Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kanazawa (Oct. long weekend trip, Day 1)

I went down to 金沢 Kanazawa (石川県 Ishikawa Prefecture), 白川郷 Shirakawa-Go and 飛騨高山 Hida Takayama (岐阜県 Gifu Prefecture) for the October long weekend with a friend. It was a trip we'd been planning for more than half a year (from about February?) and it was totally worth the wait!

The trip began with a ride on a night train. We left Aomori around 19:30 on Thursday evening (Oct. 7) and arrived the next morning (Fri. Oct. 8) in Kanazawa shortly after 6:00.
Kanazawa Station

After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we meandered towards 金沢城公園 Kanazawa Castle Park and 兼六園 Kenrokuen, stopping at various temples (there are a TON in Kanazawa!) as well as the 近江町市場 Omicho Ichiba (market) along the way. (The Castle Park and Kenrokuen are both open from 7:00-18:00 from March until mid October which makes it perfect for early risers and/or visitors who want to maximize a short stay in Kanazawa!)
Kanazawa Castle Park
Kenrokuen: Kotojitoro Lantern & Nijibashi (Rainbow Bridge)


After Kenrokuen, we had "breakfast" at a nearby 茶屋 cha-ya (tea shop), 堤亭 Tsutsumitei. Going for the shop's most popular item (it was also recommended in the JTB るるぶ (Rurubu) magazine), we had the 抹茶ずくし Matcha Zukushi, which consisted of matcha flavoured soft serve ice cream, 白玉 shiratama (rice-flour dumplings), and 寒天 kanten (also known as "agar(-agar)", a gelatin made from tengusa seaweed).

Our next stop was the 金沢21世紀美術館 Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. It's a pretty fun museum as far as modern art museums go. My far and away favourite piece was "The Swimming Pool." You can view it from above (admission free!) as well as below (from Gallery 6, ticket required). After a brief coffee (or iced lemon tea, in my case) and cake break at the museum's Café Restaurant Fusion21, we headed back to Omicho Ichiba.

At Omicho Ichiba, we wandered around for a while before settling on a restaurant for a sushi lunch. Kanazawa sushi is excellent but can be extremely expensive (some places offered "specials" of three pieces for around 1500 yen @_@ ). But the place we went to--鮨処源平 (Sushi Genpei?)--was quite reasonable, offering 8 pieces plus miso soup and chawan mushi (cup-steamed egg custard) for around 2000yen.
Omicho Ichiba

Although we were quite full from the cake (at the Museum café) and sushi, we had just enough space to go for the るるぶ  recommended 甘えび ama ebi (shrimp) and たこ tako (octopus) クロッケ croquettes. Yummy!!

Ama ebi croquette
Tako croquette

Our next stop was 東茶屋街 the Higashi Chaya (Teahouse) District. A brief introduction to chaya from the Kanazawa Tourism site:

Chaya is a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha (traditional female Japanese entertainers) have been entertaining people by performing dances and playing Japanese traditional musical instruments since the Edo period. The central part of Kanazawa was dotted with a number of chaya houses in the past. These chaya houses were moved into four districts distant from the central part in 1820. The largest one of the chaya districts in Kanazawa is the Higashi Chaya district.

The construction of two-story houses except chaya houses was prohibited in the Edo period. A chaya house is characterized with a beautiful lattice called "kimusuko" on the outer side of the first floor and Japanese-style guestrooms located on the second floor. When you enter back streets, you will soon find a maze of continuous alleys. 

The walk from the Omicho Ichiba had created just enough space for us to have ice cream at a shop there called 茶ゆ Chayu. There were a lot of interesting flavours to choose from, so we decided to order a double cone each so we could try four flavours in total: みそ miso and 甘酒amazake (sweet sake), はなり塩 hanari shio (salt) and 梅 ume (Japanese apricot). If I had an extra stomach (or two), I would also have liked to have tried the 醤油 shoyu, とうふtofu, and お茶の葉 と 手挽き抹茶various tea flavours. They also had really delicious looking カレーパン curry bread. (Strange mix, right?--ice cream and curry bread!)

After that, we checked out 志摩 the Ochaya SHIMA (国指定重要文化財 a designated Japanese National Important Cultural Asset). It's a really beautiful building--well worth a look!

With that we managed to hit all three of るるぶ's "Most Popular/Must-See" sites of Kanazawa: Kenrokuen, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, and Higashi Chaya. Still, I think Kanazawa is a place I would really like to go back to--if only it wasn't so far. ^^;;  In particular there were a ton of cafés and confectionery shops mentioned in the るるぶ that looked really delicious. If I had more time there I would want to check out more of them! 

We stopped back at Omicho Ichiba on the way to the restaurant we picked from the るるぶ to try out. The plan was to buy tamagoyaki from the store recommended in the るるぶ but we ended up not buying any because we knew we would be too full to eat it after dinner. *sigh*  It was definitely the right choice, but at the time I really regretted not having a larger stomach--or four, like a cow!  =P

For dinner we went to a 加賀料理 Kaga Ryori restaurant called 大名茶屋 Daimyo Jaya. Since we were still both pretty full, we didn't order the pricey 会席料理 kaiseki ryori set (10 dishes for close to 5000yen per person!) but instead ordered some of the more home-style kaga ryori dishes a la carte: 冶部煮  jibuni, ドジョウの蒲焼 dojou (a type of fish) no kabayaki, seasonal vegetable tempura, etc. It was delicious!
Dojou no kabayaki
Vegetable tempura

And that was the end of our day in Kanazawa. I was satisfied with everything that we saw/ate. I think we definitely hit all the key/must-see places, but as I said before, I'd really like to go back to Kanazawa to eat some more!!

Kanazawa Links:
金沢観光協会公式サイト - Kanazawa Tourism Site

茶ゆ - Chayu
兼六園 - Kenrokuen
近江町市場 - Omicho Ichiba
金沢城公園 - Kanazawa Castle Park
加賀料理大名茶屋 - Kaga Ryouri Daimyo Jaya
金沢21世紀美術館 - Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
志摩 (国指定重要文化財)- Ochaya SHIMA (National Important Cultural Asset)