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3-Day Model Trip Day2 / Kanazawa - Wajima

3-Day Model Trip Day2 / Hokuriku / Kanazawa - Wajima

For the roughly 400 years after the latter half of the 16th century, Kanazawa thrived as a castle town under the Kaga feudal lord and the Maeda family. The shadow of this era still hangs over the city in the look of the streets and buildings, traditional crafts and historic sites. Because the city is large and full of places to see, the best way to get around is by bus (see the insert article). Now we're going straight to the Nagamachi Bukeyashiki - samurai houses - which look just as they did in the Edo Period.

When you walk west of Hyakumangoku-odori Avenue, you will leave behind the bustle of the city for a quiet atmosphere, where the narrow streets are lined on either side by the stone walls of the old Nagamachi samurai houses. These were once the houses of the mid-level retainers who supported Kaga. The streets were made curved in the shape of a hook, making them hard for enemies to invade during Japan's civil war era. The Onosho water channel running to the west is said to have been used to transport the feudal lord's baggage. Almost all of the houses are still lived in, so we cannot see inside them. But the streets retain the air of a castle town, making it a charming area for a quiet walk. However, the Nomura family house is open to visitors, so you can look inside that.

Now we have completely gone back in time, we are going to visit Kenrokuen, one of the three great gardens of Japan. The garden covers a total area of 100,000 square meters, and contains ponds, hills, trees and bridges.

A combination of artificial landscaping and the changes in nature over the four seasons have created a garden of fantastic beauty. When you go through the Katsurazaka entrance, the first thing you see is Kasumi-ga-ike, the largest pond in the garden. The scene here contains the quiet Kotoji Toro garden lantern and Niji-bashi Bridge. This is often featured in guidebooks, and is a great place to take photographs. Because of this, all tourists want to take pictures here, but it is such a nice scene that it is worth waiting your turn to do so.

If you look down at Kasumi-ga-ike from Sazae-yama, the hill on the opposite bank, you will see another aspect of the pond. There are meandering streams called "kyokusui" running through various parts of the garden, and these streams land on many bridges. There are bridges throughout the garden made in all sorts of materials and shapes - stepping stones, wood, rocks and red lacquer. It is fun to see how many versions of each kind of bridge there are. In winter, ropes called "yuki-tsuri" are used to stop branches breaking under the weight of snow. These are attached to a central supporting pole, and form a cone-shape. They make a fine sight, and are one of the special features of Kenrokuen in winter. Now we've walked all the way round this large garden, it's time for a rest. The garden contains teashops where you can drink tea and eat Japanese-style confections. And if you leave through the Katsurazaka entrance, there are souvenir shops and restaurants there. From here you can see Ishikawa-mon Gate with its beautiful walls, so it is just the place to take a break.

Now we're feeling refreshed after that brief rest, let's go to a part of town called Higashi (East) Chaya-gai. Along with Nishi (West) Chaya-gai and Kazue-machi, Higashi Chaya-gai contains lots of Japanese-style restaurants called "chaya". These were mainly used by merchants and men of letters as refined places to socialize. Buildings with fine lattices line both sides of the stone-paved streets, and this elegant appearance has been designated by the city as a cultural monument. Some of these places still operate as restaurants, but unfortunately there is no admission without an introduction. Though you can get enough of a taste of the atmosphere from the look of the streets, to see the inside of a chaya you can go to Shima or Kaikaro, which have opened up their interiors as museums. This time, we have come to look at Shima. This was built in 1820, and features private rooms unique to chaya in which dance and samisen(or shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese instrument) performances are held right in front of the visitors, as well as a kitchen and a stone hut. It is just like being on the set of a period drama. I am full of admiration for the effort that has been made to preserve this chaya just as it was built.

Now we've finished looking at this, let's go to Yasue Kinpaku Kogeikan - the Yasue Gold Leaf Craft Center. Gold leaf consists of gold that has been pounded and stretched like paper, and is one of Kanazawa's traditional crafts. Surprisingly, a piece of gold the sized of a bean (about 2 grams) is beaten so that it stretches over the area of a tatami mat, about one meter by two meters. As well as a display of art objects using gold leaf, Yasue Gold Leaf Craft Center also offers an explanation of how gold leaf is manufactured, and a demonstration of how sheets of gold leaf are placed between pieces of paper so they can be moved around without sticking to each other. This is known as "haku-utsushi". To digress for a moment, the paper used to separate sheets of gold leaf is very popular with Japanese women as facial tissue. This haku-utsushi demonstration is carried out right in front of visitors, and the craftsman will place a small fragment of gold leaf on your hand. This is worth looking forward to, as you can feel just how thin and light the gold leaf is. Finally, we can enjoy a real luxury - tea and Japanese confections sprinkled with gold leaf.

Now it's time to head for Wajima, where we'll be spending the night.
Wajima is the place where Wajima lacqureware has been developed. These lacqureware items are representative traditional Japanese lacqureware with a solid feel and an elegant beauty.
In summer there are kiriko festivals all over the city.The Nafune Taisai Festival held in Nafune, is said to have originated in the days when drummers beat their drums wearing bark masks and seaweed hair to drive away attacking enemy forces. You can still see performances of this Gojinjo Daiko drumming today.
Wajima is also famous for onsen Spa. The town has many inns and hotels from large hotels to small, individually run inns, so you can choose somewhere to fit your budget and taste. One of the pleasures of traveling in the Hokuriku area is being able to sink into a relaxing hot spring bath.