Kanazawa: the Golden Marsh

We finally left Tokyo.

It actually took a while… Even riding the Shinkansen, which cruise speed tops 300km/h, after 20 minutes from the window sit we could still see Tokyo buildings.

After a while they made space to a different landscape.

Despite going so fast, you can barely feel it. The ride is smooth and quite. The seats are wide and comfortable, and you have a lot of room for your legs.

Leg room on the shinkansen

From the window, despite the crazy speed, we admired many different landscapes, from the farms around Tokyo, passing through forests, to the snowy peaks of the mountains surrounding Nagano. The trip took 2 and a half hours with 3 stops: Nagano, Toyama, and finally Kanazawa.

Kanazawa train station is quite big, despite the city is a small one. 

Arc in front of the station

After identifying the tourist center we took a city map and booked the bus ticket for Shirakawa-Go, tomorrow’s destination. Then we walked to our hotel, the Toyoko-Inn, checked in, left our backpacks, and went visiting the city.

Omi-cho Market

Hungry we aimed directly for Omi-cho Market, a smaller version of Tokyo fish market, and grabbed some crokketto for lunch.
Kanazawa is well known in Japan for the gardens tradition, for the ninja district, and for having the only active Geisha district in Japan, together with Kyoto.

The latest was the first thing we went visiting. On the way to it we had to cross a river. We took the chance to wander on its banks and on the close Kazua-Machi district.

Kazua-Machi district

The Higashi Chaiya-gai is a beautifully preserved historical area with many two stores wooden buildings, with narrow streets cutting the area horizontally and vertically.

Most of the buildings, once tea houses where wealthy customers would be entertained by geisha, have today been converted into restaurant or souvenir shops. Only two tea houses are still open to the public during the day.
At the north end of the district, is situated the temple district. We didn’t venture further than the first one, as there are more than 50 temples in this area, and we only had one day to spend in Kanazawa and many things to see.
Next we went to the Kanazawa Castle. First we walked aimlessly around taking pictures, but then we decided to go looking for a tour guide.

We were lucky twice as the tour was free, as the guide was a volunteer, and because the guide was the sweetest woman you can imagine. She walked us around explaining the history and curious facts about the castle, making jokes about the fact that while European castle used to throw boiling oil to invaders, Japanese castle had to rely on rocks only as it was quite common for a castle to catch fire, given the building material.

Kanazawa castle main gate

The Kanazawa castle was so lucky in the past that had one of its sentinel tower annihilated by a lightning strike, and cought fire burning to the ground, but hey! It was never assaulted by an army!
Of the original castle only a gate and a storage building remain. All the rest, by the way, has been reconstructed exactly as it was with the same technique: no nails were used. The entire structure is a huge amazing jigsaw puzzle.

The guide took us also to the Kenroku-en gardens, which are the most beautiful gardens we have ever seen.

Sakura in Kenroku-en gardens

Statues and sakuras, ponds and hills, also a small island shaped like a turtle, which together with the crane is the symbol for luck. 

Statue in Kenroku-en garden

The level of cleanliness and cure was astonishing. Workers were even picking out brown moss from the ground by hand. Crazy yet amazing.

Lone tree

We said goodbye to our guide and hurried to Samurai Nomura house, in the samurai district. 

A road in the Samurai district

Despite the entrance fee was higher than usual (500 yen or 4,5€), we didn’t regret paying for it late.

Nomura house internal garden

Internal gardens, live tea ceremony, letters and sword belonging to the most famous samurai in the history of Japan.

Nomura house

Walking away from the samurai district we ended up in Katamachi, which is the shopping district. It seemed quite unusual after seeing all the previous historical places. We even found a hedgehog cafe!
Next we went looking to what was called the Ninja Temple. No ninja there… Only a big closed wooden house. Meh…

Evening came and found us hungry. We stopped in 8番らーめん 犀川大橋店 for a cup of ramen and walked back to the hotel, passing along the river.

Ramen noodles

We even found a small temple on the way.

After a hot shower we ate some poop-shaped sweet. Very tasty 💩

Tomorrow morning bus to the samurai village! Stay tuned for the next post…

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