Kanazawa & the Kenroku-en

Kanazawa Travel Blog

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Kenroku-en

Kanazawa, my first stop, was probably the trip I enjoyed the most for its quaint, old town feeling. It had some 300k people, a far cry from the 12 million-odd residents in Tokyo. I arrived at the bus terminal that departed from Shinjuku, at an outrageous 7am, and decided to cab it straight to the Kenrokuen, as numerous references to it as the star attraction of Kanazawa granted it top priority, and the buses did not run until 8.30am. I also had no interest in freezing my poorly-clad ass off at the terminal where most people would mistake me for a bag lady, with my backpack and shabby outfit.

Kanazawa-jo

So Kenrokuen it was - the name literally means "Garden of the Six Sublimities", referring to spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views, six attributes that make up a perfect garden according to a Chinese theory - delightfully quiet in the wee hours of the morning, where I took some shots, and went to the Saison kaku villa close by, a traditional house built by a Maeda lord for his mother. The rest of the day was a crusade to visit all nearby attractions, which ultimately culiminated in my walking round in circles in various vain attempts to find the loop bus which i had purchased an all day pass for. By the end of each day trip, my legs were killing me (considering the travesty of a stopover at bangkok where i had to run .5km to reach the transit flight gate, in 20 mins, just days before) and the public sento at my Ryokan was a welcome reprieve that soaked away the aches and made me eat the words I once uttered "hot baths are for ninnies!"

For those who dont like gardens, Kanazawa's next best attraction is its Geisha and Samurai districts.

Higashi-geisha chaya
It also has a Teramachi district, which sadly, is not covered by the local "Furrato" bus -- the community loop bus, and hence is a giant pain in the ass to get to and back. The Geisha districts though, are lovely, and they have an air of antiquity and peacefulness, untainted by modern society. I took a trip down on the first night, and had the luxury of walking along the streets, alone. (Hardly anybody ventures out after 8 or 9pm). Strolling alone the stone pavements, taking in the cool crisp air, and hearing faint laughter of, perhaps a geisha in one of the teahouses was surreal. The Nagamachi districts though, were a little of a letdown, altho the famed "long streets" as it is named, do look quaint. The Nomura Samurai house, like the Shima Geisha house, was tiny, and offered an appetizer to the stylistic beauty of the houses in the days of tatami mats and wooden sliding doors. Dont be deceived by the pictures though, these districts are more like tiny satellites that cover less than the area of your average football stadium.
Higashi-geisha district in the day

All in all, Kanazawa was like a tasty treat, not quite a full on immersion program like kyoto is, but it had some plus points with the Garden and Geisha districts which are not swamped with gaijin tourists, unlike kyoto and tokyo, possibly because of the time it takes to bus over to kanazawa and the cost of shinkansening it is hefty (2x the cost of a bus). If you do decide to visit this quaint town, best to stay in a ryokan (murataya at katamachi is gd value, clean comfortable and has a nice sento bath). I missed out on the ninja shrine and other attractions at Teramachi, which is probably worth a visit, the former requiring advanced reservations, and I didnt feel much inclination to visit all the museums either as not all of them were worth the time and money. The 21st Century Museum, supposedly too, is worth a visit, altho i didnt venture into it and simply admired it from a distance.

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Kenroku-en
Kenroku-en
Kanazawa-jo
Kanazawa-jo
Higashi-geisha chaya
Higashi-geisha chaya
Higashi-geisha district in the day
Higashi-geisha district in the day
Nagamachi
Nagamachi
Saison kaku villa
Saison kaku villa
21st Century Museum
21st Century Museum
Market!
Market!
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Kanazawa
photo by: masayo