Culture · Culture Shock · Food & Cooking · Japanese Language · Living in Japan · Pictures

Kanazawa Day 2: Fake Ninjas, Castles, Toothless Cats, & Jellyfish

view from the hotel room
view from the hotel room

Woke up the next morning around 8 am to the sight of the above picture. There was also a jazz festival going on, so people were starting to set up for that – we could hear the music off and on during the day from all over the city. We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel where I was brought back to my college days and had a nice big helping of tater tots , although they were advertised as “hush browns.” After breakfast, it was time to hit the streets and do some more sightseeing.

The first stop of the day was a store that sold Amanattō ・甘納豆 (sweet natto). Amanattō is a Japanese traditional confectionery that is azuki beans or other beans covered with refined sugar, simmered with sugar syrup, and dried. I personally love the stuff and it goes great with a nice cup of tea. My former Jr. high school principal brought me a big box of the stuff when she came back from a trip. Jun’s great aunt loves amanattō, so she put in a big order that was going to have to be picked up the next day. Jun and I had a few free samples of various types of beans that were out and I grew really fond of some dried lemon pieces covered in sugar. I kept taking piece after piece until a little girl walked by, coughed in her hands, and then reached into the bowl to take a few. No more lemon for me.

entrance
entrance

The next stop of the day was Myoruji Temple ・ 妙立寺 that is more commonly referred to as “Ninja-dera” or “the Ninja Shrine.” The temple is architecturally complex and has many surprises in store for visitors. During the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate prohibited the construction of buildings higher than three stories. Viewed from the outside, the temple appears to be a two-story building, but it is actually a four-story building with a seven-layer internal structure. In addition, the building is very strong and durable enough to withstand typhoons and heavy snow. Myoruji Temple has a complicated structure which includes a middle-floor, a middle-middle-floor, 23 rooms, and 29 stairscases. The lookout on the top has an amazing view of the surrounding area. The temple also has a large well that is said to have been used to access a tunnel to Kanazawa castle – although no one has attempted the route. Despite the nickname of the temple, it actually has nothing to do with ninjas. It was instead built in order to fox shogunate spies and enemies and to allow sudden escapes. Local legend has it that the temple, with its hidden doors and passageways, was intended as a secret refuge for the local rulers in the case of an external threat.

the sleeping old kitty with no teeth
the sleeping old kitty with no teeth

We then spent some time wandering around the street lined with old buildings and checking out the various goods in the shops. In one shop I found the cat pictured above. I seriously thought that the cat was dead as people would pet it and it would not move. Thankfully, the kitty was alive, but just very very old and had a total of three teeth left in its mouth. It was still able to purr though.

After getting our fill of fake ninja goods and petting the kitty, we headed off to grab some lunch at a restaurant that was decorated with all sorts of gold leaf based artwork. My favorite piece was a giant wall length scene of nothing but falling cherry blossom blossoms on a black lacquer base. Jun and I ended up splitting a lunch set as we were still pretty full from breakfast and had been told that tonight we were going to an expensive Chinese restaurant in a different hotel. Lunch consisted of soba noodles, tempura, onigiri, a few side dishes including some sashimi, and a dessert.

if I could afford it, I would have bought it
if I could afford it, I would have bought it

After lunch we walked a little to Kenrokuen Garden ・ 兼六園. The name translates to “Six Attributes Garden” and is an old private gardendeveloped from the 1620s to 1840s by the Maeda clan, the daimyo who ruled the former Kaga Domain. It is listed as one of the top three gardens in Japan and is described as a strolling-style landscape garden with the characteristics of a typical landscape garden of the Edo period. Kenroku-en contains roughly 8,750 trees, and 183 species of plants in total. Among the garden’s points of special interest are

the oldest fountain in Japan, powered by the difference in heights of two ponds
Yugao-tei, a teahouse, the oldest building in the garden, built 1774
Shigure-tei, a rest House that was originally built by the 5th lord Tsunanori, reconstructed at its present location in 2000
Karasaki Pine, planted from seed by the 13th lord Nariyasu from Karasaki, near Lake Biwa.
Kotoji-tōrō, a stone lantern with two legs, said to resemble the bridge on a koto. This lantern is emblematic of Kenroku-en and Kanazawa.
Flying Geese Bridge (Gankō-bashi), made of eleven red stones, laid out to resemble geese in a flying formation
Kaiseki Pagoda, said to have been donated to the Maeda by Toyotomi Hideyoshi

I took a lot of pictures, all of which are on my Dotphoto page, but I will post a few here for you to enjoy.

one of my favorite pictures from the garden
one of my favorite pictures from the garden
one of the lakes in the garden
one of the lakes in the garden
one of the small rivers that ran through the garden
one of the small rivers that ran through the garden
the happy travelers
the happy travelers

After wandering around the garden for a little, we went back and did some more gift shopping (I needed to buy gifts for all my schools). We then headed off to a shop that allowed you to try hand dying in the same manner that they dye the fabric of kimonos. I was a little disappointed with the set up as the only things we were allowed to dye were two premade templates that had black lines drawn on them. I had done this before in Kyoto, but we could choose from a wide variety of patterns and sizes and there were no black lines on the print. Still, it was fun to get to make something yourself.

the main entrance
the main entrance

Our last stop of the day was Kanazawa Castle. The castle has had some really bad luck over the years. The castle was founded in 1583 when the Maeda family moved to Kanazawato establish the Kaga Domain. It was greatly reconstructed in 1592 after thefirst of Hideyoshi’s invasions of Korea, at which time its moats were dug. It was burned down and reconstructed in 1620-21 and again in 1631-32, then almost completely gutted in the great Kanazawa fire of 1759, and rebuilt in 1762 and 1788 (Ishikawa-mon Gate). After several minor fires and an earthquake, it was again destroyed by fire in 1881. However, the castle has been faithfully rebuilt according to extant records using the original traditional construction methods.

We then went back to the hotel to relax before heading out to dinner at the Chinese restaurant. We actually had dinner with the wife of the owner of the French restaurant we ate at the previous day. It was really fun and we ate so much food. There was one point during the meal that I almost strangled Jun though. I try to stand by the rule of “don’t ask, just eat” and try whatever is presented to me. There was one dish that that I had serious doubts about. It looked like a giant dish of caramelized onions, but they were far too slimy and shinny looking to be onions. I knew that there was no way I was going to eat it without knowing what it was, so I asked Jun. He assured me that it was delicious and almost like a caramelized onion. So, I put my faith in him and tried some. I instantly felt sick as it had the consistency of a crunchy gummy worm and did not have an appealing taste. The table kind of burst out laughing at my reaction and Jun’s mom scolded him for making me eat…jellyfish.

I never want to eat this again
I never want to eat this again

And that wraps up day two~

Now I need to head off to my former host family’s home for some big sister time and dinner.

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