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Travel to Japan: Two days in Kanazawa during cherry blossoms

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New account of 18-day trip to Japan during the Hanami. That day after visiting the hikone castle we take a train to the beautiful city of Kanazawa, to spend three nights and two days.

Kanazawa it's a small city of Japan, capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, located almost on the north coast of Honshu Island, and about the same distance from Kyoto that of Tokyo. Kanazawa It is famous for conserving much heritage of the time samurai of the country, so we include it in our Japanese samurai castles route. So here we go two fantastic days seeing castles and samurai houses, in addition to contemplating cherry blossoms and making other interesting visits. It was only two days, but we fell in love with this small town of Japan. Here we tell you everything, from accommodation to visits and restaurants, with prices included.

Kanazawa train station

We arrived to Kanazawa by train, after having spent a very good day in Hikone. After a while, the taxi left us in the neighborhood of Higashi Chaya, near the Asano River, northwest of the city center. We leave our luggage at the guest house Minshuku Ginmatsu And we met our hosts. Outside it was a bit drizzling, but we had the courage to the fullest because we knew that Kanazawa is a city that is very worth visiting. The list of attractions we wanted to see was long:

  • Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden
  • The samurai mansions neighborhood (Nagamachi)
  • The ninja temple (Myoryu-ji)
  • The geisha neighborhoods (Nichi Chaya and Higashi Chaya)
  • The Omi-cho market
  • The history museum and the Kaga-Honda museum

But all that was going to have to wait the next morning, because it was already dark and it was time for dinner. Therefore, before going back to the street, we asked the owners if they could advise us of a nearby restaurant. By the way, they gave us a map.

Ginmatsu Ryokan Tatami Room

The neighborhood of Higashi Chaya It is famous for having several tea houses where geishas operate and its narrow streets are often filled with tourists. However, on that Sunday afternoon of April we were the only ones sailing through the streets, sharing the umbrella. Despite the map, we got a little lost, but by chance we reached the crosswalk where the Shima Ochaya. Even at night and drizzling, that street still retains the charm of old Japan, with its wooden facades and dark roofs. A little light escaped through the windows of the restaurants and we wondered if at that moment there would be a family or a group of businessmen enjoying a luxury dinner, accompanied by the elegant artistic show of a geisha.

The Higashi Chaya neighborhood at night

We settle for entering the restaurant we saw in the square, the Jiyuken. Inside we received the warmth of freshly prepared food. It was quite crowded despite being very small, so we sat at the bar, in front of the cooks. We were immediately served cold water and hand wipes. After inspecting the letter, we decided on an "omeraisu". This typical Japanese dish consists of fried rice wrapped in a thin egg omelet. I had never tried it yet and ... my mother, how good. Being at a somewhat tourist spot, the bill is somewhat higher than usual, but we were so happy that we returned the next night.

Then we walked a little more and finally went to take shelter from the rain at the guest house, where we fell on the futons as soon as we got in touch with them.

Omeraisu

The next morning, and with the energies recovered, we prepare to start exploring the city. The sky was still overcast and threatened with more rain, so we decided to postpone the visit to the castle and the garden, hoping to see them the next day with better weather. Instead, we take the bus «Kanazawa Loop Bus»From the orange line to go to the opposite end of the city, to the Teramachi temple area.

We cross the city and get off at Hirokoji station (LL5). There it took us a bit to find the place, but we finally arrived ... at the "ninja temple"! Actually, the "ninjadera" as it is nicknamed in Japanese, is not a ninja temple, ninja. His official name is the temple Myoryu-ji. However, the nickname of the ninja temple is like a ring to the finger because it is full of secret doors and traps!

Entrance to the Ninja-dera

It was founded in 1643, in a time when the Tokugawa shogun He wanted no feudal lord to rebel and start a new war. Therefore, he enacted laws that prohibited the lords from fortifying their cities. However, the clan samurai of the Maeda who ruled in Kanazawa found a way around the ban. They built several Buddhist temples on the outskirts of the city that actually concealed halls guarded by warriors that turned them into advanced defense posts. And the Myoryu-ji is one of them.

Bamboo fountain in the Ninja-dera

Upon arriving at the temple we realized that we had to have booked the visit, since it is only allowed to visit the interior of the temple with a guided tour. Luckily, in a window on the left we could sign up for the visit that started in an hour. At halftime, we went down some streets to the neighborhood of Nishi Chaya (Eastern teahouses). There is a picturesque street there because it still has several facades typical of ancient times. Walking around here, we enter a very small museum, the Nishi Chaya Shiryokan Museum. This museum occupies the space of a tea house and reconstructed residence. Admission is free, so we enter. The museum explains a little the history of the neighborhood and serves as a meeting point for the guided tours that are organized. The second floor has been arranged as the interior of a tea house, with a screen, instruments, fans and lacquered furniture.

Antigua Ochiya in the Nishi Chaya neighborhood

Then we returned to «ninjadera»And we entered the temple with the rest of the group of visitors. They made us sit at a specific point around the central prayer area and provided us with information sheets in English so that we could follow the explanations minimally. After an introduction, the group was subdivided into several smaller groups and a guide led us to see the ins and outs of the temple. You could not take pictures. Over an hour or so, we discovered the ingenious traps, the passageways and the secret doors of the temple. It was quite fun. It is also said that the temple was connected to the castle in the center of the city through an underground tunnel, but if it still exists, we were not taken to see it.

Geisha Nishi Chaya neighborhood street

Then we looked at the map of the city and saw that we were quite close to the Nagamachi neighborhood, so we walked there. We cross the Sai River and we arrive immediately. This is a old samurai neighborhood which still houses some houses and an alley. As the samurai legacy of Kanazawa is one of the main attractions of the city, the truth is that I expected something bigger. Anyway, it is worth seeing. First of all you find the house Shinise Kinenkan, which belonged to a merchant. The samurai did not welcome the merchants, who formed a social class below the peasants and artisans. Even so, when the country reached a relative peace in the 17th century, this class came to prosper more than many samurai. The building is the restoration of a Chinese medicine shop that opened in 1579 and several samples of traditional crafts can be seen on the top floor. In front is the Maeda Museum, the samurai family that ruled Kanazawa.

Old samurai houses in Kanamachi

However, we went directly to the alley of the samurai mansions that appears in all the photos of Kanazawa. It is a little further along following the same street with the water channel, on the right hand side. This cobbled street with ocher walls makes a little zigzag. If no one else happens, you can still imagine how it should have been in his time, when only samurai families and their servants traveled it. Samurai mansions line both sides of the street, separated by dirt walls topped with roofs and each has a considerable wooden gate. Further on there are also modern houses, but don't let that disappoint you.

On the next parallel street is the house of the samurai family of the Nomura, some high-ranking vassals of the Maeda. You can enter for only 550 yen and see the tatami rooms and the garden. And later along the same street of the canalillo, you will see on the right hand side the Ashigaru Shiryokan Museum, dedicated to the houses of the infantry warriors, who were more modest than those of the samurai on horseback. Two are preserved and admission is free. You can see the room where they had tea, the bedroom, the guest room and the porch with its garden. There are many explanations, but all in Japanese. Even so, it seemed incredible at the entrance to read that the house "Shimizu" was inhabited from the feudal period until 1990 (!!!).

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