From July 13th to July 16th I went together with three interns and a japanese friend to the capital of the 石川県 (Ishikawa Prefecture) namely 金沢 (Kanazawa). July the 16th despite being a Monday bared no working obligations to us, since it was a national holiday. Do not ask which holiday, since even several (even old) natives could not answer that question. Cite old Japanese lady: "Oh my these holidays keep changing so fast, there's no way you can keep up with what they are for". ;)
Nonetheless we took a night bus on Friday, the cheapest Japanese way of inter-prefecture traveling and arrived in 金沢 on Saturday. First we checked in our luggage, then we immediately began the 見物 (kenbutsu: Japanese word for exploring a city, ~sightseeing). What we have seen was:
The Ninja Temple (忍び寺)
In the midst of 石川's capital are many many temples, but this one struck us a especially interesting. The name was given to it only in recent times, formerly it was just the temple of whatever lord was in charge of the city. Though the name is apt, since it is spiked with traps, pitfalls, secret doors, secret passages and even secret floors. James Bond would had gotten envious had he lived in 17th century.
For example there was a couple of stairs leading to the entrance, which appeared as ordinary white stairs from the outside. Yet you once we stood underneath the stairs, we suddenly realized they were made out of paper, since the sunlight shone through them and enlightened the room. Now if you are armed with poles or pikes you can easily make use of this fine trap.
Also there was a well, which contains a hidden passage, according to legends leading directly to Kanazawa castle, but the passage is too old and dangerous now to find out...
Well apart from that every second wardrobe contained a secret passage into another room, so that intruders should get the idea after finding one or two....
Kanazawa Castle (金沢城)
Though not through the well hidden passage xD we went to the castle. It had fallen victim to a fire and was only rebuilt recently. Impressive though was that they used the ancient traditional way of crafting wood in a way, that it can not only hold structures like a huge castle, but also withstand earthquakes and the like. And all that without nails or other tools! This is the Japanese way of preserving history: Instead of preserving the structures, like Europeans do, Japanese rather preserve the ideas and rebuilt the structures every so often.
Samurai District (侍区)
The city has an old samurai district, which is still inhabited. Alas that is why, we could only look at the houses from the outside. An as you might imagine, the prosperous samurai build tall hedges around their property, as a kind of security and privacy matter.
Geisha District (芸者区)
Otherwise the geisha district was openly accessible, as it of course was built with this intent. No more geisha dwell there today, but the street and the houses are still marvelous. We also entered a museum like one and studied their instruments tools and the interior of the rooms of a geisha etablisement.
This huge garden is one of the most famous in whole Japan. Maybe that's why in spite of the rain many people were there. It would indeed be a quite place of inspiration and rest if it wasn't for all that people.
The next day, Sunday, we went to the neighboring town of 加賀 (Kaga), which is more Japanese countryside and was accordingly much smaller and less crowded with tourists.
City Festival (加賀祭)
We were really lucky, because we ran into an annual festival were performers from all around Japan come to 加賀 and perform on the street. It was really impressive, look at the pictures!
Well we did not really find a real hot spring, but at least a somewhat special bath house in so far that it used sea water. Japanese bath houses you enter completely naked, then you clean yourself and enter a really hot bad. Ours had 42 degrees. Afterwards you shower cold. We were pretty burned afterwards and our skin was all red!
The Sea (海)
In 加賀 we went also to the sea side, watched the sea and climbed around rocks close to the water. It was really nice! Afterwards we went along the shore until we found 加賀s fishers' haven.
This was probably the most beautiful thing, we've seen on our trip. It's a kind of huge temple areal in the nature of 加賀. The natural landscape is wonderful and the temples are built within the mountain / rocks. If you climb up you them having tunnels into the mountains and paths and bridges to the other temples. Alas we had only a couple of minutes until the last bus left, so we could not really enjoy this awesome place. But if you ever come to 金沢 or 加賀, be sure to visit it!
On Monday morning, when we wanted to take our bus back to Atsugi, a man informed us, that the bus won't come, nor any other bus or train, since the neighboring prefecture Niigata 新潟 was hit by a terrible earthquake, which destroyed streets and rails. So we were stuck unable to escape from 金沢. After much asking, we found out that they were hardly trying to fix at least the rails for the shinkansen 新幹線 the Japanese high velocity train. So even if it was really expensive, we decided to go back by shinkansen, which eventually left at 17:00 o'clock. 新幹線 apart from being quick and expensive are really comfortable and you don't really feel the high velocity.
Thus ended my first real trip in Japan, which was hopefully not the last!
Tune in again for more exciting adventure.
The entrance to the Ninja-temple. Alas we were not allowed to take pictures inside.
Pictures of the wonderful wood temple at the end of our day in Kaga.
Kenrokuen, the famous garden of Kanazawa.
From left to right: Sebastien, Tor, me, Loic
And here's also Junko.
The Geisha district.
The interior of a Geisha house.
The big Toori in front of Kanazawa station.
The view from Kanazawa castle
The festival in Kaga.
Since we had to wait, because of the earthquake, we went shopping in Kaga. Of course only in small and old shops.