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Devi's Japan Travels Part 12: Kanazawa - Day Sakura Edition

Happy (belated) new year everyone! In light of this new year, and people planning their travels to Japan during spring, I would like to point out this little pearl in Japan. For all of you sakura lovers, hold on to your socks because I will take you on a travel to Kanazawa, which had SO much sakura my eyes turned into little sakura shapes. *Cue epic music* *something with sakura in the title*. As I had such a good time and experienced so many things, my Kanazawa trip will be split into two blogs. Warning: Don't get overwhelmed by all the sakura!

Day 1: Arriving in Kanazawa, driving on the beach

I took the train to Kanazawa via Maibara from Kusatsu station. It's been a while since I used a train in Japan, I am really spoiled with cars and road trips. However, trains have their own charm. Sitting back with the Japanese snacks you buy at one of the convenience stores, you watch the beautiful landscapes passing by, mountains and more sakura. It definitely was not a pain to see that.

 Some random snaps from the train

At Kanazawa station my Couchsurfing host Hiro picked me up from the station by car. I will stay 3 nights at his place. We arrived at his place and it was a very old house, he told me he got it from his grandparents. That's why it is a house with a manual, don't step here because the floor is broken, over there the hot water doesn't work, etc. The room I was staying in was very nice, sleeping arrangements were futon on the floor again but I really love this Japanese style of sleeping. After eating lunch he had prepared we went for a drive. He took me all the way up north to Chirihama for a drive on the beach, yes you read it right. Drive ON the beach! It was the first time for me experiencing this and it was pretty cool!

It was nice driving directly on the beach, some other cars were crossing and drifting a bit. We went to a local place where they had sand sculptures, which were really nice and creative. Too bad the weather wasn't that nice, it was a bit rainy and cloudy, which is why we decided to return to Kanazawa. Before we went back I walked on the beach a bit, I love beaches and looking over the ocean or sea.

On the way back to Kanazawa we went to a seaside park with a viewpoint to watch the snow mountains and the second largest mountain but we couldn't see anything because of the mist and rain and generally sucky weather. After that we went up a mountain near his place with really nice sakura, even locals don't really know about that places he said. Hiro said that the flowers were about 70/80% of full bloom.

 View from the seaside park

 On the way back to Kanazawa

 Little roads with lots of sakura

 The '100 year old park' which isn't a 100 years old apparently

 View over Kanazawa city from the mountain

We drove back to his place, had a glass of umeshu (plum wine, my favourite!) and went to the city center by bike. I have seen some beautiful places but Kanazawa at night is something special during this season. I didn't have a good camera with me but the yozakura, or cherry blossoms in the night, are really something very special. We biked to a chaya district (more on this later), Kanazawa castle, saw the beautiful scenery, then went to the city center to eat. Apparently oden (a stew with various ingredients, we could pick ourselves) is very popular in Kanazawa, and even in the summer (it is a winter dish) it is widely available. We also had sanzai (wild plants picked in the mountain) tempura and sashimi (buri/yellowtail, kingfish, amaebi which is a meibutsu in Kanazawa, ika, kai, and some fish I don't even know). And of course a big glass of beer.

 This sashimi was so fresh and so yummy, Hiro said Kanazawa's fish is the best and I must agree

 Cutest little plates..

The mountain picked plants-tempura, it was quite delicious! Even good just dipping it in a little salt.

After this we went to a yatai looking district to a bar of his friend. I had an umeshu (again) and we had some miso-creamcheese with crackers, which was REALLY good! There were lots of anime dvd's there, I saw Jackall and Summer Wars and started a conversation with Hiro's friend the bar owner about anime. He loves anime and asked which anime I liked, I started with Berserk, which gave them the impression I like 'maniacal' gory anime. It didn't really help that the next I mentioned was Attack on Titan.. So they had a 'bad' impression of me. I quickly named Card Captor Sakura, one of the more innocent anime I could think of at that moment but I guess I was too late, the damage was done.

We biked back and I gave Hiro a present from the Netherlands, an omiyage (present/souvenir). He seemed to have a collection of presents from people all over the world, apparently two French guys stayed with him right before me. He gave me a futon and I readied my bed, I slept like a baby that night. I was already tired of three weeks non-stop traveling and I had expected a nice and relaxing sunday, but it was a lot of biking, up-hill down-hill far and wide. So time for bed!

Day 2 Kanazawa: Biking to Nishi-chaya, Kanazawa castle, and Kenrokuen garden

I woke up to great weather, it was sunny and warm! His old house had a very nice old Japanese style bathroom, and the window was looking out over the river and green mountain, which was a very pleasant way of waking up.

100 year old house I was staying in as a guest

I borrowed a bike from Hiro after getting ready and went out on my own as he was working. I decided to head to Kanazawa castle: I didn't have a nice camera the night before and I wanted some day shots of the castle and the sakura trees. I was in for a treat for sure! Luckily there was city wifi, google maps showed me the way. The following pictures will show you a bit how I biked: the roads, Kanazawa castle, the Castle park, and after that Kenrokuen gardens.

Nice city views: Kanazawa castle is a bit higher up, and if you go to the park and also Kenrokuen garden, the views are especially nice. Hiro gave me a bag full of Japanese snacks, which I ate while enjoying the sun from here.

 This was one of the nicest views, as two rows of trees' tops were entwining over the little castle canal

 Snowy tops from afar
 The Kanazawa castle park surroundings
 View of the castle from the park
Told you the views would be nice! 
 Having the time of my life!

Today's forecast: Little clouds of sakura here and there, looks like it won't clear up for another few days! For a clear green view, give it another week.

Kanazawa castle gate

After visiting the Castle and Castle park grounds, it was just a short walk across the castle gates to the Kenrokuen gardens. This place has been on my bucket list for a while, and it did NOT disappoint!

 Entrance to the Kenrokuen park, you can already see the little stalls selling lots of foods in the first street, after that there weren't any. Very busy near the entrance and because of sakura season, further up the park it wasn't that bad.

I am in Sakura Heaven!

 Many people on the bridge trying to get that special shot with sakura trees, that's why this bridge is called the Hanami bashi (flower viewing bridge). One thing we used in Kyoto as well was google maps: it shows the cherry blossom viewing spots and it is spot on for sure. You can use that to guide you to see the best viewing spots.

Hanami-bashi view

 Koi fish coming very close, must be hungry

 This tree had a very interesting shape, you could literally see through it

I continued on my bike to Nishichaya, one of the three chaya districts, or tea house districts where geisha's entertain, of Kanazawa. Kanazawa is known as 'little Kyoto', and a lot of tourists flock here because of that. There were a lot of French people, I heard that they had a program about Kanazawa on tv, that explains why people know about this little pearl. To be honest, Nishichaya was not really impressive. 

Wandering around to find somewhere to eat, I saw a gallery in one of the sidestreets. I walked in and talked to the very talented artists, one French named Paul Hommage and one Japanese called Yumi Takeuchi who worked together. They had made some animations, and also used different mediums for their art, which was beautiful and impressive. Seeing art-collaborations across cultures is something I am deeply moved by, especially as they pointed out they had some miscommunications while making the art. Instead of being limited by this, it became the subject of their art! That's why the title of their work was aptly named 'Topologie du Malentendu' (the Topology of Misunderstandings), so it fits the idea and artwork perfectly. 

After this I wanted to check out the Myoryuji Temple or Ninjadera, a temple famous for the 'hidden' ninja-traps even though it has nothing to do with ninja's. It costs 1000 yen for a guided tour, which was not offered in English. So you have to know Japanese. There was a little booklet with some English explanation for those whom did not understand the language. I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside, so below is a view of the outside. The many hidden passageways and traps were meant to strengthen the defence and allow for the lord to escape without being noticed. It was quite interesting to see how amazingly they had built some of the structures.


As I didn't have lunch yet, I decided to stop by a konbini (convenience store) to get myself a little snack. I had some Lemon Chicken, CC Lemon and Salmon/goma onigiri and biked somewhere I could eat my 'lunch'. I went back to the castle grounds and behind the park I saw a very nice place where I ate and admired the view as the sun was setting.

My trusted bike, well Hiro's officially but for the day it was miiineeee. My preeciouss..

In my next blog, Kanazawa part 2, I will write more about Kanazawa in the evening, and of course cherry blossom viewing at night. The pictures are definitely worth staying in tune for! For more fluffy clouds resembling sakura, read on :).

~Written by Devi~

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