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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Solo adventures at Kanazawa (part 1)

This is how I would start my travelogue...

"The passing days and months are eternal travellers in time. The years that come and go are travellers too. Life itself is a journey; and as for those who spend their days upon the waters in ships and those who grow old leading horses, their very home is the open road. And some poets of old there were who died while travelling.
There came a day when the clouds drifting along with the wind aroused a wanderlust in me, and I set off on a journey to roam along the seashores. I returned to my hut on the riverbank last autumn, and by the time I had swept away the cobwebs, the year was over.
But when spring came with its misty skies, the god of temptation possessed me with a longing to pass the Barrier of Shirakawa, and road gods beckoned, and I could not set my mind to anything. So I mended my breeches, put new cords on my hat, and as I burned moxa on my knees to make them strong, I was already dreaming of the moon over Matsushima.
I sold my home and moved into SampĂ»’s guest house, but before I left my cottage I composed a verse and inscribed it on a poem strip which I hung upon a pillar:

This rude hermit cell
Will be different now, knowing Dolls’
Festival as well."

But alas, these words were already written, centuries earlier, by the poet Matsuo Basho, in his masterpiece "The Narrow Road in the Deep North".

Almost a week had gone by since I came back from Kanazawa. How would I chronicle such a trip then?

I sure didn't expect the snow, or the fact that Kanazawa station would look so marvelous.

The trip was decided in very a spontaneous decision, I saw a beautiful photo of Kenroku-en Garden covered in snow, and so I decided to go to the place. It was 27th of December, 2012, when I booked a bus ticket online. I was dying for an adventure to start my new year. Last-minute decisions are more exciting, I could never ever plan a trip for months.

Friday night, 4th of January, the bus was a midnight bus that would leave at 11:30pm. Before hopping onto the bus, I sat in a nearby cafe, sipping milk tea.

Enjoying some milk tea before hopping onto the bus to Kanazawa

The bus ride lasted for 7 hours. Every two hours it would stop at a highway rest place where food and beverage are sold. I sampled a stick of rice ball wrapped in meat. If I knew they would make stops at places like these throughout the way, I wouldn't need to prepare all those Black Thunder chocolate bars for my meal before I got onto the bus.

Stick of rice wrapped with meat

Finishing up stick of rice wrapped with meat

The problem about these overnight buses is that once the lights are out. Everyone is expected to sleep. It is pitch black. For courtesy, you cannot even use your phone. Thus I did nothing but stare into the darkness, I couldn't sleep. My mind perpetually wandered. It was only after the last 2 hours of the journey that I finally drifted into sleep.

When I woke up, I drew aside the blinds and looked out through the bus windows. I couldn't help but gasp when I saw that the entire place was covered in snow.

Kanazawa is located in Snow Country, but weather forecast never mentioned about the snow. I was rather delighted when I got off the bus and looked around the Kanazawa station.

I sure didn't expect the snow, or the fact that Kanazawa station would look so marvelous.

Outside Kanazawa station

Entering the station, finding a place for breakfast, and then coffee, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down a list of places that I wanted to visit.

Drawing up a list of places to visit in Kanazawa

After consulting the kind lady at the Tourist Information Center, I began my exploration. It was still too early for me to check into my hotel.

Kanazawa itself is not that big, most of the places are within walking distance. After nearly half an hour (the ground was slippery because of the snow! And I was dragging my luggage with me), I reached my first destination, the Oyama Shrine.

Outside Oyama Shrine

People visiting Oyama Shrine

Oyama Shrine
The courtyard of the shrine, along with its pond, was rather captivating.

The courtyard of Oyama Shrine

Beside a pond in Oyama Shrine

A tree at Oyama Shrine

At the back exit of Oyama Shrine

I continued my way and walked past the famous 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. The modern avant-garde design of this glass building, like the train station, was a stark contrast to the rest of the rather traditional-looking Kanazawa.

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa Sign

Inside 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

In front of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art 2

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art 3

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art 4

I had no time to stop for any of the exhibitions. After all, the main purpose of my journey to Kanazawa was indeed to check out Kenroku-en Garden, one of the 3 Great Gardens of Japan.

Kenroku-en was developed from the 1620s to the 1840s by the Maeda clan, the daimyo who ruled the former Kaga Domain for 14 generations.

Entering Kenroku-en Garden

There were many entrances to the garden. It was fitting that I entered by the one closest to the Hisago-ike pond and the Midori waterfall. The development of this garden started around this area. You can also see the Kaiseki pagoda here, which was donated by Toyotomi Hidetoshi to the Maeda.

Hisago-Ike pond and the Midori waterfall

Hisago-Ike pond and the Midori waterfall 2

Yugao-tei Teahouse

Many old people were taking photos of the place with their huge DLSRs and expensive lenses.

I continued walking.

People at Kenroku-en

The largest pond in the garden is the Kasumiga-ike Pond.

I wonder when will I ever see Kenrokuen garden again. Time to check out the other 2 of Japan's big 3 gardens!

Couple walking past the Kasumiga-ike Pond at Kenroku-en

Tourists crossing the Niji (rainbow) bridge at Kenroku-en

Tourists taking photos at the Kenroku-en

Photo of me at Kenroku-en

I was in the garden for a few hours, and as you can see in the photo above, I was holding my 7D camera, I was spending most of the time shooting videos than taking photos, hence the lack of photos.

Thinking of the garden again, I realized it was one of the loveliest sights I've ever witnessed in my life.

When I left the garden, the sun was already setting.

Leaving Kenroku-en