Kanazawa, Monday 7-Nov

For the first of two full days in Kanazawa, we saw one of the Great Gardens of Japan, walked through one of Kanazawa's geisha districts, and tried to finalize the rest of our transportation between cities.

When we booked the room, we didn't pre-purchase breakfast for each morning, but we decided we wanted to try it at least one of the mornings. We went down to the restaurant, looking around, and the woman indicated we should go ahead and start. We asked where we pay, and she asked if we had put a voucher into the basket. Apparently, they needed to be purchased at the front desk, so we went down where the clerk who helped us the previous day was there. We purchased the vouchers and then went back upstairs. I'm not sure how typical of a Japanese buffet breakfast this was, but we took selections of most of the things available, found a table, and started to eat. Although we'll probably go back to our normal breakfast for the rest of our stay, it was nice to give it a try and was quite good.

Ready to face the day, we went back to Kanazawa Station to figure out the bus. We had already scoped out the bus stop, but when we got on, it wasn't clear if the driver wanted to see the pass first. There were several other tourists getting on at the same time, also wondering what needed to be done. Melody showed the driver her pass, and he took some information down, confirming that there were two of us (he just glanced at my pass). Other people just sat down. We knew this was a pay-as-you-leave system, but in Hakone, we showed the pass as we boarded and as we left.

We wanted to get off at the stop for the Kenrokuen Garden, but the bus driver explicitly announced that people should get off at the stop for the 21st Century Museum instead (but still get off at the next stop for the Kanazawa Castle, across the street from the garden). All of us with passes showed them to the driver, who didn't react differently whether you had shown the pass beforehand or not.

Off the bus, we walked the short way to the garden entrance.

Kenrokuen Garden

This garden has a nominal entrance fee, so we went to the kiosk to purchase tickets. Among other coins, I had given the woman two ¥50 pieces. She was looking at the shinier of the two, very dubious of it. Fortunately, I had five ¥10 coins I could swap for it, and she seemed happy. We had our tickets and our brochures, so we were set.

Kenrokuen means, “garden which combines six characteristics”: spaciousness, serenity, venerability, scenic views, subtle design, and coolness. The garden is one of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan”, the other two being in cities we didn't visit on this trip. Kenrokuen used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle.

Several trees have yukitsuri, ropes arranged to form a cone over the tree to support the branches in a specific arrangement during snow. Branches are also supported from below.

The oldest fountain in Japan, built in the late 19th century,  is in this garden. The difference in elevation between two ponds in the garden creates the water pressure necessary to run the fountain.

Other notable sights in the garden are Neagarinomatsu pine which has raised roots, the Kenrokuen chrysanthemum cherry tree which has blossoms with more than 300 petals, and the Kotojitoro lantern which is on two legs and resembles the bridge on a koto.

We were ready for lunch, so we took the bus back towards the Omicho Market, another shopping arcade (just showing our pass as we exited seemed sufficient). We picked up small things here and there from different vendors to make up a meal. We also wanted to get some fruit for breakfast over the next couple days. We saw trays of fruit at most places and were wondering if the price was for the whole tray or per kilogram. We then found a vendor that had fruit in bags with a price tag on the outside, which made it very clear, so we got that.

Higashi Chayagai District

Back onto the bus to Kanazawa's geisha district. We weren't sure if we had the right stop, but someone on the bus reassured us that it was, so we hurried off. We wanted to make sure we knew where the stop was going the other way, so we started looking around, and a gentleman sitting near us pointed it out. Two helpful people in less than five minutes.

Our first destination was Kaikaro, a refurbished tea house. After you pay admission, you go up these bright red stairs which are glossy with lacquer. As we were wandering around, a group of people sat down, so we joined them. The guide let us know that she'd be speaking in Japanese, but we decided to sit there for a while. She was very animated and had the crowd roaring with laughter. We did eventually get up and start to wander around again. We saw another group starting, and hearing English, we sat down again. Unfortunately, that was a reserved tour, so once again, we were on our own. One room had spun gold woven into the tatami mats.

After exiting Kaikaro, we went across the street to a store which sold things with gold leaf, including a cake. Kanazawa produces essentially all of Japan's gold leaf. There are several kinds of gold leaf which create different hues and other properties. Out back in the store was a two-story storehouse with platinum gold leaf on the outside, 24-karat gold leaf and indigo on the inside.

Rest of the day

Back to the bus, back to Kanazawa Station, back to our room. After relaxing for a bit, we wandered out for dinner. We went back to the same food court as the night before (we didn't have access to a kitchen, unlike in the hostels) and none of the restaurants had lines. We went to the okonomiyaki place and had one with octopus and one with cuttlefish. We started eating one, thinking it might have been the cuttlefish. When we cut into the other, we saw small tentacles, which meant the first one was indeed cuttlefish. They were quite good but less rustic than the others that we've had.

Since we were near the Japan Rail ticket office, we rolled the dice again on getting reservations for our last long-haul ride from Takayama to Nagoya to Tokyo. This time, we scored reservations. We were glad since they're long rides, three hours for the express and one and a half for the Shinkansen.

Pleased with how that worked out, we went back to the room, ate the cake we bought the night before (mango roll cake) and tried to finalize plans between Kanazawa and Ainokura (our next destination), and Ainokura to Takayama. And that was enough for the day.