Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Travels in Japan - Kanazawa

Famous last words - "I'll keep up with posting". HAHAHAHA. Oh, Nessie. You so silly!

Anyhow, we arrived in Kanazawa on a dreary, wet afternoon. Our apartment was visible from the train station, which was awesome given the rain, and when we got to the apartment we discovered they had provided umbrellas. Winning! I guess it must rain quite a lot in Kanazawa. 

Kanazawa is on the northern coast of Japan, and from memory was about two hours on the Shinkansen from Tokyo via Nageno. It's a little off the standard tourist route (there were some Asian tourists, I believe mostly domestic ones, but very few westerners) but is a nice little old town, with traditional tea and samurai districts, a castle, and some nice gardens. They also have a relatively new train station with a cool wooden sculpture out the front (which I believe is meant to represent a traditional Japanese drum of some kind), and free wifi in lots of places, hosted by the tourism board. The trees around town all had hemp rope on which initially confused us, but then we realised it was to support the trees in the snow, and it actually looks quite pretty in its own right. 

We only had an hour or so of daylight left once we got our act together, so we headed out to the nearest, driest point of interest on the tourism map, being the local produce markets. This is where we discovered that Kanazawa is pretty big on seafood, which momentarily freaked us out as we're not especially big on seafood. But as it turns out, it wasn't a problem as there were plenty of other foods on offer.

So we wandered around the makets for a while, grabbed some strawberries and pineapple on sticks - pretty amazing, especially as fruit seems to be a less common part of a diet here, although perhaps I've been looking in the wrong places?? - and I selected my vending machine offering of the day: Hot matcha tea to warm a freezing cold hand. 

Then we splashed about town briefly before throwing in the towel (haha! See what I did there?? Wet? Towel? Hah!). Luckily tori gates do look quite striking in the rain. 

Eventually we found our way to a yakitori bar for dinner. They thoughtfully provided enough information in English to allow us to avoid eating skewered and fried pig/chicken gut/liver/cartilage/rectum/heart/etc., all of which was on the menu. 

I'm really beginning to realise how poorly Australia caters to foreign tourists, too. I mean, you could argue that we don't serve anything strange enough for it to matter that much if you don't know what you're ordering, but it's all but unheard of for menus to exist in other languages in most restaurants, as far as I'm aware. Instead of having a confusing tourism campaign starring a fame-hungry model screeching "where the bloody hell are ya?", perhaps providing menus in other languages, or actually having helpful signage on or around public transport, or encouraging residents not to act like jerks when someone who doesn't speak English well asks them for directions, or just not dropping our rubbish on the ground/graffitiing public infrastructure/showing no consideration towards others may all aid in Australia becoming a more palatable destination. Just sayin'.


Day two was spent wandering about one of the old tea districts, eating ice cream with gold leaf sprinkled on top (true story! We're so darned fancy), 
 and checking out the gardens and palace grounds (we arrived too late in the day for the tour...but on the bright side admission was free as a result). 

Oh, and eating more ice cream!
And we spotted the ubiquitous postie bike, which sounds exactly the same as the ones at home, no matter how it's kitted out. 

The next day involved a visit to a ninja temple (which sadly was completely unrelated to ninjas, but was named thusly because it is full of "tricks" (mostly secret passages and creative ways to maim enemies). Japan seems to use some words quite creatively, which can sometimes lead to disappointment. The ones I've noticed the most often are "studio" where it's more of a shop, "museum" where...it's more of a shop, or "castle/temple/palace" where is actually just some nice gardens in the location of the former castle/temple/palace, because these structures have a habit of repeatedly burning down, and sometimes they just stop rebuilding them. And in this case, ninjas where there are absolutely no ninjas and never have been. Sad face.), 
and a long walk home in the rain via another tea district, 
and through the old samurai district, and then a random dinner where we had no idea what we were ordering. But G managed to order chicken, and it came out looking like this. You cooked it yourself on a burner on the table and it was a pretty tasty dinner for a total shot in the dark. 
Oh, and of course, the vending machine offering for the day: some sort of hot milk tea, vaguely peachy in flavour. 

I should also mention that we had an awesome housemate in our Kanazawa apartment, who we later saw in Christmas with in Kyoto. But that's another story for another night.

Next stop: Kyoto!

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