This is the last night of a spring holiday in Japan called Golden Week. In light of having a week off to celebrate it, my parents came to visit me from Canada. We travelled all around central Japan and they got to fully experiance the country. I think they had a great time and did really well with the cultural differences I have already had almost a year to adapt to. My broken Japanese also seemed to have worked quite well whenever the need presented itself. We did a lot of things so much like my winter adventure with Amie I will need to break this up into three posts. This will be all about Kanazawa.
After a few days in Niigata visiting with some of my coworkers, seeing the area, and going to some nice restaurants we took a local train over to our hotel in Kanazawa. I think we were all pretty happy to be leaving Niigata at this point because the weather was absolutely miserable the entire time they were here. Our hotel in Kanazawa was very nice and directly beside the train station so it was very convenient.
Our adventures here brought us to four main attractions: Kenrokuen garden, Kanazawa castle, the Shima geisha house and the Myoruiji (ninja) temple.
Kenrokuen Garden is one of Japans three great gardens, one of which I already visited in Okayama(Korakuen). Kenrokuen literally means “the garden of six sublimities” or, “a garden combining the 6 aspects of a perfect garden”. This is a borrowed tradition from the Chinese, believing that the ideal garden requires spaciousness, seclusion, water-courses, panoramas, artifice and antiquity. The reason this is one of the big three is that it combines these in a way that most gardens failed to achieve. It used to be the bordering garden to Kanazawa Castle, which has been burnt down and rebuilt a number of times since then. Nevertheless it has been a strong cultural point for the area since its creation in the 1600s.
The original garden was founded by Tsunonori Maeda, the 5th Maeda lord at the time and was originally called Renchi tei. This was completely burnt down in 1759 but restored shortly after and has since been called Kenrokuen.
The castle has much the same history as the garden, only with more fire. The Maeda clan originally built it in 1583 when they moved to Kanazawa but it was burnt down in 1592, 1620, 1603 and 1759. It survived some minor fires throughout the end of the 1700s but was shattered by an earthquake in the early 1800s before finally being completely destroyed by fire again in 1881. The main castle is currently being reconstructed but the Ishikawa-mon Gate (rebuilt in 1788) somehow survived. I think it will remain a Castle Park until the construction on the main tower is finished.
The next day we took a stroll through the Nagamachi district. This area surrounds the base of Kanazawa Castle and was where the samurai and their families lived. The historical atmosphere remains untouched with many samurai residences, earthen walls, water canals, narrow streets and secret gates. One of the most interesting buildings we saw here was the Myoryuji temple. Although not technically a ninja temple, it received this name because it has something in the area of 27 staircases, most of which are hidden in a labyrinth type manner. It was a really fascinating tour. The house itself was even designed to appear to only have 2 floors when in reality it had 4, with 7 layers. Crazy.
We also checked out the Shima Geisha house, which was located in the Higashi Chaya district. This was much along the same lines of cultural preservation as the samurai district. This area has many well preserved chayas. A chaya is a very exclusive style of restaurant in which guests are entertained by geisha, who usually perform song and dance. Chayas were almost always found in entertainment districts during the Edo period, which were conveniently just outside the city limits.
I took far too many pictures on this trip. Here are the ones from Kanazawa. There are quite a few so I would sit down if I were you. Next week I will tell you about Takayama.