kanazawa-jo and the surrounding park. Got breakfast and as I was walking I stopped at Oyama jinja. The shrine is right on the rim of the castle park and very nice. There is a good sized pond that you can walk around, and in with the path that goes through the pond. At the main entrance there is this really interesting opening gate/tower. It's about 2 stories high and very unique. It's the only tower/gate that I have ever seen like it. A couple of what seemed to be art students were out and drawing around the shrine, all in different areas. A group of school kids also came running up the shrine stairs, having a gay old time running around and getting fortunes from the miko, shrine maidens, and enjoying the trip out together. I saw a lot of school kids in Kanazawa. It must be a popular spot to take students on
their school trips.
The castle is basically across the street from Oyama. A quick walk, uphill, gets you to up to the white and rather new looking castle. You can go in, after taking off your shoes, and walk around the beautiful wood floors and climbing up into the top guard towers for a great view over part of Kanazawa. There are exhibts on the word work and windows that you can open up and poke your head out of. One of the funniest castles that I have been in since coming here. It was really nice to walk around and see the surrounding areas and reconstruction that is going on. While I was there some of the outer buildings were being worked on and you could actually go up and watch them as they worked. It was interesting to watch the reconstruction actually in progress.
Across the street from the castle; which is ever so convenient, is the Kenroku-en garden. This garden is one of the 3 most famous gardens in all of Japan. It's full of statues, beautiful trees and flowers, old tea houses and attached to a museum or 2. I was joined by hundreds
of people and a school group or two while I was walking around the garden. It's pretty big! I walked around that garden of a good hour before coming into a little tea house and having a bowl of matcha tea and a small sweet. This is my new routine whenever I'm in a garden, sit and have a bowl of matcha and a sweet. It's the prefect way to enjoy a garden, get out of the sun and it's so relaxing!
After the garden, I got some lunch and discovered that the Geisha district was really close to the garden, so I walked that way to see some pleasure quarters and an old geisha tea house. The area is much smaller than the samurai district, but it's beautiful in it's flat walls and seeming plain outsides. You can go into a couple of the tea houses. Shima is absolutely beautiful. The lights are all low and I could picture in my mind geisha of old entertaining their patrons in it's dark rooms that surrounded a small garden. The dark wood was different from the rest of the city and it was beautiful and my imagination ran wild with
mental pictures and ideas.
The geisha district is attached to the temple district; which is much different. All the temples are open and free to walk around, but the spectrum of how well they are taken care of is pretty wide. Some of them were very nice and you could see where either a family takes care of it or others, but some were literally falling into ruin. Such a contrast and a metaphor for the whole of Japan in my opinion. The things that are saved and then others that are falling into oblivion.
I made my way back towards the station to find an internet cafe. After a brief run in with a Jehovah's Witness, which happens all the time to me, I made it to the station and had a bit of a problem finding internet that I could use. First one was closed, second was only wireless, and the third; third times a charm, let me in only after I registered and "joined" their program. That didn't bother me so much, I just wanted an hour or so out of the sun and to check and see what was going on with the flu
and my mail. After assuring myself that I would be safe and getting everything done that needed to be done, I got dinner and then headed back to my hotel. I was out for almost 8 hours. It was time to get a shower and relax.
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