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November 16th 2013
Published: November 17th 2013
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The train travel from place to place seems to be just as much an event as the places themselves. Our journey from Takayama to Kanazawa took us through the heart of the Ryohaku Sanchi mountain range. There is no Shinkansen here. A rickety little diesel train wound it's way alongside a fast moving river all the way to the sea. Almost no one was on the train so we were able to jump from one side to the other to get a good view of the landscape as the train crossed bridges and popped in and out of tunnels. The views were really beautiful and the autumn colors spectacular. The landscape reminded me a lot of the Appalachian mountains in Virginia. Rugged and hilly but covered in trees. The train stations along the way were tiny with just a suggestion of a platform and no signage. A Japanese man on the train did his best to help us catch a connecting train from one station to another. He wanted to make sure we understood how the connection worked. He even carried Diana's bag to the other train.


What a pity we only had an afternoon and evening for this city. Upon arrival at the hotel we checked in and then made a bee-line for the Kenroku-en garden. The garden was started in 1676 during the Edo period. It belonged to a nearby villa. It is called a garden here, but it is more the size of a park. But it requires the maintenance effort of an elaborate garden. Roku means six in Japanese and refers to the six attributes a garden should have for perfection: seclusion, spaciousness, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. As in much of Japanese landscape architecture, the trees are trained into extravagant forms mimicking an ideal notion of nature. The long outstretched branches of the pines are supported by wooden stilts. And in preparation for the heavy winter snows, long ropes extend down to the branches from a central pole for support. The effect is almost surreal and is part of the experience of the garden. Walking along the paths you move from space to space and around every bend a new surprize awaits: a fountain, a granite bridge, a grove of plum trees with moss on the ground, a pagoda,a waterfall, a tea house on stilts overlooking a pond with iris. It is an experience of a garden we do not know in the west. I could have spent the whole day there.

21st Century Museum of Art

But we had another stop on the itinerary. This is a museum from the architect Kazuyo Seijima (SANAA). Basically it is a giant perfect circle of a glass cylinder with white boxes and cylinders inside housing galleries, exhibition halls, lecture halls and other functions. It has helped to helped Kanazawa on the 21st century cultural map of Japan and perhaps the world. The building itself is very Japanese. The concept is very simple and the detailing is pure minimalism. Unfortunately they were installing a new exhibition so half of the museum was inaccessible. But we did get the chance to see a few installations from Amish Kapoor and a fantastic room made by James Turrell.

The city itself seemed very interesting and had a lot of old historical neighborhoods with Samuri houses. A kind of little Kyoto. We unfortunately did not have time to explore these areas. I guess I will just have to come back.

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17th November 2013

I am soooo enjoying your blog and pictures!!!!!!

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