Japan 2017 day fourteen: Kanazawa

When we awoke to heavy clouds on our final day I was pretty disappointed, especially as most of our days plans involved being outside but what can you do, just suck it up! It was our only day in the town of Kanazawa and we had to utilise it as best as we could.

We started the day walking through the Castle Park which ,despite the clouds, was so beautiful speckled with the last of the cherry blossom. Although the castle itself has been restored many times, by using traditional construction methods they have protected the authentic look of the castle.

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On the other side of the castle was the amazing Kenroku-en garden, one of the three great gardens of Japan. It is an astounding place, with nearly 9000 trees, the oldest fountain in Japan and a gorgeous 18th century teahouse. The layout of the garden is set out according to Chinese landscape theories that indicate 6 features that make up the perfect garden, and I have to say it looked pretty damn good to me!

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As it was now mid April the cherry blossom season was ending and as a consequence the ponds of the garden were covered with what looked like foam, but was actually the minute leaves. The garden also had some of the greenest moss I’d ever seen, visiting Japan gives you a real appreciation of moss!!

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Our next stop was the 21st century museum, a contemporary art museum. There were many exhibitions in the museum but we didn’t choose to go to any of the ones that required an entry fee. There was plenty of free things to look at though. The museum had lots of outside installations and some free exhibitions inside too, plus a cool gift shop!

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Inside they’d also set up an area for technology, exhibiting glasses that read to you as you look at the words. Pretty cool technology and I certainly know some students that could use this technology back in England!

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After a late morning snack of a warm green tea melonpan (we’d got up pretty early!) we headed onto Nagamachi, the samurai district. The location sits at what would have been the foot of the former castle and is where the samurai and their families would live. The district was very quaint with narrow lanes and water canals.

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We were able to enter Nomura-ke, a restored samurai residence. The house belonged to the Nomura family, a highly ranked samurai family, and was so interesting to look around. My favourite item was the letter written by the samurai, thanking someone for the decapitated head.

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Continuing our traditional theme we progressed onto Higashichaya, the old geisha district. ‘Chaya’ is the name of the restaurant where guests would be entertained by the geishas during the Edo period. Kanazawa has a few of these districts but Higashichaya is the largest and most interesting.

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We were able to enter the Shima Teahouse, a preserved teahouse which has been converted into a museum. Whilst traditionally minimalist the house displayed a number of items using by the geisha and was reasonably interesting.

As we walked around the district we noticed a young Japanese man looking at us, seemingly excited to see us. He soon absconded from his friends and tried, in broken English, to communicate to us that he wanted to welcome us to his country. It was rather sweet as he tried to talk to us, with our language differences creating quite a barrier. I had tried to learn a Japanese ‘word a day’ before coming away but conversationally I was still light-years away. I knew one phrase though, “Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu” which roughly translates to “Pleased to meet you.”

As I uttered this phrase he leapt around in excitement and then suddenly ran off. Adam and I stood momentarily confused by his reaction, and unsure of our next action. A few minutes later he returned with a squid ink ice cream sandwich, as a thank you for our kind words. I’d never tried such a delicacy before, the taste wasn’t strong but the colour of my blackened mouth afterwards was!

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Around 3pm we travelled to the station, which in itself is something to see, thanks to the ‘Tsuzumi Gate’. A Tsuzumi is a Japanese hand drum on which the gate is styled upon and it’s unique design dominates the view.

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We grabbed a lunch box for the train and my lunch box was literally some of the most beautiful food I have ever seen! As we settled down on the train to Tokyo we passed some really stunning views, of mountains and lakes, and was pretty pleased for the rest to be honest!

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When we arrived to our hotel in Tokyo, the Chisun Inn, Adam and I felt physically broken. The room was small but we were there for just the night, and it’s location was perfectly suited for getting us to the airport the next day. We paid £85 for the night.

After collapsing on the bed we managed to drag ourselves out for long enough to get some food from the local 7-11. The wonderful thing about Japanese convenience stores is you can get food fresh and hot!

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The next morning we checked out early and headed to Haneda Airport. We stopped to eat breakfast at the airport, at the Curacion cafe, which provided us with some pretty good sustenance for the day.

As we flew by Air China we had a few hours layover in Beijing. The airport was pretty nice to walk around, it gave us a little flavour of China, but the prices within the airport were pretty extortionate and the limited internet was frustrating. We ended up grabbing food from the Pizza Hut there and couldn’t quite believe the difference between the Chinese and Japanese way of custom. At one point they bought us an entirely wrong meal and then shouted at us that we had to eat it!

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We had such a great trip to Japan, I was so glad we returned and we came back with so many mementos of our trip. I know it will forever have my heart and I’m already thinking about our return!

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