It wasn’t supposed to rain in Kanazawa today even though it seriously looked like it would and it rained most of the night. It did rain in Kanazawa today but, fortunately, we were inside when it did. Besides, Mirinda borrowed a hotel umbrella which she didn’t actually get to unfurl.
In most European countries, it’s enough to draw a little picture on the top of a latte. Not so in Japan. For the last two mornings we’ve had a coffee in the lobby of the hotel and both times our lattes have come with gold flakes on the top…as in REAL gold.
After ingesting our daily dose of expensive mineral, we headed for the castle…except it’s more castle grounds than castle because it is quite extensive. There’s a lot of lovely open space stretching as far as the eye can see. Almost.
There’s not a lot left of the original castle which was built in around 1583 when Lord Maeda Toshii moved to Kanasawa and set up shop. He was a bit of fiery chap and was involved in lots of battles with various other Japanese clans. The family managed to stick around for 280 years, looking after the locals in the best way any self respecting samurai could.
Sadly the place has burned down a number of times over the years. Most notably the actual castle building burnt to a cinder long ago. However a few of the other buildings were rebuilt each time. Remarkably the long store room was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1808.
And that’s where we ended up for our visit.
The turret structure on the left of the photo is the diamond turret, so named because the wooden columns that support the roof are diamond shaped. This means a lot of very skillful joinery was required for the original builders and subsequent re-builders. There’s a cut away section in the turret showing the extraordinary joins under the floor.
No-one knows for sure why the turret is diamond shaped. One theory is that it makes it easier to see the enemy approaching if you can monitor both directions at once. I reckon it was because Lord Maeda decided to make it as awkward as he could just to see if his carpenters could do it. And they did.
Inside the building (which was originally just a store house for food and weapons and now two long corridors for tourists to wander down in their stocking feet) is just wood. There’s a lot of stuff about how they made the place exactly like the original – they used old documents, plans and drawings – but I’m fairly certain that the use of Philips head screws post-dates the 16th century…a bit.
I’m being a bit cynical because the only place they appear to have used screws is in the floor. Everywhere else appears to have used wooden dowels.
The good thing about such a wonderful big and wooden space is the possibility for a bit of yoga. This is after the South Koreans have left the floor and taken their noisy chatter elsewhere.
I’m not 100% sure that the tour group ahead of us was South Korean, I mean they could have been Chinese, but it seems to me and with a very small sample that the noisiest tourists in Japan are South Korean. They are the Italians of Asia. The Japanese on the other hand are the loveliest people on earth. If I had to name one reason for moving to Japan it would be for the people. I’ve been struck by their polite joy and happiness; their desire to make your life a little nicer than it was.
Even their Keep Out signs are somehow happy.
Leaving the two storied store room, we headed out of the castle grounds for the Honda Museum.
Now, I realise I’d used up my voucher but Mirinda wanted to go and visit the Seisonkaku Villa which is on the edge of Kenroku-en Garden and suggested that perhaps I’d enjoy going to the Honda Museum opposite. I thought this was a jolly delicious suggestion, made even more delicious by the inclusion of lunch. Apparently Google claimed there was a cafe in the Honda Museum (which is actually within the History Museum, an important fact that will bide you well should you visit). So we set off.
After a few wrong turnings and exasperated swearing at her phone, Mirinda eventually led us to a long staircase climbing beside an equally sized waterfall which ended up opposite the museum buildings.
Entering the main museum building, of which there are three, Mirinda immediately pounced on the pleasant Japanese women and demanded to know where the cafe was. They showed us where the vending machine was and indicated that we could sit outside quite pleasantly. Mirinda refrained from telling them that Google said there was a cafe there. Eventually one of them said that there was a restaurant in the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art next door.
So we went next door. Halfway across the courtyard Mirinda agreed that the women were right, that NOW Google claimed the restaurant was in the art gallery. I did mention that perhaps the women working in the museum would be better authorities on the location of things in their own museum than Google but Mirinda merely waved this aside as an irrelevance.
The ‘restaurant’ in the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art is more like a French patisserie but it does do some food though we weren’t sure what we were going to get. As it turned out it was very nice; a sort of nouveau cuisine with a French/Italian twist and Japanese fusion. Actually, it was onion soup followed by spaghetti and prawns…though the spaghetti was made of rice rather than flour. It was yum but not as good as we’re now very used to.
After a repast, Mirinda headed over the road for her villa visit while I went upstairs to check out the art.
For reasons unexplained, no photos were allowed so I’m damned if I’m going to give them any advertising! Suffice it to say there are only so many tea bowls you can look at before you start going just a little bit mad. The ones I saw all belonged to various generations of the Maeda clan. They were a bit mad for tea where the Maedas.
There were some lovely pictures in one room which I was quite taken with but, because I couldn’t take any photos, I can’t tell you who painted them.
Anyway, we met up again and headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours rest before dinner. Actually before we headed for the restaurant we had a bit of a wander around the incredibly lifeless Geisha area of Kanazawa. Nothing like Gion in Kyoto.
For our last night in Kanazawa we wanted somewhere special to eat so we chose the number two restaurant on Trip Advisor, Fuwari. What a brilliant choice.
We had the set menu and it was spectacular.
I am seriously going to miss the food. Though, as I said to Mirinda, I really need to get a decent Japanese recipe book…
Tomorrow morning we’re off to Tokyo and the grand finale: Kabuki!
The bloated, painful foot is gradually getting better though now the pain in the thigh has returned. With a vengeance. Today we walked a LOT and I felt it.
In order to walk through the castle building we had to take our shoes off. This was very difficult and walking in socks is not very easy for me. For that reason I told Mirinda to go to the villa while I opted for the museum.
Wandering around the museum was pretty bad so I spent most of the time waiting for Mirinda, sitting at the entrance.
We went for a walk around the geisha district before heading for the restaurant tonight. I was seriously and literally on my last legs.
What’s the bet the foot is perfectly alright by the time we get home!