Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kanazawa, Day 7

Feeling as though I’d seen most of the places I’d set out to see in Kanazawa, I decided to spend the morning and early afternoon walking around one of the temple districts.

I took the tourist bus, which was one of the best friends I made in Kanazawa, to stop number 12, backtracked a bit to Sakura Bashi Bridge, and crossed it.

I immediately came upon a small children’s park on a fairly quiet road to the side, and from there I climbed a stone stairs to an overlook above the Saigawa River.

It was fragrant of flowers here, and I bent over to one and snapped a quick photo.

I'm not sure what kind of flower this was, but it filled the air with its perfume.

I continued walking along the path that connected the stairs to the Teramachi temple district, which extends several blocks over what is otherwise a residential section. There are a number of temples here, the majority of which are quite small and either completely unmarked or with information inscribed in Japanese.

I visited quite a few of the temples, turning down odd alleys now and then to see if they led anywhere special (they didn’t; they just led me to dead-ends or roads farther from where I wanted to be).

One of the temples I was looking for was Shogetsuji Temple. While I didn’t try to get inside the temple itself, as it was being used for some event and didn’t look particularly inviting from the outside anyway, I did find interesting its collection of stone statues, called jizo in Japanese.

Jizo are bodhisattva figures that offer protection to women, children, and travelers. Those that are decorated with hats, bibs, and other child-related accoutrements are often the work of parents who have lost children or whose children have survived some serious illness.

As you can see in the first jizo photo, there is also an altar here where people can offer prayers and burn incense.

After completing my walk of the Teramachi temple district's main road, I made a left turn shortly before the Saigawa Ohashi Bridge. I soon came across several more temples, the main attraction, and the most interesting of the temples I found in the district, being Myoryuji Temple.

This temple was built in 1643 and once served in part as a samurai hideout. A tour (in Japanese) of the temple’s interior costs ¥800 ($9.63); inside one can see an interior designed to thwart anyone (predominantly ninjas, apparently) unfamiliar with its hidden doors and stairways, secret rooms and tunnels, etc.

Although the temple grounds were small, I found them very explorable and was even invited inside the main hall for free.

There are a number of smaller structures surrounding the main building, which are worth sticking one’s head into and looking around.

From the northern edge of the Teramachi Temple area, I was within easy walking distance of Naga-machi Buke Yashiki district – the old samurai enclave, in other words. I’d visited here previously but had missed the Nomura-ke House, an old samurai home, so I thought I’d make a quick stop to check it out. It was about a 10-15 minute walk, and once I’d entered the old samurai enclave I was stopped on the sidewalk by a fast-talking man trying to get me to go inside some museum that didn’t look very interesting to me. When he asked where I was going I told him, but then he tried to convince me that there were no old samurai houses in Kanazawa. Then he tried to sell me a ticket once more to his museum. Confused but determined to find what I was sure existed, I told him no, walked about fifty more meters, and came across what I’d just been told couldn’t be found in Kanazawa.

I paid ¥500 ($6) to enter, and was greeted, in a manner of speaking, by the samurai outfit pictured below.

This house is definitely worth a visit, though it’s probably better to go, as I did, when there are very few other tourists around. The reason I say this is that the house is small and the rooms and corridors a bit cramped – the house is only a portion of its original size, apparently – and having fewer people around makes it easier to appreciate the peaceful gardens the house contains.

I walked back to my hotel from here – I could have taken a bus, but the walk back is pretty easy, though it did take about thirty or forty minutes. In an effort to save money I opted for a sad little lunch – a packaged sandwich (fried egg, fried pork, and tuna fish) and a bottle of milk tea.

I took it to a giant brass teapot sculpture called yakan tento suru, by Kazumasa Saegusa, outside of Kanazawa Station and ate my lunch there.

Not surprisingly, I was left completely unsatisfied with this “meal,” and as I was trudging through the department store between the station and my hotel, I stopped at a place called nana’s green tea. The menu here is amazing. (Seriously, click on the link, then double-click it to enlarge the photos on the menu.) I’ve never seen so many interesting items made with green tea.

I ended up ordering a green tea latte with mochi, sweet red beans, and whipped cream. It wasn’t as good as it looked – it was bitter and a bit grainy for my tastes, and although I could have added sugar to make it more palatable, I refuse to add sugar to any green tea.

When I got back to my hotel, it was time for a bath. And not the decent bath digs I had in my room, either, but the rotenburo bath on the top floor of the hotel. $63 a night is already a good price for a hotel in Japan, but with a great breakfast buffet and a beautiful indoor and outdoor rotenburo thrown in, this is an outstanding deal. A rotenburo works very much like an onsen does – you enter with a small towel from your room, store your clothes in a small locker, and head first to the bathing area to soap down and rinse very thoroughly.

Once you’re squeaky clean, it’s time to brave the near-blistering hot bath, of which my hotel had two. There’s also a cold bath (which I could only manage to enter to my knees, and even then I thought the cold might give me a heart attack) and sauna, but I much preferred the hot water (don’t immerse your towel in the water, though, since that might result in detergent residue making the water impure).

The outdoor bath was particularly nice, especially at night when the moon is overhead. There was a wind chime outside, which tinkled constantly in the breeze that circled about.

That night, in another misguided effort to save money, and because I wasn’t feeling very hungry, I decided to buy dinner, if I can use the term, at a Lawson’s store not far from Kanazawa station. As you can see, I wasn’t hurting for pre-made meal choices.

Not wanting anything to do with pre-boiled pasta, I opted for pre-steamed rice and pre-tempura-fried shrimp and veggies. I took it home, where I found it to be about as cold and soggy as I could stand. I still ate it.

I probably shouldn’t have, however, as that night I felt terrible and didn’t feel much better in the morning, either. But hey, it was “cheap” (about ¥600, or ~$7), and I might have learned a lesson out of having two convenience store meals in a single day...

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