Kanazawa and Kenrokuen garden

Road trips mean stopping at all sorts of places for coffee, toilet breaks or just to check the satnav is correct and you are still on the right road. On our way to Kanazawa, we stopped near Obama for coffee and loved the cookies for sale. Not sure what the former president Obama would think of them!

Kanazawa is in central Honshu and its name means golden marsh. There was no sign of that as we found our hotel in the centre of the city ( great name – Hotel Trusty!), flanked by major department stores and expensive shops, yet a street parallel to it was a charming waterway and then the dark wooden fronts of old samurai houses. The locals were friendly too, waving and chatting to us, even though Kanazawa gets plenty of tourists.

We couldn’t resist the food department of a the Daiwa Korimbo department store – a bit like Harrods. So many things beautifully if over packaged, so many things we were not sure what they were and fantastic sushi.

The beef is unbelievably marbled with fat. Apparently the cattle are kept indoors and fed on cereals and can be massaged.

We had been given a recommendation for lunch by a lady leaving a little restaurant, but it was so tiny, it was full. So we headed back early in the evening and our luck was in, there were seats at the counter overlooking the chef’s preparation area. There was no English menu, so we just said how much we wanted to spend and they kept bringing courses. As usual I was taking photos and our neighbours’ sizzling little squids looked good so I snapped them. Before we knew it they had passed along a little plateful for us to try! Great atmosphere, good sake and interesting delicious food. I would love to add the link to it, but I don’t know what the Japanese characters meant and it was so tiny, I doubt it has a website.

Kenroku-en garden is best visited early in the morning before the tour buses and guides with noisey headsets start going round. So we were there by 830 and managed some of it before the crowds. It is a strolling landscape garden and as such contains the six elements of spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, watercourses and panoramas. The moss garden glowed fluorescent green in the sunshine. We saw gardeners pruning the pine trees and again, the views across the water were the most appealing. It has Japan’s oldest fountain but as it is only a single spout, it is fairly uninteresting. The crowds were starting to head for the cherry blossoms so we headed out.

After coffee and cake in a pure white cafe at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, we had fun playing with the outdoor sculpture, called Maru. It was designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the museum. Perfect silver balls that make crazy reflections on the outside and then you can bend down and see them from the inside for even more funny reflections. Interactive art at its best.

Next a meander past the Oyama shrine up to the Omicho market for some street food, then on to the old Geisha area Higashiyama Higashi, spotting some modern day ones buying ice cream and on to see how gold leaf is made and look at lots of gold leaf souvenirs. Kanazawa has been producing gold leaf for 400 years and has the monopoly on production in Japan.

We discovered a lovely design museum dedicated to Yanagi Sori, who lived from 1915 – 2011, was a highly influential and very successful industrial designer in post-war Japan. He worked in many areas designing everyday products, home furnishings, and large scale public structures. With a firm base in traditional Japanese design principles he created simple, modern, attractive objects that could easily be mass produced. During his long career Yanagi Sori designed furniture, lighting, porcelain and kitchen utensils, children’s toys, railway stations, cars, motorcycles, and the 1964 Olympic cauldron. He also taught at Kanazawa College of Art for almost 50 years. After his death Yanagi Design Office donated 7,000 of his designs, products, and materials to Kanazawa College of Art and this was the origin of the Memorial.

Finally to round off a very busy day of sightseeing, the last stops were the silk museum to see how they paint on silk and another lovely tiny garden in the Nagamachi samurai district – the Nomurake residence, home of a high ranking samurai family.

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