Gardens, samurai homes and geisha streets – Japan 2006

Our day began with a Japanese breakfast at the ryokan. Cooked fish, pickled vegetables, omelette, miso soup and rice. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined, but neither was it by preferred way to start the day.

We then stepped out of the ryokan and wandered down to the nearby Nagamachi samurai district, bounded by two canals of gushing water. Behind the wooden and the straw and mud clad walls of the old houses were magnificent gardens with ponds fed by the canals.

The Nomura Family Samurai House was a wonderful example. The small garden was incredible in its use of trees, moss, stone and water, giant carp drifting through the narrow waterways.

In the upper level, seated on the straw tatami flooring we drank traditionally frothed green tea and soaked up the warmth from the heater.

Our next stop was a silk dyeing house where fabric for kimonos was made. The process is very involved with intricate designs painted on the fabric, masked with rice paste, the remainder of fabric dyed, steamed and washed in running water. Wonderful designs, but unfortunately beyond our budget.

From Nagamachi we walked to the Omicho market. Stalls sold mainly a huge variety of seafood and other foodstuffs. Most was fresh, including a hacked apart octopus whose big limbs still twisted around. We hoped to by cheap donburi as suggested by Lonely Planet, but the food was mostly sushi or grilled yakitori.

Our route to Kanazawa Castle Park took us past a gorgeous row of cherry blossoms. From the lookouts above the castle the snow covered mountains were visible. Much of the park appeared semi-wild, with pretty green and red maples amongst the many trees.

We then crossed into Kenrokuen Garden, wending our way along the paths and enjoying the many statues, lanterns, streams and tea houses in the daylight.

We made a brief detour to the Museum for Traditional Arts and Crafts where we admired the regional pottery, lacquerware, fabric dyeing and other items.

The Higashi geisha district was our next stop and our walking route took us through a beautiful cherry tree and statue garden at the Eastern end of the Castle Park. The main geisha street preserve was quiet, but the wooden walls and lattices gave it texture. It would have been interesting to visit at night when the gas lamps were lit.

To end off the day we caught a bus back to the area near our hotel to search for souvenir craft works. The Daiwa department store was the only one of three in the area to feature local crafts, and their range was not great. Instead we bought sushi and fried fish for dinner from their basement food court.

We did purchase some beautiful pottery at another store on Katamachi. Then back to the ryokan to wash some clothing in their cheap machine. Their dryer isn’t so great and now we have washing hanging up around our room.

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