It was supposed to rain today in Kanazawa. In fact there were grey and foreboding clouds all day. It didn’t rain in Kanazawa today. Which is good because we were outside for most of it.
After having a coffee in the hotel’s cafe (very unusual in Japan) we headed out to visit the Kenrokuen Gardens. It’s one of the three best gardens in Japan. I tell you what, the other two must be pretty amazing to top Kenrokuen. An amazingly amazing place.
Something I really love about the Japanese is the way they view the small things as more important than the whole. While this can sometimes lead to the big stuff being quite ugly, it can also lead to something like a fantastic, sprawling city park that delights and amazes the senses.
Even the approach is lovely. Actually, had we walked along the main road the approach would have been just a main road but Mirinda knew better and took us along Hakucho-ro, a lovely pedestrian path that leads you beneath the castle battlements and towards the garden on the other side.
Hakucho-ro has some interesting statues in it. Most female (mostly nude) with a few guys (almost nude) and a group of three wise looking dudes, one with a rabbit (all fully clothed)*.
It’s hard to work out who or what they are. There’s a plaque for each statue but, obviously, they are all in Japanese. Still, it’s very interesting to note that (apart from the three dudes) the rest of the statues appear very western in style (though not in features).
At the end of the path there’s a big samurai statue which looks VERY Japanese and makes up for the anomalies.
Speaking of art, I dragged Mirinda to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Every trip I have a single museum/art gallery voucher which I can use however I want. I decided this was where I wanted to use it. While I was expecting her to be bored and amazed at what some people call art, she was, instead, pleasantly surprised.
The first piece we saw was a swimming pool. Just a normal swimming pool with a steel ladder going down into the depths. The pool seemed very deep and Mirinda remarked that at least you could just dive into it without any problem. That was until the group of school children walked into it.
The whole thing is an illusion and a lovely joke on the observer. The water is only 100mm deep but that’s enough to create the illusion of depth…until someone walks into the room underneath it. There was a lot of laughing school kids having a great time amusing their friends both above and below the water. The woman who was making sure no-one fell in or otherwise disturbed the art work, had her hands full convincing them to keep well back.
It has been created by Brazilian artist Leandro Erlich and is brilliantly funny if, when you first view the swimming pool, there’s no-one underneath it. In fact Mirinda was so stunned by an art object that was just a swimming pool that she was going to take a photo and sent it to Bob for him to fume over. But the joke is so instantaneous and hilarious that she forgot alll about that and just laughed along with the rest of us.
It just proves that art doesn’t need to be serious or stuffy or even mean anything. This was a joyous moment shared by all ages and art was responsible.
Then we met a Japanese artist called Ikeda Manabu. Well, we didn’t actually meet him but there was an exhibition of his work in the gallery and we were lucky enough to visit it. Part of the exhibition is a short film of an interview with him and we were both surprised at how young he is.
His pictures (generally) are massive but very finely made. He manages squares of 100mm x 100mm each day putting in the tiniest of details into a work that may end up measuring in excess of two metres high and three metres long. They are simply extraordinary pieces of imagination and nature and man’s devastation of the world. This makes it sound too serious (and Mirinda was a bit put off by his depressive opinion of the future) but he also puts small bits of humour into his pictures.
This is my favourite of the ones we saw. It’s his take on the famous Japanese wave picture and is clearly a nod to the original. It’s difficult to see the small detail on a computer screen because the actual picture is 3.4m x 1.9m but maybe some of the wonderful skill can be seen.
He works with pen and acrylic ink and that’s all. Mirinda was so enthralled that I didn’t have to drag her around the gallery at all. She was just about as enthralled as I was in the Kenrokuen Garden…where she didn’t have to drag me either.
Kenrokuen (or Kenroku-en) Garden is 11.4 hectares of beauty. It has places for great viewing, places for taking in the beauty of trees and places to just sit and observe the tourists, of which there are many. The noisiest of which appears to be South Korean. There were a few big groups wandering behind a tour guide who talked into a megaphone. Mirinda wasn’t happy but I just saw them as part of the general landscape.
There was also a Schumanian group which took me by surprise with the big booming voice of the guide.
Actually, for a weekday (when there’s no festivals or flower worship or children’s special days), the crowds were pretty thick on the ground including school groups of young teenagers all in their regulation sailor suit type uniforms. And rather than being naughty and irritating, the kids were very well behaved. As they were (almost always) at the art gallery.
The garden is truly amazing as it meanders across hill and round streams, little old lady gardeners crouching amid the moss pulling up very tiny weeds and dropping them into bamboo trugs. It was all very idyllic.
What wasn’t idyllic today was the fact that for the very first time this trip we were given a fork and spoon!
“Humph,” we said and grabbed two sets of chopsticks. I mean, really.
That was at lunch in the 21st Century Museum of Modern Art. We had a delicious meal with a wonderful drink called Spring Cherry Blossom Milky Tea. That doesn’t sound very good but it was delicious. Ice cold and milky and not very sweet.
Probably the best bit of lunch was the before main meal salad. We feel a bit devoid of vegetables so this was a welcome addition to my chicken teriyaki and Mirinda’s thinly sliced roast beef in some sort of yummy sauce.
I almost forgot…We were caught up in a bit of celebrity today.
At the museum, Mirinda was almost stampeded over as she came between fans and some famous Japanese guy who went to look at the swimming pool. There was also another chap (older) who was going in to see the exhibition we’d just seen. There was a film crew and everything.
Most impressive though was the guy holding up the massive sign for all the cheering and pushing fans to see. It read “NO PHOTOS” which is a bit harsh. After all if it wasn’t for the fans, there’d be no celebrities. And they all have phones with cameras. And the Japanese LOVE taking photos. And then there’s social media…stupid celebrities.
Then we sat in a small trendy cafe (just us and the proprietor) when four guys suddenly marched in and stood at the back. Then one of them went outside and took a photograph of the front of the cafe. There was some mumbled chat with the guy serving and then they all marched out again. Mirinda gave him a WTF look (apparently it’s the same in any language) and he explained that they were from a production company scouting for locations and they’d asked if he’d mind them using the cafe.
By about 6pm the rain started drizzling but we were safely ensconced in our room by then eventually heading down to the hotel restaurant for a delicious dinner in about 16 parts.
I’ve had a bit of a problem accessing my Youtube account in the hotel in Kanazawa but I spent a little time and managed to hack something together…so here’s today’s video from the park:
*The guy with the rabbit was Kyoka Izumi (1873-1939) a writer who was born in Kanazawa. The other two ‘dudes’ were also famous literary figures from Kanazawa but I’ve not been able to find out who they were.
I was at least walking today though very slowly. Poor Mirinda was forced into being my movable banister. The walk around the park was slow and a few times she left me on a bench to read while she went investigating at normal pace.
After we visited the art gallery and had a coffee, she chucked me in a taxi back to the hotel while she went and saw a wonderful samurai house. There was no way I’d have managed any more walking. I stayed at the hotel for the rest of the afternoon, resting my foot for tomorrow because I really want to see the castle!