Kanazawa surprised us.
Instead of the sleepy little town we expected, we arrived in a metropolis more akin to Tokyo. We booked a ryokan near the bus/train station, Kanazawa Chaya. This ryokan was more upscale than the one we stayed in Takayma: we had a bathtub, a shower, and a Geisha-attendant. I kinda got the hang of bathing communally and went there instead of my private shower. This one I liked the least. Upscale or not, it smelled of chlorine.
I already knew to sit on a little plastic stool and use a plastic basin to wash myself (same as back in Russia, only our basins were enameled).
Dinner at this ryokan was a 9-course affair. OK, I have to confess. The cat is out of the bag. I don’t like fancy Japanese food.
The dishes were beautifully arranged on my beloved ceramics, but that’s all I liked. Neither taste nor texture appealed to my palate. I took a bite of everything but finished almost nothing except for sashimi and rice.
Still, when asked if I wanted Japanese or Western breakfast, I opted for Japanese – I kept trying…
but in vain. Was able to finish only rice and some smoked fish.
For lunch, however, we walked into a small mom and pop restaurant, and for 10 bucks a person had their lunch special of pork, rice, green salad, potato salad, some pickled veggies, and miso soup – homemade and delicious!
We are simple people 🙂
So Kanazawa is a very pleasant town but,in my humble opinion, it could be removed from the tourist map. And I don’t think it’s a letdown after Shirakawa-go. This town has a very pleasant former samurai quarter, where, actually, the only structures left from the samurai era are solid stone fences and gates. And they are beautiful and so are the roofs of the big houses behind them, but that’s all you could see. We went to a partially restored house of a wealthy samurai, but it looked like a very refined ryokan, no more. The only remarkable things to see there were the garden and a letter written to the samurai-sama in the 17th century thanking him kindly for his hard work killing a certain soldier and sending his head to the addressee.
There is an art museum here and the building is ultramodern and interesting, but there is no permanent collection and the exhibits they held today did not look exciting to us.
There is also the famous Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa, but it failed to make a lasting impression. Another garden we visited was recommended by Fodor’s. Gyukusen-en garden is a private garden around a teahouse. We walked in the teahouse and proceeded into the garden. We walked through and sat down by a pond when an elderly attendant, all out of breath, ran up to us waving a paper in English saying that entrance is by reservation only made at least a day in advance and the fee is 700 yen.
And another “oops” was checking out of the ryokan. Their website was in Japanese and it was difficult to make a reservation and understand them – they don’t speak English. So I thought it was 29500 Yen a night. Well, it was, but per person… Even with the elaborate dinner, it was a bit steep…
We also spent some time shopping in a fancy depato. Actually, just walking around. All the salesladies stood en garde and greeted you sweetly, and bowed, as you walked by. If you approached their department or, god forbid, entered, they were on your heels, following you around, saying something in Japanese – I just couldn’t take them any longer!
We went into the basement, which is a food mecca in every fancy Japanese department store and bought munchies for our ride to Kyoto. We left from a really beautiful Kanazawa train station and are on the train now. We are approaching Kyoto. Gotta collect my belongings. Trains stop at train stations here for a few seconds, it seems, so you need to be all ready, standing by the exit door before the train comes to a stop. Otherwise, you might just not make it out of the train.
For a city where there is nothing much to see, I surely wrote a lot…
Kanazawa surprised us.