0310 + 0516 = 0403 Kanazawa
This is a blog post about our day on 3 April in Kanazawa, written on 10 March and 16 May (before and after the trip). 10 March is in black. 16 May is in red italic.
We will leave Osaka today and head north east to a city on the north coast called Kanazawa. It literally means “marsh of gold”. When we planned the journey, Kanazawa and the Japanese Alps were not places we had in mind. The names were circled in the Lonely Planet book. But it’s a bit far away from Kansai, plus the transport is expensive and complicated. Until one day at work, a colleague asked me to translate a “tourist pass” advert. This was what I saw and I thought, oh my goodness, God is hinting something with a smile!
This is a transport pass that links up Osaka and Nagoya via central Japan, including JR trains, coaches and buses on the way. You might not be familiar with the names along the line. However, the pictures of fairy-tale like World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go under a carpet of snow, scattered with candlelit gingerbread houses, have been pretty popular for a few years. If you haven’t seen it before, just search “Shirakawa-go light up”.
However, Shirakawa-go is not the only place we’re interested in. The whole of the central area has a sense of mystery, wilderness and friendliness to me. It’s slightly mysterious because compared to Osaka and Kyoto, the tourist population is a lot lower. Hence a more authentic everyday Japanese flavour and English will be even more useless (can you say that?) It’s the Alps of Japan with mountains and valleys. That’s why it’s wild. The Gross National Happiness Index shows that three certain prefectures in this area rank the top three “happy” places in Japan. I expect to see some happy people there.
The train from Osaka to Kanazawa was called Thunderbird. We arrived at the platform fairly early and it was very quiet. I was excited to look out of the window for the first half an hour at Biwa Lake, thinking about Hikone Castle we were going to visit a few days later, and fell asleep at the endless houses.
Kanazawa is the biggest city in this lovely area. Many historical sites are preserved beautifully.
With plenty of time to travel, we should arrive Kanazawa at about lunch time. A Sushi resturant in the local market, Omicho Market, is our first destination! This is the second local food market during our journey. Not sure if you noticed, we missed the first food market, Kuromon Market in Osaka, which was a shame.
Apart from many types of sea creatures I’ve never seen before, I was surprised by a big variety of local vegetables as well. The carrots and asparagus were at least twice as thick as the ones in Tesco.
There was a little crowd in front of this man’s stall. Half of the crowd was taking photos, the other half was drooling.
We wandered around taking photos and looking for a place to have lunch. There were plenty restaurants with touristy queues outside. But somehow we ended up in a really quiet one, with only middle aged aunts and uncles cooking and serving, and no pictures on the menu.
Ordering was OK and two big bowls of fresh seafood on rice arrived fairly soon. Then I just said, do I put this soy sauce on top, which triggered a whole series of events. It mainly involved a lot of one side communication and the only thing I would understand was “try and see”. So I did obediently. It still seemed not right because one of the ladies came to me and said “excuse me” then took my chopsticks away, mixed the wasabi and soy sauce, and dug my seafood into the rice like I would do to my garden soil.
We finished our lunch pretty quickly, feeling like naughty pupils under teachers’ watch, because they were washing dishes and cooking on the other side of the counter. Before we left, one lady commented how tall we were with a smile that reminded me of my mum, and they all said “have a nice day” in English to send us off. That was a lovely experience!
The NO.1 place to visit after a feast of sushi and sashimi in the market is the famous Kenrokuen Gardens, one of the top three gardens in Japan. The hostel told us that in a couple of days, Kenrokuen Gardens would be open for free. So we decided to see it when we came back and to see the old districts and a samurai’s house first. Kanazawa’s tourist spots were quite far apart from each other. Bus is recommended.
We happened to wander pass Oyama Shrine, looking pretty different to the average shrine.
Naga-machi Samurai District
I guess Nomura Samurai House must be very famous. All the tourists in Kanazawa seemed to be squeezed in there, it was especially popular with westerners. We said goodbye to our umbrella at the entrance and never saw it again.
Standing in the midst of a beautiful house and garden like this, you can really feel the different concepts between Japanese and British gardens. Japanese and British are both famous for their gardens. But I think Japanese garden really brings the view and the garden itself into the house and to people – the boundary between the garden and the house is vague and invisible. While British garden calls you out – you’re either in the garden or in the house. But sitting under the roof of this house, you’re in the house and in the garden at the same time.
The old district was pretty quiet by comparison. It started to rain again. It was really cold and miserable at the time, but the stone paths, the trees and flowers and the wooden panels on the houses looked clean and fresh in the photos.
The total walking mileage today was 5.34 miles. #Walk1000Miles