The journey to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa took roughly one hour, and the view from the bus was nothing short of amazing. The landscape transformed from the suburban rows of roofs, to plantations, and then gradually to a pale forest of snow covered trees. The snow ceased to fall gently and began to pelt down. I managed to cross an item from my bucket list – to feel temperatures below zero. I curled up in my seat, warm in my coat while my phone tells me the temperature outside had plummeted to -8°C.
There’s a popular tourist spot on top of a hill where you can take the perfect picture of Shirakawa-go. Unfortunately the blizzard we were experiencing made it impossible for us to go up. My enthusiasm for the snow quickly dwindled down because of this fact, and the way my body had started to protest from the cold. I can’t help but wish we came on a calmer day, although the view is really was as spectacular as promised.
Back to Kanazawa
My friends who travelled to Japan several times told me that Kanazawa is kind of boring, and that there weren’t many things to see. But honestly, I had a great time exploring the city. And as you can see I had a lot of fun taking pictures.
The castle was huge, it felt like it would have felt right at home on top of four football fields. Built in the 16th century, it remained in use by the ruling daimyo (regional lords) until 1871. The current building which refers to its 1809 form is mostly new, with a majority of it being rebuilt in 2001 using traditional methods. One of the few original structures left was the Ishikawa Gate from 1788, which is now part of the Kanazawa Castle Park.
We didn’t get to go inside and explore further though, but we did manage to frolic in the snowy grounds outside, and take lots of touristy photos. Given more time I think I would have like to explore the inside more, with the itinerary we had planned we couldn’t really extend our stay in Kanazawa longer, Tokyo was waiting for us. But that’s a story for another time!
Between how much I enjoyed all the things I managed to cram into my mouth, and cheap prices of the food, Omicho Market was definitely my favourite place to eat! The underground area housed a canteen which served up meal packages containing rice, katsu, vegetables, and thick cuts of fried squid, ranging from ¥300 – ¥500, it was similar in price for a super cheap lunch in Jakarta. You can see why I was thrilled.
My food adventure didn’t stop with lunch… The strawberries at the market were huge and sweet, and they cost ¥300 for a stick of five! And my colleagues and I shared juicy slices of oranges as we strolled leisurely. We also found ready to use green tea leaves that went for ¥1080. We stopped by for drinks and watched the busy people of Kanazawa go about their businesses. The warmth I felt there from the good food and the mug of matcha I had in my hand was a great contrast to the snow-covered cold outside.
I quite enjoy people watching, and capturing the daily activities of locals, so Omicho Market was a great place for me to roam around in. After taking my fill, I came to the conclusion that half of the reason I enjoyed it so much was because it was so clean. And dry. Generally different to the kinds of traditional markets I’ve waded through during my travels around Indonesia (without dissing them in the slightest, because traditional market are fun)… and as cheap as everything was in the market, prices were cheaper back home. Ha!
Higashi-Chayagai (Higashi-Chaya District)
Kanazawa is one of the best-preserved major Edo-period city in the country, and the old city of Kanazawa was never bombed by the allies so the architecture of the area remains authentic. A lot of the tall narrow houses are still used as high-class entertainment, but even without visiting them or the converted speciality shops and teahouses, there’s a lot of things to see. It’s quite a big place with lots of ridiculously picturesque spots, even when you slip into narrow side-alleys.
The district is located across the Asano River, and the riverside along the district is dotted with coffee stalls. We really did a lot of eating and drinking in Kanazawa, but let’s be honest, who can say no to a cup of hot coffee by the river? Even with the cold, it was the perfect way to spend a spare few minutes.
You can hire a kimono to wear at @kanazawa.kirara for ¥5000, and pretend you’ve stepped back in time. Whether for the experience of walking the streets in a kimono or for photo opportunities, you can hang on to the kimono till 18.00 everyday.
I’m pretty sure my colleagues were pleased that I picked Kanazawa as our first destination for our Japan trip! I’ve been thinking of planning a personal trip to Japan, maybe with some friends who’ve been asking me about my photos.
Which city would you pick to be the first destination for a Japan trip?