We arrived in Kanazawa late on Thursday night the 16th of March after our wonderful day in Matsumoto only to be greeted by thousands of Japanese physicians. They had descended on Kanazawa for their annual ” circulation meeting” which was held in our hotel. So many of them looked hassled, rushed and tired just like doctors anywhere in the world. They mostly wear black suits. We also met some very jolly female American professors who had been invited to give talks at this conference and used the occasion either as an excuse to travel around Japan, or visit relatives.
Kanazawa is a rich and very attractive city to visit. It lies by the Sea of Japan to the west and the snow capped Japanese Alps to the east. It escaped bombing during the 2nd world war, is known for its fertile land, production of rice and gold leaf , which even today decorates the food they serve. In the 15th century it was ruled by a collective of farmers and Buddhist monks. However in the 16th century the Maeda family took over Kanazawa castle and concentrated on food production and arts and crafts rather than war. Its a tourist destination boosted by the recent arrival of the Shinkansen train and a brand new train station, see picture below.
Today Kanazawa’s main attraction is Kenrokuen strolling style landscape garden originating in the Edo period (1603-1868). It has been remodelled due to fires and is known for its amazing water features.
I was very much looking forward to seeing this garden. We even changed our dates for our visit of Kanazawa which is known to have a rainy climate, to see the garden in sunshine and we were rewarded with bright blue sky when we woke up on Friday morning!
Strengthened by a bowl of fresh raw moving sweet prawns from the Omicho fish market for breakfast we strolled through Kenrokuen garden which was a delight. Some girls had dressed up in kimonos for the occasion (see picture at the top). The plum blossom was out, the moss looked lush and green, the vistas and lakes were amazing. It embraces six horticultural graces- spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, water and panoramic views. We took part in a tea ceremony.
We also visited the elegant Japanese villa Seison-Kaku which lies in the garden and was build in 1863 by the daimyo Maeda for his mother in retirement. We finished the day in the historic Nagamachi district. All the traditional Japanese houses are lived in and you can also see a former Samurai house of the Nomura family. No idea whether their is a connection to Nomura bank? I bought a lovely tea bowl.
Saturday was another beautiful day and we saw the much smaller Gyokusen-en Garden and took part in another tea ceremony. As we were the only guests the exact procedure was explained to us and I distinguished myself by making the appropriate loud slurping noise once I had finished my green tea.
Afterwards we walked to the museum build in honour of a famous Buddhist philosopher called Suzuki, whose book on Zen Buddhism Tony has just read. Architecturally the museum is a feast with spaces to learn about Suzuki’s life and contemplate about your own life.
Our final destination was the 21st century museum of contemporary art which featured an interesting exhibition attempting to define the difference between craft and design- not so easy! Is a Thonet chair craft and a chair made out of plastic design?
The museum’s best feature is a swimming pool which you can walk into and also see from above.
In the evening we took the Shinkansen to Tokyo which took all of 2 and 1/2 hours.