Monday, 2 April 2018

Autumn Aurora in Japan - Day 11

Kanazawa                                                                          Japan

Friday 14th October 2016

Another early rise was on the cards for me as I woke up at 7:30am from my sleeping bag. I decided to try out the coffee machine and have an espresso; what a big mistake it was as it was too overpowering when I eventually figured out how to use it. Craig managed it a lot better than me however; another appliance we wanted to make use of was the washing machine. It was easy enough throwing in our dirty clothing but what proved the most challenging was the fact there was no English writing of course on the buttons, only Kanji. Challenge accepted I thought as I tried to make sense of which buttons to press. Somehow, the machine started so we grabbed our essentials and made our way out for the wonderful day ahead hoping that when we come back in the evening, we hadn’t flooded the whole apartment.

Our first port of call was the bus stop nearby as we needed to head back to Kanazawa station. What was great was that we only had to wait 10 minutes before the bus pulled up. On the bus, we went looking like a couple of strangers to the locals. I was slightly confused with the prices of the bus journey as it looked like a different price from the last journey but I read the on board display wrong and suddenly realised how sufficient the system was. The ticket had a specific number on the bus stop we got on at so as I looked at the board with our number on it the price would increase at each stop we passed. A short time had passed until we caught sight of the recognisable Kanazawa station. We walked to the other side of the station and immediately caught sight of a wonderful wooden sculpture of a Japanese arch shining bright from the morning sun. We were also welcomed by yet more grand skyscrapers surrounding us.

We were looking for the Machi-Nori bike rental shop that was easy to find thanks to Craig’s offline map. It was only a 5-minute walk so we blended with the people of Kanazawa enjoying our surroundings. We eventually arrived at the doorway that hid pretty well but we were relieved once we entered renting some bikes out for ourselves. The process was very straightforward and we soon had our unique bikes for the whole day at a very cheap price too. With our eagerness to race through the streets increasing, we set away for our first port of call, the famous ‘Higashi Chaya’ district. This was the location of a very old geisha area and we couldn’t wait to be amongst it; or could we?

We were really enjoying our time on the bikes racing through the streets bound for the geisha district until we caught sight of a most precious café called ‘La Palette’. It was hiding very well realising that everything good in Kanazawa was hiding well; we felt as though we needed to prove that we deserved these great finds. As soon as we walked in, the staff became very shy at our presence but they would still serve us nonetheless. As soon as we caught sight of the display of small cakes, we were speechless with the perfection of each individual one. It was hard for us to choose due to the fact we didn’t want to destroy the work that was put into them; our stomachs bested us though so we reluctantly picked a cake and sat down in peace staring at our creative cakes.

We couldn’t resist over time and so we began diving in but because the cake was so small, it was completely demolished in a matter of seconds. Time went on as we left this wonderful place heading for the geisha district hoping there wasn’t another pretty cake shop along the way. Luckily, there wasn’t and we soon came upon the ever growing crowd of people making their way into the heart of the district.

It took us a while to find a parking area to put the bikes but once we did, we managed to take a small amount of time to admire the beautiful Asano River with the sun gently glistening against the flow of the water. We immediately fell in love with the place as once more, we walked into the past gazing upon the old wooden Japanese buildings within maze like alleyways. We were heading to a nearby temple high up a bank which we would grab a great view of Kanazawa though we soon realised we had to put a sweat on to get to it.

It was the steepest bank I had ever seen but once we arrived at the top, we were both welcomed by a beautiful walkway full of small Japanese sculptures leading us to a well-hidden temple area. However, we were focused on the breathtaking view in front of us. We had the most beautiful sight of mountains and countryside to our left and then to the right was the in depth city life of Kanazawa with the sound of cars riding the streets below.

It was nice to have that moment of peace but now it was time to leave the geisha district heading for our next destination. We were heading for a market place known as Omi-cho and once again, we loved the freedom of cycling through the streets. The market was at the opposite side of the central area so it took quite a while to weave through the ever-growing crowds of people. Finally, we pulled up to the indoor market feeling happy to find the right place. There were quite a few entrances inside the bustling market and as per usual, we were the outsiders when we entered the market. The whole place was vibrant, so full of life or death if you were a fish. The smell of fresh fish lingered in the air as well as the pure colours of different fruit and vegetables across the marketplace.

Another wonderful sight that we witnessed was an ice cream stall but what was unique about it was the fact the ice cream had edible gold around it. Of course I had to have it; the golden ice cream which looked like a god send. I had to pay extra for this one though but it was worth it.

Eventually, we took our leave for a most awaited trip to ‘Nomura Samurai’ house. Somehow, along the way, we managed to stumble across the old merchant house nearby so we decided to take a short visit to this wondrous place. It was a beautifully designed old style house with the most picturesque little garden. What was great for us both was that we received yet another stamp for our collection. On the bikes we went again trying to find the elusive Samurai house which yet again was proven difficult to find and felt as though we needed to deserve it; it also didn’t help that Craig’s offline map was not working correctly.

Finally, we stumbled upon the samurai house eager to get in and explore. The first thing we had to do was take our shoes off so we could walk inside and onto the tatami mats. Craig and I immediately became amazed by the sight of a samurai armour encased in a glass cabinet at the entrance too but what came next I found truly special. It was the Japanese garden hidden well at the back of the house and truly looked like a Japanese setting with Japanese plants, sculptures, water features, pools and of course the wonderful coy carp gently flowing through the water with not a care in the world. The trouble was too many people enjoying the same peaceful setting that spoilt the tranquillity of the place. We had soon left satisfied with what we had seen already planning our next trip to Oyama Jinja Shrine and gardens.

It took quite a cycle to get to it but the sun was out, the air was flowing in our faces and we didn’t care how long it took to get there. Time went on dodging people and cars until we pulled up outside the shrine ready to begin more exploring. Through the main gateway, we had arrived to a most breathtaking area we came across. A large area of Japanese beauty was all around us from temples and shrines to peaceful gravelled walkways, gardens and pools with yet more coy carp in the area. We spent more of our time at the pool area that had thin wooden walkways to use to get to the smaller pool areas.

We were really enjoying our surroundings and then a wonderful dragonfly graced us with its presence. It was great that no matter how close we got to it, it would not fly off from its leaf.

It was eventually time to leave this wonderful place focusing now on something quick to eat. We settled for a trip to Subway somehow managing to order our sandwiches without any confusing whatsoever. On the bikes we went hitting the pathways for our next location. We were heading for the ‘Nishi Chaya’ district with its vast amount of small temples. This was another district that housed the geishas of Japan and as soon as we arrived, it wasn’t the traditional styled wooden buildings and architecture that won us over it was the people.

Everybody was out basking in the glorious raise of the sun that shone down on the district with some people taking advantage of this glorious day by drawing a portrait of the area and selling there good work. We spent a long while in this area but in order to see more, we couldn’t hang around.

There was one more temple we wanted to see; and it was called the ‘Myoryuji’ temple; in other words, this was known as the ninja temple. Of course, we had to visit a ninja temple in Japan and so with a short cycle ahead of us, we soon arrived. Unfortunately, we could not gain access to the temple due to the fact there was a ceremony happening and we were classed as outsiders. We did manage to have a look around the small grounds admiring the beautifully designed Japanese paper lanterns. We were running out of time too because we had to return for the last bus back to the apartment so we pedalled our way towards the bike rental shop.

The trouble was that Craig’s offline map was confusing us once more so we tried to grab our bearings using the distant skyscrapers as our pinpoints. We seemed to be heading in the right direction but one last temple caught our eye. It wasn’t hard to miss either as this was the grandest temple we had come across in Kanazawa. It was the ‘Higashi Betsuin’ temple and there was nobody around the area too. It seemed as though we had the whole place to ourselves and we thought why not.

Off the bikes once more, trying to quietly walk towards the large temple but the gravelled ground proved difficult for us to approach like ninjas. Into the temple we went without a soul to be seen and without fail, we were impressed by the grand alter area decorated with beautiful gold and Buddha statues blessed the area. We enjoyed the softness of the tatami mats as we walked around taking in every detail of the place but as stated before, we were running out of time. Our last cycle in Kanazawa had come to a glorious end as we returned them to the rental shop giving positive feedback about them to the staff.

With the bikes returned, it was time to head back through the train station and straight for the bus stand. As we waited with the other locals lining up for the bus, one of them tried to talk with us but I was relying on Craig’s knowledge to get through the conversation. I found it great that the locals wanted to come up to us and try to speak our language as best as they could. The 52 bus had finally arrived on time with us boarding in a sophisticated manner for the 15-minute drive. Time went on as we eventually stepped off the bus heading for the apartment where we would relax and laugh for the next hour or so.

When we were done of relaxing, we headed back out to Aeon town shopping area. Once again, it was pitch black so we headed towards the glow of shops ahead of us. As we liked the Italian restaurant from the previous night, we decided to head to it once more ordering steak this time as we were men and we liked meat. With everything eaten and drank, we headed out noticing a building across the road with a huge logo on the side saying ‘SEGA’. Curiosity got the better of me so we headed towards it soon realising what we were about to walk into. A huge amusement arcade it was full of bright colourful lights and noises that Craig was not enjoying very well.

As soon as we walked in, we were already laughing with what prizes were in store from the claw grabbing machines. Any other machine would have cuddly toys, large or small to win but here it was sausages, cereal, biscuits or crisps. I actually imagined a husbands wife asking him to go to the shop and buy some sausages for her but him saying ‘I will do better darling, I will win you some’. The amount of money it would have taken to win a pack of sausages would have paid for a boxful of them and so to save our money we left the area as the noise was getting too much for Craig.

After a quick trip to the supermarket to grab Craig’s favoured bread and jam, we finally returned to the apartment for the night where we feasted on some glorious jam and bread. We were in hysterics too with Craig’s style of comprehensive reviews. I have always explained experiences in detail but all Craig had to say was ‘its alreet’ (it is great). As this was our last day in Kanazawa, we packed our bags ready for tomorrow’s departure from this great place. With everything packed including my sleeping bag and mat, I had to endure only one night on the uncomfortable couch.

We had to be up early the next day anyway so it didn’t really matter if I had a broken back or stiff neck. I lay back thinking how much we both accomplished today seeing as much as we could. What we found great; or alreet as Craig would say was that we had to stumble on some of the wonderful places we had seen to deserve them. Rest assured I felt as though we deserved them and we were ready for more discoveries across this breathtaking land of Japan.
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