Monday, 20 September 2010


Kanazawa is lovely city,  and probably one of Japan's most liveable. A  castle town that was favoured by the Tokugawa Shogunate, it was fortunate to have a daimyo (feudal lord)  who appreciated arts and culture.  Though since the daimyo's  wealth came from the rice crop of the peasant class, it's quite likely that the local peasantry were less enthusiastic about the Maeda clan's refined tastes.  Although the castle has gone,  much of the old town remains, notably the samurai district, Kenroken garden and the Higashi Chaya (tea shops) area.  According to a volunteer attendant that we spoke to  Kanazawa was fortunate to be spared major fires - the last major one in 1759- which would have destroyed the old wooden buildings in the city.   Like Kyoto and Nara, it was spared American bombing during World War Two on account of its heritage value.

History is integral to Kanazawa's identity and charm, but the city has also forged a modern face.  Tourist information about Kanazawa from non Japanese sources,  often seem to describe it as a backwater, far from Shinkansen lines and of minimal relevance.  While it's a relatively small city - about 400.000 people, 'backwater' is myopic. Admittedly here was a surprising lack of chain fast foods in central Kanazawa, but I don't see that as such a bad thing and shudder to think that modernity would be judged by the number of  KFCs and Yoshinoyas!    The history and architecture is well preserved and a sightseeing loop bus makes getting around  very simple.   The modern highlight of Kanazawa is undoubtedly the   Museum of Contemporary Art,  reported to be among the best in Japan  (anfortunately we were there on a Sun afternoon / Monday when it was closed - a great pity),  also the Castle Park area.  Ishikawa Prefectural Government has taken over the  Castle area, formerly the site of Kanazawa University  and has turned it into public parkland.  There is a positive vibe in the city and it was no great surprise when Hiro said  Ishikawa regularly tops the list of 'most satisifed with my prefecture' surveys.

Sushi shop near the railway station
Good and not expensive, on the sushi scale.
The highlight was flounder with a dipping sauce with
flounder liver.  On looking at it, it was apparent it was an
eat first, ask later dish.

Kanazawa's impressive railway entrance

Higashi Chaya district

Higashi Chaya district
Chaya's kanji mean tea shop - I was surprised to see it
translated as Higashi Geisha district - though the tea house
do have a strong association with geisha.
Overlooking Kanazawa from Honsenji in Higashi Chaya

Pocket park in Higashi Chaya

I was impressed with the underground watering system to thaw the snow in winter
I am not sure how they stop the water from freezing in the pipes though.

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