Kanazawa: 日 2

Fortunately the synthetic drinks from last night didn’t leave me with much of a hangover, and once again we made it to Nagamachi – this time in daylight.

Nagamachi and Nomura – the end of the samurai

The district is truly fascinating and probably some of the closest one can get to the feudal era of Japanese history. It remains a residential area though both the samurai and many of their houses have vanished.

Nagamachi street
Nagamachi street

What remains however are the beautifully constructed mud walls – some ancient and others restored. The streets are cobblestoned and the oldest of Kanazawa’s canals the Onosho canal criss-crosses the area establishing a beautiful scenery.

Old wall in Nagamachi
Old wall in Nagamachi

Some of the samurai houses which used to claim this area were rather big, indicating the high rank of their owners. One of them was Nomura-ke, the Nomura family residence which was assigned to Nomura Denbei Nobusada a senior official in the service of the first feudal lord of the Kaga domain, Toshiie Maeda.

The house remained in the Nomura family for 12 generations until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which brought along reforms that destroyed the samurai social class. Along with other samurai families, the Nomura family lost their status in society, their estate and their means of income. With the changes many samurai residences and entire districts across Japan were destroyed – lost for future generations. But in Nagamachi some remain, making it a unique residential area whispering of a time long forgotten.

Samurai outfit at Nomura-ke
Samurai outfit at Nomura-ke

With a full schedule for the day we were a bit unsure as to whether we should spend time on visiting the Nomura-ke, but finally gave in for a quick visit. What greets you is a well preserved samurai uniform, which immediately made me think of the hardship of crawling up the stairs of Matsumotojo. To think that men wearing that uniform had been running up such narrow stairs.

Though originally a samurai residence the house was left to crumble until it came into the hands of an anonymous new owner in 1941, who restored the garden and reassemble part of a house built in 1841 for a prosperous merchant and shipowner by the name of Hikobei Kubo. The tea house was added at the same time.

Garden at Nomura-ke
Garden at Nomura-ke

It is by all means the garden which makes Nomura-ke worth a visit. I am still flabbergasted at how Japanese can recreate such dramatic nature in such a small space. Complete with its own waterfall and clear winding stream as well as a bridge of cherry granite, various kinds of lanterns, and many-storied towers. Adding to this is a four hundred year old myrica. The garden is made in Enshu style, though not claimed to be a work of the master himself, Kobori Enshu (1579-1647).

Shopping at Omisho Market
Shopping at Omisho Market
Fresh fish, geisha and forgotten tickets

While the small garden of Nomura-ke is beautiful, Kanazawa is known for a much larger garden, namely Kenrokuen. but before heading towards that must-see garden we took a trip to the lively Omisho Market in Kanazawa.

Fish at Omisho Market
Fish at Omisho Market

Apart from their very fresh fish, the Omisho market also offered a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as the mandatory sushi joint. We ended up at our first running sushi with monitors for the customers to order.

Real running sushi
Real running sushi

It is both efficient and very detached. I wouldn’t enjoy such style of eating out if I was back home, but with so many other things in Japan, it was a pretty awesome experience.

Higashi Chaya
Higashi Chaya

After lunch we made our way towards the geisha district Higashi Chaya. Chaya means tea house and is the traditional type of restaurant where geisha entertained their guests.

Japanese police car
Japanese police car

During the Edo period Kanazawa centre was full of Chaya houses, but these were moved to four districts in the outskirts in 1820. The largest of these is Higashi Chaya, one of the largest remaining geisha districts in Japan.

Maneki-neko (lucky cats)
Maneki-neko (lucky cats)

When we arrived I was burning hot due to the humidity and much of our visit we congregated in the souvenir shops in order to get away from the burning midday sun. One of the shops we visited was Hakuza, renowned for its golden leaf production. Kanazawa produces 99 % of Japans golden leaves.

A gold leaf is made by beating gold into an extremely thin sheet with a thickness of 0.1 to 0.125 millionths of a meter. It is so thin that it will disappear when you rub it with your fingers.

Kanazawa-tourism.com

We had been in Kanazawa for one and a half day and I was dying to shop some of their many beautiful crafts, but it was impossible to choose between the wonderful creations.

Kenrokuen Garden
Kenrokuen Garden
Souvenir running and Kenrokuen Garden

At our arrival we had bought tickets for a Noh theater show, but perhaps whatever hangover I’d had in the morning from synthetic manga drinks had been the reason that I forgot the tickets at home and had to return to retrieve them.

Promenading in Kenrokuen Garden
Promenading in Kenrokuen Garden

Therefore, we ended up splitting up after visiting the geisha district. My boyfriend was to return by foot and enjoy some more of the city, while I was getting on a bus relaxing my feet for a short while.

Kenrouken Garden
Kenrouken Garden

We were to meet up again by Kenrokuen Garden. On my way there, tickets in hand, I had a look through the shops lining the entrance. I completely forgot all about the heat as I was mesmerized with all the beautiful porcelain in the shops.

Supported trees in Kenrouken Garden
Supported trees in Kenrouken Garden

It was now or never if I wanted a reminder from Kanazawa and I spent a long time running between two shops attempting to compare two different options. One was a beautiful baby blue porcelain bowl with silk and gold leaves. But it was pricey, and for some reason I was caught on the idea of buying six.

Finally I headed to the meet-up with my boyfriend to ask his advice before running back in the destructive heat to purchase my bowls. I’m pretty sure my I must have looked like a mess to the people in the shop.

Promenading in Kenrokuen Garden
Promenading in Kenrokuen Garden

The time had finally come to visit Kenrokuen Garden.

At 11.4 hectares Kenrokuen Garden is a rather large garden in Japanese standards and probably the largest we will see. For generations it was the private garden of the Maeda, the daimyo, who ruled the Kaga clan and were the feudal lords of such samurai as the Nomura family.

Supported tree in Kenrokuen Garden
Supported tree in Kenrokuen Garden

The garden is a strolling-style landscape garden with the characteristics of a typical landscape garden of the Edo period. It was developed between the 1620’s and the 1840’s and opened to the public in 1874 with end of the Edo period.

Lunch in Kenrouken Garden
Lunch in Kenrouken Garden

It is massive and not an entirely pleasant visit during the height of summer as shadow is sparse. But we managed to find a small shop selling soba noddles with the fantastic addition of a vending machine for ice-cream.

Soba noodles
Soba noodles

After the blazing heat in Kenrokuen Garden I was more than ready for a few hours in a theatre hall.

The nights performance
Noh

Noh is one of Japan’s most traditional arts. Its primary characteristic is its lyricism. Noh reached its heights during The Tokugawa shogunate Goverment (1603-1867).

During this time , the feudal lords of the Kaga clan enthusiastically encouraged and supported Noh drama. As a result, Kanazawa remains a center of Noh drama. There are five schools of Noh: Kanze, Hosho, Konparu, Kongo and Kita. Kanazawa specializes in the Hosho School.

Kyogen

In a traditional performance, five Noh plays are presented in one day. To relieve the serious and sometimes tragic atmosphere, Kyogen is performed between the Noh plays.

Kyogen has taken the elements of laughter, parodies and speech, while Noh has assumed the characteristics of song and dance. Most characters in Kyogen are amiable people such as farmers, foolish thieves, stingy masters or cunning servants.

We were to watch two plays that evening. The first was a Kyogen play and the second a Noh. As it was all in Japanese, I was pleasantly surprised when we were handed out each our English pamphlet with a resumé of the plays.

I absolutely preferred the Kyogen. Particularly because of one of the characters who had an absolutely hilarious way of portraying the master of the house. Even without understanding what was said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Noh play was beautiful but strange and dragged out for quite sometime.

Noh is an ancient art form reaching back to the 14th century and being widely popular and supported by the government during the Edo period. Thus, also Noh managed to experience a decline after the Meiji Restoration, but fortunately it has received imperial support later and gained some legal standing when it was announced Important Intangible Cultural Property by the government in 1957.

Famous last words

I have been more than pleasantly surprised by how much Kanazawa has to offer both as a large Japanese metropolis and as a culturally rich city. If I ever return to Japan I will attempt to return to Kanazawa too and spend a lot more time in this magical city.

See you in Kyoto

Zofka

Gallery: Omisho Market

I have tried to limit my photos from Kanazawa, but I have always had a weakness for markets and I simply have to share some of the many delicacies one can get at Omisho Market in Kanazawa. Enjoy!

Omisho Market
Omisho Market
Shopping at Omisho Market
Shopping at Omisho Market
Fish at Omisho Market
Fish at Omisho Market
Snails at Omisho Market
Snails at Omisho Market
Fruits at Omisho Market
Fruits at Omisho Market
Fish heads at Omisho Market
Fish heads at Omisho Market
Red king crab at Omisho Market
Red king crab at Omisho Market
Loach broiled in soy-base sauce at Omisho Market
Loach broiled in soy-base sauce at Omisho Market
Shopping at Omisho Market
Shopping at Omisho Market
Tomatoes from Omisho Market
Tomatoes from Omisho Market
Fish at Omisho Market
Fish at Omisho Market
Eel at Omisho Market
Eel at Omisho Market
Shopping at Omisho Market
Shopping at Omisho Market
Fish at Omisho Market
Fish at Omisho Market
Lunch at Omisho Market
Lunch at Omisho Market
Lunch at Omisho Market
Lunch at Omisho Market
Vegetables at Omisho Market
Vegetables at Omisho Market

Zofka

Kanazawa: 日 1

I quickly came to realise that the synthetic cocktails served at the place were named after the characters represented on the desk. Thus, my menu this evening became a long line of animé characters such as Mami and Kyoko from Puella Magi.

Arriving in Kanazawa I thought it would be smaller and after one day I can only regret that I haven’t got a month. With separate samurai, temple and geisha districts as well as one of Japans three most beautiful gardens Kanazawa is a pleasure to visit. Even in the heat.

Adding to this are Kanazawa’s traditional crafts which are revered around the globe. According to some sources you wont find an area with more varied craftsmanship outside of Kyoto, and unlike in Kyoto where the crafts have been inspired by the imperial court, in Kanazawa the origin stems from its samurai history (Only In Japan).

Somewhere near our lodgings in Katawachi
Somewhere near our lodgings in Katawachi

Apparently, the ruling Maedo clan in Kanazawa encouraged its samurai to focus not on swordsmanship and fighting, but on arts and craftsmanship. This was a defence strategy as it meant that they would not be considered a threat to the clan with the highest power. In this way, Kanazawa actually almost managed to avoid any fighting for 400 years (BBC).

Electricity
Electricity

As for the crafts, Kanazawa is particularly revered for its beautiful Kutani porcelain, Kaga Yuzen silk dyeing and the Kanazawa gold leaf.

Temple in Teramachi temple district
Temple in Teramachi temple district
Our visit to Kanazawa

We arrived around 12 AM, heading for our first ever AirBnb experience. We’ve booked a small Japanese apartment near the Katawachi neighbourhood which allows us great access to most of the city. After having only rice paper as a wall between us and strangers last night it is a pleasure to have an entire place to ourselves for the next two nights.

Temple detail at temple in Teramachi temple district
Temple detail at temple in Teramachi temple district

We decided to start off by heading towards the nearby Teramachi district and its many temples looking in on the Myoryuji ninja temple, but without any ready-made reservations for tours at the temple, it wasn’t a particularly spectacular visit.

O-mikuji at Myoryuji Temple
O-mikuji at Myoryuji Temple

We slowly made our way back towards Katamachi planning to find Nagamachi, one of the last remaining samurai districts in Japan. However, we were waylaid as we passed a 100 yen Daiso store which I must admit drew us in. I’ve heard so much about these types of stores and I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. They had M&M varieties I’d never heard off and loads of socks and kitchen gear and trinkets. Heaven for the spontaneous buyer.

Street scene in Minamicho
Street scene in Minamicho

Making it out of the Daiso store alive, we realised it had become late, and after our experience in Takayama we knew we soon had to find our way to a restaurant. Once again my boyfriend had been doing his research and we found our way to the restaurant Sushi Ippei. And again we not only managed to find a wonderful place to eat, but were also met with the warm and welcoming atmosphere of a small Japanese restaurant.

The chef at Sushi Ippei
The chef at Sushi Ippei

I have never had as fresh and wonderful sushi as I did here. The chef placed it directly on the clean black stone of the counter while the hostess showed us pictures from her 2007 trip to Scandinavia.

Sushi on the counter
Sushi on the counter

I am normally not a big fan of the sliced ginger which accompanies sushi, but at Sushi Ippei it was so fresh and tasty that I could eat it like candy. Nothing like the boring stuff we get served back home.

Sushi on the counter
Sushi on the counter

After leaving the wonderful Sushi Ippei, we finally managed to reach Nagamachi and despite that it was getting dark we were able to appreciate the wonderful area with the majestic samurai walls and beautiful houses.

Nagamachi by night
Nagamachi by night
Otaku, otaku, otaku

On our way back to our little flat we ran across an Otaku bar. Otaku is Japanese for geek and represents the diehard fans of the manga culture. The bar was empty but for the two people behind the bar and a single barfly. It was full of figurines and I quickly came to realise that the synthetic cocktails served at the place were named after the characters represented on the desk. Thus, my menu this evening became a long line of animé characters such as Mami and Kyoko from Puella Magi.

Puella Magi figurines
Puella Magi figurines

I don’t understand why my boyfriend didn’t order any of the colourful drinks, but he seemed to prefer the sake and whisky section of the bar, where there to my dissatisfaction were no manga names represented. The very kind bartender gave us a short introduction to Japanese whisky, which is something I never even knew existed. Colour me blind, I figured whisky came from Scotland…

Selection of Japanese beer
Selection of Japanese beer
Japanese Whisky

Fascinated with the fact that Japan produces whisky and is known for it I had to look up the story behind. The production of Japanese whisky can be traced back to the 1870’s, but it seems that its commercialisation is attributed two founding fathers: Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru. In 1923 Shinjiro founded the first distillery in Japan in Yamazaki in the Vale of Yamazaki, when he started the production of Suntory. He was assisted by Taketsuru who had studied distilling in the homeland of whisky – Scotland. Eleven years later in 1934 Taketsuru broke from Suntory and founded the Yoichi distillery on Hokkaido producing the Dainipponkaju brand whisky later known as Nikka.

Mami Tomoe and Japanese whiskey
Mami Tomoe and Japanese whiskey

Japanese whisky is made in the Scottish style and for a long time it was difficult for the Japanese brands to make it outside their home market, because many whisky enthusiasts believed that Scottish whisky which was not produced in Scotland could not measure up. But this seems to have changed in recent years and particularly after Nikka’s 10-year Yoichi single malt won “Best of the Best” at Whisky Magazine’s awards in 2001. Since then Japanese whisky has taken the international community by storm, establishing itself as a favourite amongst many.

Kyoko Sakura cocktail
Kyoko Sakura cocktail

While we ordered another round of colourful synthetic cocktails with weird animé names for me, the barfly had entered the conversation and offered us a bag of local biscuits, which he just happen to have on him. He gave the young female bartender a box of chocolate from what to me seemed to be his Santa Claus bag. I don’t understand why in Denmark people can’t more commonly walk around with little treats which they offer strangers, – however getting it down on paper I realise that it soundS rather creepy actually, and I imagine that it is one of those Only in Japan kind of things. Only in Japan is it okay to accept gifts from random strangers at bars.

Mami Tomoe cocktail
Mami Tomoe cocktail

Before long another regular dropped by and I started to realise that I was the only one ordering the colourful cocktails (I’d had three or four by then). The guys all ordered beer or sake, or whisky. Moreover, it didn’t take me long to figure out that despite their sweet synthetic flavour these cocktails pulled a punch. I don’t know if it was the reason that the new arrival kept staring at me, or if it was because I reminded him of one of his favourite animé characters. Nevertheless I walked out of there with a pretty good buzz going on and a strong desire to join in on my boyfriends fascination with manga and animé.

I really need a good nights sleep after this….

Kanpai

Zofka