The reason I was able to go on this trip was because of a three day vacation that the Japanese dubbed “Silver Week” (in May, there is a long vacation period called “Golden Week”). Silver Week (シルバーウィーク) is a new Japanese term applied to a string of consecutive holidays in September. Due to revisions to the Public Holiday Law (any-non-holiday-day-sandwiched-between-two-holidays-becomes-a-holiday-law), Japanese residents for the first time enjoyed a 5-day holiday break in September.The 2003 holiday revisions shifted Respect for the Aged Day from September 15th to the third Monday of September, creating this year’s 5-day stretch, called “Silver Week” as a fall counterpart to the “Golden Week” holiday in May. The holidays that make up Silver Week are:
Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日), third Monday of September
Autumnal Equinox Day (秋分の日), astronomically determined, but usually September 23
Kokumin no kyujitsu (国民の休日), the day in between the two other holidays
Yay for the awesome-est law ever?
My adventure to Kanazawa actually began at 2 am Monday morning . At this time, Jun’s family arrived at the apartment after driving from their home in Tokyo. When they arrived at the apartment, I had been sleeping and was very groggy as I was introduced to the great aunt. This is the only complaint I have about going on trips with Jun’s family – they throw away all ideas of time management and just go-go go! After driving 8 hours, and very little sleep, we arrived at my favorite family restaurant, GUSTO, for some breakfast. GUSTO is kind of along the lines of Deny’s, but without the overpowering amounts of grease. Their breakfasts….are not very good though.
After breakfast, and several cups of coffee, Jun and I were under the impression that we would go to the hotel and relax for a few hours as no one slept very much on the way down. I was still in PJs and was craving a nice warm shower. Wrong. We spent just enough time at the hotel for me to change into some regular clothes (in a bridal room…) and drop of our luggage. After accomplishing this, we were off to explore Kanazawa (it was only 10 am at this point).
First stop was the Nomura Family Samurai House Old Samurai residence (Nomura）( 武家屋敷跡 野村家) in Kanazawa(Kaga). The Nomura family successively held executive posts from generation to generation under rule of the Maeda family. The house has a coffered ceiling totally made of Japanese cypress and fusuma-e (paintings on sliding-door panels) created by the Maeda family’s personal painter. The garden inside the residence has a Japanese bayberry over 400 years old and a meandering stream surrounded by ancient and strangely shaped rocks and was listed as one of the Top 10 gardens in Japan. There was also a museum in one of the back houses that showed old Japanese money and other things that people used. My favorite was this finger warmer:
We also went up to the second floor to have some traditional Japanese green tea. The “real” green tea, not the stuff you get in mixes or in tea bags, is a real dark green and tastes very bitter. This is why Japanese always give a sweet with each cup/bowl of green tea. What we were actually drinking was Matcha (抹茶) is a finely-powdered green tea. Matcha Uji means “froth of liquid jade”and the Japanese tea ceremonycenters around the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. We got to watch two elderly women prepare the tea in the room next to where we sat and my favorite part of watching them make the tea was when they used the tea whisk. This is the implement used to mix the powdered tea with the hot water. Tea whisks are carved from a single piece of bamboo. It makes the tea all frothy, fluffy, and delicious
I did not take that many pictures inside the house, but Ron over a Flickr has taken some amazing pictures that really do the home and garden justice, so you should check those out. The house is actually located in the Though the Nagamachi District which is promoted in the tourist brochures as the “samurai area.” However, the overwhelming majority of the houses there today are not samurai houses, but modern post-war housing. There are some genuine samurai houses still left in Kanazawa (like the one we visited), but very very few indeed. This is because after the Meiji Restoration the samurai found themselves bereft of their traditional income, and many of them ended up selling off their estates, which were turned into fields before being redeveloped as modern housing before World War Two.
We wandered around the Nagamachi for a little before hitting up some of the gift shops that were selling all sorts of delicious and adorable sweets. Some of the sweets and food sold there had gold leaf put into it (I found gold leaf ice cream even). Kanazawa-Haku is gold which is beaten into a paper-like sheet. Gold leaf plays a prominent part in the city’s cultural crafts, to the extent that there is a gold leaf museum (Kanazawa Yasue Gold Leaf Museum). It is found throughout Kanazawa and Ishikawa, and Kanazawa produces 99% of Japan’s high-quality gold leaf: the gold leaf that covers the famous Golden Pavilion in Kyoto was produced in Kanazawa. Gold leaf is even put into food. The city is famous for tea with gold flakes, which is considered by the Japanese people to be good for health and vitality – need to hit this up on my next visit, along with the museum.
After having our fill of free samples and looking at cute food, it was time to get some lunch at a restaurant that is Jun’s family’s favorite place in Kanazawa. The restaurant is French based cuisine run by a husband and wife who are adorable and very sweet. Jun’s dad told me that the often come to Kanazawa just to eat their food, and now I can totally understand why. The food was absolutely delicious. Every day the lunch special is different, and the meal that happened to be that day was a delicious meat pie with a small salad and bowl of soup – I had pumpkin soup. We also ordered some delicious duck with an orange-raspberry sauce. Jun and I shared a baked ice cream dessert that was beyond delicious. We also came back here for dinner where we had an 8 course meal. Actually, Jun’s family ordered three of each 8 course meal so that everyone could try each dish. It was all so delicious. You can find all the pictures of the food over at my Dotphoto page.
With our bellies filled, we finally checked into the hotel around 3 pm and spent the next two hours sleeping until it was time to go back to the restaurant for the delicious dinner I already mentioned. After, Jun and I decided to check out the nightlife of Kanazawa by playing a few games in one of the arcades and trying our luck at the UFO catchers. I am not very good at the UFO catchers unless it is the ones where the prizes are really small, but Jun is pretty good at all of them – guess that would classify him as a nerd, huh? After a few tries and being out around 600 yen, Jun managed to win me this:
Around 10 pm, we decided that it would be best if we actually got more than three hours of sleep, so we returned to the hotel and fell asleep the moment we laid down on the bed.
So, that is it for day one. Coming soon will be day two consisting of (but not limited to) Ninja Shrines, castles, and gardens.
Be sure to check out my Dotphoto page for all the pictures taken on my adventures in Japan.
Also, let me know if the little graphics annoy you and I will not use them in the next post. These graphics are all things that Japanese use in cellphone e-mails and their online blogs. Thought I would try them out.