Chūbu tour by car - Part 4:


12-14 May 2009

From Shirakawagō we went to Kanazawa, one of the bigger cities on Japan's west coast.

Our first (and main) stop was the Kenrokuen garden (official site), which is on one of Japan's much loved Top 3 lists; under "(landscape) gardens" obviously. I had been to Mito's Kairakuen garden, which is also Top 3, before (Photo Post 28). Kairakuen may be magnificent when the plum trees are in full bloom, but in general I think Korakuen in Kanazawa was much better.

It was a bit late, on a weekday and it started to rain a bit, so the there were almost no people. On sunny weekends it is probably over-crowded with bus-tour-groups.

After visiting the garden we went further to Tōjimbō, a peninsula famous for it's basalt cliffs. However, as we had one extra day to spare (that is, not planned yet), we decided to spend it in Kanazawa on the way back. To keep stuff together, I put the Tōjimbō pictures on the next page and go on with Kanazawa stuff here.

From the car I made a reservation by phone to visit the Myoryuji Temple, better known as the Ninja dera (Ninja temple). Not that any Ninjas lived there, but the building contains many hidden stairs, secret doors and rooms, traps, etc. The tour is in Japanese, but the written English explanation with pictures was very good. However, taking pictures was not allowed...

As we arrived in Kanazawa an hour early for the ninja temple tour, we went to see the nearby Kutani Kōsen Kama 九谷光仙窯[JP][JP][EN] (a pottery kiln of kutani style ceramics). We got a little tour through the factory (in Japanese) and explanation about the baking process. If you have more time you can even try shaping, painting and baking a dish or cup by yourself!

One funny thing about Kanazawa is the bus lanes. Not that the lanes themselves are funny, but at the times the leftmost lane is a buses only lane, there are servants holding up signs that just say "bus lane in operation". The don't guide you, they don't scold you, they just keep up the sign. It's not like it isn't painted on the roads "Bus lane 7.30~9.00 17.00~18.30" or that there are no static signs. They just put a servant on every corner to make it extra clear.

[HDR] The train station of Kanazawa has some interesting architecture. Apparently it was designed by a professor at the Kanazawa University. The entrance gate looks like a torii (the traditional gate to the holy grounds of a shinto shrine), but the structure of the pillars is said to be inspired by the wires keeping a japanese drum (tsuzumi) together.


[HDR] the clock is actually a fountain, with little water-jets on a grid just like the LED displays. It changes between the time, "Kanazawa", "Welcome" and the Japanese charactes for "Welcome to Kanazawa".

[HDR] We stayed in minshuku Yōgetsu, which is a former geisha house in the former entertainment district (don't get me wrong here...). The area still breaths the old atmosphere.

The minshuku had just been renovated and they made sure to keep as much as possible of the old house and it is very stylish.

[HDR] it's not a geisha, it's my mother...

This is also not a geisha... The next morning we went to the gold-leaf museum (official cite [JP]). Almost all gold leaf used in Japan comes from Kanazawa and "it is essential for decorating lacquerwork, woven cloth, pottery and [...] altars."
During the final pressing/beating stage leafs are separated by pieces of paper (the paper is the same kind which is used for the 10.000yen bank notes). The woman here takes a leaf from the pile, puts it on a leather cushion and blows over it to straighten out any wrinkles. She then repairs any imperfections and uses a bamboo tool to cut the edges of the gold leaf and make it into a standard-sized square. See this link for more background / explanation / production of Kanazawa Gold Leaf.

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