Friday, December 23rd, 2016 • Osaka Day 4
10:03 Off we go! Once again taking the Hankyu line from Kawaramachi station then Subway line to Kyoto station. At Kawaramachi station platform, we see this pretty train decorated with the beauty of Kyoto. We set out rather late, because I couldn’t resist having some of auntie’s breakfast noodles and fruits, but even so, I couldn’t help wanting to buy some rice balls and this can of miso soup for on-the-go, how cool is that!
10:40 – 12:56 We take the JR Shinkansen Limited express thunderbird 15, from Kyoto station to Kanazawa station, ¥4000, covered by JR pass. We have to board car number 6 for non-reserved seats.
13:23 APA Hotel Kanazawa Ekimae アパ金澤駅前. Apparently, APA stands for Always Pleasant Amenity, hehe. This hotel is located right behind Kanazawa JR station, within walking distance to some of the tourist spots, contains 456 rooms and 100 parking spaces, and despite being infamous for their small (even smaller than Tokyo sized) double rooms, but also well known for their great service which we found out first hand. Booking late last night, we somehow managed to book the wrong location, although we were looking at this particular one since we wanted to be close to JR station for ease. So when we tried to check in, and wasn’t able to, the girl at the desk not only immediately helped us find (the last) room available, but also helped us call the other branch because we couldn’t call through, we didn’t have a Japanese number, there wasn’t a public phone available, and our Japanese sucked enough that they probably wouldn’t understand. And when we wanted to book reservations for our next trip late into the night, which wasn’t possible, she tried her best by explaining how we could do it online, and printing the timetable for us.
Cost: 8400 yen
Address: 1-9-28 Hiro’oka, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0031,
Check in: 15:00, Check out: 11:00.
Overnight hotel guests get free use of their Genyo no Yu hotel bath, and open air bath! Hours: 06:00~00:00
13:38 After checking in with APA Kanazawa ekimae, we set off for lunch. Unfortunately, because a drizzle began, we had to go back to the hotel to grab a waterproof jacket as it was quite chilly.
13:53 The girl at APA had given us directions, to go past the Tori gates and walk straight ahead for 20 minutes, however, it took quite a bit of wandering around and pondering which were the tori gates (whether they were metal gates or the japanese style gates??). Took awhile to realize we were at Kanazawa Port Gate (West Gate) and we needed Kenrokuen Gate (East Gate). Once there, you’ll see the huge Motenashi (welcome) Dome もてなしドーム and there is a wooden gate, Tsuzumi-mon, which symbolises traditional Japanese hand drums called tsuzumi. (I wanna say, you can’t miss it, although…hehe).
14:02 From here, you can chose to take the Kenrokuen Shuttle, Bus 6 between 09:00~17:50 with a one day pass for ¥500. We decided to tough it out and just walk there.
14:16 Musashigatsuji Omi-cho Market. Kanazawa’s largest fresh food market since the Edo period, established around middle of 18th century and serving more than 280 years. With around 200 stores, most specialising in excellent local seafood caught in the sea of japan, there are also many shops selling unique Kaga vegetables, fruits, dried food, grocery, or clothing stores. Crabs, yellowtail, and small shrimp from the Sea of Japan are sold around November, drawing crowds of tourists and residents alike around this season. Although most exciting during morning hours, it gets quite busy during noon as locals and tourists arrive for lunch, and line ups for an hour is normal at popular restaurants.
Hours: 08:00 ~ 18:00 varying with each stores, some still open at 21:00.
Closed on holidays Jan 1~4th, and around Aug 15th.
14:22 Finally reaching inside the market with our growling stomachs. The setting is more like Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka, than Tsukiji market in Tokyo. Many restaurants specialise in rice bowls topped with fresh local fish. Our first stop, is this specialist shops of fish deli, 焼魚屋 mostly unagi but with many other types of fish. Their featured product is prepared in two ways. Shioyaki: Grilled fish with salt. The fish is soaked in deep-ocean water from Noto before it is grilled. Irozuke: Grilled fish with original sauce. This is a traditional technique from Edo-era Kanazawa where the fish is soaked in the original sauce after it is grilled. The shop grills the fish in old manufacturing method, high above the fire, with time and patience by a skilled craftsman. They maintain that their products are all natural and no preservatives are used. We ordered Unagi うなぎ串 broiled eels “kabayaki” (Kabayaki = marinated in sweet soy sauce and broiled), for ¥540. Mackerel さば串色付 with “irozuke” (Irozuke = traditional sauce of kanazawa), ¥260. It tasted amazing. (I’m afraid this post will have to wait a little while i grab some food)
14:39 – 15:30 After the first little appetiser, we walked around and finally decided on this restaurant, famous for fresh sushi. Since we had a tight schedule ahead and not too hungry, so we skipped over the rice bowls (leave it for dinner), and started lining up. The line inched forward at snail’s pace, and our guidebook very accurately estimated an hour, but we persevered. The local couple with a small child right in front of us had left when they took a peek inside, after they had lined up all the way to the front, 🤔. The sushi was great, but we were a bit conservative in ordering, firstly because we were the second last to enter and it looked like the shop was closing, and secondly because we were worried about the rest of our schedule ahead, so we just quickly ate and left. There wasn’t much of an english menu, so when the waitress came out to take our order while we were lining up, we ordered by pointing to the pictures they posted.
15:11 While we took turns lining up, K went in search of more food and came back with a skewer of strawberry. Yummm!!!!
15:44 – 15:51 The walk from Omicho Market to Kanazawa Castle is quite short and we reached the outskirts of the Castle within 10 minutes. The outlying area was very barren with the grass all brown and treetops bare, and with the cloudy overcast sky, it sure didn’t seem at all inviting.
15:57 Kanazawa Castle 金沢城. One of the must see sites in Kanazawa. Kanazawa Castle is set in 9 hectares of park with many original walls and moats, was the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, a family of hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province (southern part of Ishikawa Prefecture) from 1583. Burnt down a number of times, only the Ishikawa Gate and Sanjikken Nagoya, samurai warehouse, survived from the original construction of Kanazawa Castle. The Ishikawa Gate (Ishikawa-mon) is original and dates from 1788. There are holes in the structure (ishiotoshi) for hurling stones at attackers. The two turrets, Hishi-yagura and Tsuzuki-yagura and Gojukken Nagaya (literally meaning “the long building of 50 ken”, a ken is an ancient measurement of about 1.8m) a 90m long storehouse. The buildings were rebuilt to their original appearance using traditional techniques and material and are an excellent display of traditional carpentry. Kahokumon Gate, the castle’s former main entrance, was reconstructed in spring 2010. Hashizumemon Gate and Gyokuseninmaru Garden were added in 2015, a garden which features a central pond and circular walking path. The Kanazawa Castle’s main keep was lost in fire in 1602 and has never been rebuilt since.
The grounds served as an Imperial Army base during World War II and a campus of Kanazawa University until the university moved to its new site in 1995.
Address: 1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa 920-0937
Hours: 07:00-18:00 (Mar 1 to Oct 15); 08:00~17:00 (Oct 16 to February);
Gojukken Nagaya Storehouse and Turrets hours: 09:00~16:30.
Fees: Admission to the castle park is free. Gojukken Nagoya storehouse and turrets are 310 yen (covered by the Kenrokuen Garden)
16:05 Kenrokuen Garden 兼六園 is classified as one of Japan’s “three most beautiful gardens” along with Mito’s Kairakuen and Okayama’s Korakuen. The name Kenrokuen literally means “Garden of the Six Sublimities” which refers to Chinese landscape theory that a perfect garden has six essential attributes: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and broad views. Opened in 1871, the spacious grounds used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and were constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries.
A sophisticated water system constructed in 1632 diverts water from a distant river to feed the various streams and ponds including the two main ponds, Kasumigaike and Hisagoike.
The Kenrokuen features flowing trees and provides the garden with a different look for each season. In spring, plum blossoms at the southern end of the garden bloom around mid February to the end of March, and cherry trees bloom around mid April, at the northeastern side of the garden. In autumn, fall colours from cherry and maple trees around mid November to early December, mostly found near Yamazakiyama on the garden’s eastern side near Kudatsuno Gate. In winter, fresh fallen snow gives the garden an different seasonal look as many of the garden’s large pine trees feature traditional winter protection to prevent damage by the heavy snow. Unfortunately, it was just raining when we arrived.
Price: Adult 310 yen, Child 100 yen.
Hours: 07:00~18:00 (March to Oct 15), 08:00~17:00 (Oct 16 to Feb)
Early admission from 05:00 (April to August from 04:00, November to February from 06:00), Early admission visitors must exit the garden before the start of regular hours.
Price: 310 yen (included in Kenrokuen plus one ticket), free for early admission.
17:01 -17:39 Leaving at the last minute, the skies were dark and only a couple of shops were open. Incidentally, there was one shop selling gold flake covered ice cream, looked mighty enticing but not in the dark and rainy cold. Another shop open was the one before it, we had only passed by and the curry flavoured senbei caught our eyes (you know, me and snacks, we’re just meant to be i guess), and immediately an old lady, always well dressed and well made up despite any age, very politely offered us some to try. Despite knowing we were foreigners, she still explained all her products and encouraged us to try it, in Japanese. One thing I admire in Japanese, be who you are! Anyway, took a stroll in the cold and rain, our shoes getting mighty soggy. The trip might have been faster if not for the weather conditions.
17:39 Higashi Chayagai district 金澤 東茶屋街. Located on the right bank of the Asanogawa River, the Higashi Chaya is one of the largest chaya district in Kanazawa, and is lined with teahouses built between the late Edo and Meiji periods.
There are traditional teahouses, where you can admire the beauty of tea house architecture and geisha culture of polished arts, dancing and playing traditional songs of shamisen, flutes and Japanese taiko drums, and formalities while dressed in enchanting kimonos since the Edo period. A chaya house is characterised with a beautiful lattice called “kimusuko” on the outside of the first floor and Japanese style guest rooms located on the second floor.
Kanazawa’s Higashi-chaya, Kyoto’s Gion, and Kanazawa’s Kazue-machi have been designated as Japan’s cultural assets. Kanazawa City Tourism Association holds geisha performances every Saturday at the City’s three chaya districts: Higashi (east) chayagai 東茶屋街, The Nishi chayagai 西茶屋街, The Kzue-Machi district 主計町.
No wonder, Kanazawa is called the mini-Kyoto.
There are also many stores carrying a variety of gold leaf products, from skin care to decorative accessories. Kanazawa is a major producer of gold leaf and many artisans once lived in this area for easy access to the soft water of the Asanogawa River, which is indispensable to gold leaf production.
Shima Teahouse – A preserved tea house, which has been converted into a museum. The rooms where geisha would perform and the kitchen are on display along with various instruments and items used by the geisha.
Directions: 30 meters down the north side of the street
Admission: 500 yen
Kaikaro Teahouse – The Kaikaro chaya is still an operating tea house, but opens its doors to the public. Tea service is included with admission.
Directions: 100 meters down the south side of the street
Admission: 750 yen
Hakuza Gold Leaf Store – a shop selling gold leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa. Inside the shop is a traditional Japanese warehouse which has been turned into a tearoom and completely covered inside and out with gold leaf.
Directions: a few steps from Shima Teahouse,
Hours: 09:30~18:00 (until 17:30 in winter)
17:48 Kanazawa 金澤烏鶏庵 東山店 (うけいあん) which sells various cakes, their signature cake even has gold flakes on top.
Address: 1-3-1 Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0831, Japan.
18:12 – 18:17 Its only a couple minute walk down two blocks to the Asanogawa River, which like Kyoto’s Kamogawa River 鴨川, the riverbanks are a great area to take a stroll and get to know the Japanese culture. There are also a number of restaurants on the banks of these two rivers, which overlook the beautiful scene of the river.
18:31 Finally walked all the way back to Omicho Market. Although most of its fresh foods stores were closed, many restaurants were still open. And as planned, we were gonna have rice bowl with tons of fresh fish!!!!
18:33 – 19:48 近江町 井ノ弥 (いつもあんやと). We decided on this particular restaurant because (1) it’s still open, and (2) it had a huge line up of locals in the afternoon when we came, pretty much over an hour. Although thankfully no line up was needed at this time of day, the inside was quite full and we took a bar seat, with a great view of the sushi chef preparing bowl after bowl of sumptuous sashimi.
Supersize Chirashi Omicho, ¥1900.
Inoya’s special, ¥950.
Not only did the two bowls look decadent, the taste was absolutely divine. Glad we left this stop for dinner, and my, did that bowl make me hungry! I rarely eat so much rice, but finished it all instead. The menu on the wall also had assorted fish soup, made of all sorts of yummy fish, very tempting, but the rice bowl did a good job of filling my tummy.
19:50 Nice after dinner stroll back to the hotel. We stopped on the way to pick up some food and snacks at FamilyMart.
20:08 FamilyMart, Jagabee sukiyaki flavour じゃがりこ すき焼き味 ¥152.
20:15 Tori gates at Kanazawa station
20:21 Back at our hotel, we set our things down but we don’t have time to dry our poor cold feet, because we need to (1) book tickets for where we’re going tomorrow, (2) check out the mall beside us!
21:36 Back at the hotel (again). This time we really strip down, and leave our tired clothes to dry while we head to APA hotel public bath!! Free for all hotel overnight guest, and open to public for a charge, there are indoor public baths and two small (single person) open air public bath upstairs. Spent the majority of the hour here with a quick shower and a nice long soak in the public bath. The single ones are really, very, very, small, and could probably fit two with a squeeze. These ones are at the top of some stairs at the back end of the showers. With a wall and slightly lowered blinds, you can enjoy the rooftop view without risk of exposing too much, and made the steamy hot water less stuffy and that much more enjoyable! Ahhhh!!