Kanazawa, Takayama, Shirakawa-go

Dear readers,

I’m so sorry I haven’t posted anything in so long. A lot has happened in the past two months, so some of you know why I have been quiet, others might not know, but the important thing is that everything is going well now and I’m ready to write again!

Since I haven’t been able to write about stuff for a long time, there’s a lot of catching up to do. Unfortunately I don’t entirely remember everything I’ve done, but I can talk about the longer trips, starting with our trip to Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawa-go.

Four years ago when I was in Japan, I promised my dad to go to Takayama to see if I could find the stone he left on a torii (the orange gates you find at shrines). Unfortunately I ran out of money so I wasn’t able to go, but I promised myself I would go next time. At this time my friends and I were looking for a destination to go to together since it would be our last opportunity for a trip before half of us was going home. Since we had about 4 days off, we decided to go to Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawa-go all in one trip. Starting with Kanazawa were my friend Tomomi, whom I met 4 years ago in Tokyo, worked in a hostel.

KANAZAWA
Hassan, Sebastiaan, Max and I arrived in Kanazawa in the afternoon after a beautiful three hour busride where we saw a snowstorm and half an hour later were driving past the beach. Kanazawa is quite an old town and especially famous for Japanese tourist to go to. The name Kanazawa means ‘marsh of gold’ since a lot of gold was found in this city. The city produces almost all of Japan’s gold leaf and you notice that throughout the city. Everywhere you can find shops were they sell gold plated souvenirs, or even food and drinks with gold in/on it which the Japanese consider as healthy. It’s really cool and I couldn’t help myself buying a bag of tea with gold flakes.

In Kanazawa you can find the some cool locations to visit. We decided to go to Kenroku-en, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. The garden is beautiful and big. When we walked in from the W/SW side we found a beautiful tea house and had a cup of Matcha, traditional Japanese tea made of fresh green leaves. With your matcha you always get sweets. Matcha is really bitter, so eating the sweets before drinking the matcha makes it a lot better. After you finish the tea, you slurp out the last bit to let the host know you’re finished and they can pick it up. We finished the matcha, slurped and looked around the tea house and it’s garden. It was beautiful. The park itself was also great. You get some great views of the city and can see many different plants and trees and ponds. It should be especially beautiful in autumn (Momiji season) and spring with the ume trees and cherry blossom.

Our next stop for that day was the 21st century museum. An amazing modern art museum and a famous one in Japan and the rest of the world I believe. The museum is very interactive and great for kids as well as adults. We saw some really interesting art like a giant robot bear that was moving by solar energy and of course the famous ‘swimming pool’. People can stand underneath this pool and look up and for people at the edge of the pool it looks like people are standing under water, a really cool experience. Unfortunately we decided not to go to the castle since it was not the original building anymore after it was rebuild because of a huge fire in 1988, but instead we went to the old part of town where we had a tour of one of the really old houses and were explained how people used to live there and how the house was used. In the evening Alex and Naomi arrived and we were getting ready for our next day; a visit to the beach.

From our hostel, it was about a 30 minute bike ride to the beach. We took our rented bikes and cycled to a beautiful park with the beach behind it. The beach however was so filled with rubbish that we couldn’t believe our eyes. We found Chinese, Korean and Japanese rubbish and a lot of stuff from ships like giant lightbulbs for example. It was a horrible sight to see, but nevertheless the ocean still looked beautiful and we got to spend some nice time there. In the evening, after getting tickets for our bus to Takayama and Shirakawa-go, we went out for dinner to a Chinese restaurant with Tomomi and had a very fun night where Tomomi and I could finally catch up on what happened the past 4 years.

 

SHIRAKAWA-GO
Early morning on Sunday we left for Shirakawa go, where we had about 3 hours to spend. Shirakawa-go is an old mountain village on the world heritage list with very different old Japanese-style houses from what I’ve seen before. The houses were build in a style called Gasshō-zukur, which means ‘prayer hands construction’. They have steep roofs, kind of like Dutch roofs, but a lot steeper, which makes the roof look like the way hands are hold during a prayer.  This construction together with the thatching, makes the roof very strong and especially resistant to the weight of snow. The inside of these houses is very different from what I had seen before. They have very big open rooms with a fireplace in the middle. The fireplace heats the whole house, from bottom to top. We walked around it and had some tea before going back into the cold to check out the rest of the village. It’s a good place to experience a different way of the lives of Japanese people.

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TAKAYAMA
The second part of the day we spent in Takayama, a small town close to Shirakawa-go that dates back to the Jomon period (12000 BCE-300 BCE). Since almost every town in Japan is famous for something, so is Takayama. Next to Takayama being the home to two of the most famous autumn and spring festivals, Takayama is said to be the town where some of the best carpenters used to live that worked on the palace in Kyoto and multiple Kyoto temples. Since this is such a historic town, there is a very beautiful old part with merchants houses dating back to the edo period (1603-1868). It was beautiful to walk around there. In these houses a lot of sake breweries can be found, so if you’re looking for some original sake or want to try some, this would be a very good place! Other things to do in Takayama are for example hiking and visiting the multiple temples, shrines and the former local government office (Takayama Jinya).

Since we didn’t have a lot of time, I tried to find the spot my mom and dad took the picture at 22 years ago. It was quite difficult to find since I only had the picture and the name of the city. After some extensive internet research I decided that I probably found the spot where it had to be. Hassan, Max, Sebastiaan and I walked around the town towards the little shrine. After walking uphil for about 15 minutes I saw a small red torii and yes! I FOUND IT! I ran towards it, got my camerabag to film and take pictures and then… dropped it. Bam, bye bye camera. I don’t know why it broke because it was in the bag and fell from about 20 cm height, but it broke anyway :'(. Well, luckily Max was there with his camera, so I could borrow it and take some pictures and a video. The moment of truth, was the stone still there? …. You can see it in the video https://youtu.be/oifTPOeZo5U   ;). After leaving behind a stone behind for my dad to pick up (he’s coming in April/May, so it will be a lot easier) we left Takayama and enjoyed our fun busride back to Kyoto. It was the end of another amazing trip with amazing friends. I’ll definitely go back there some day.

pap en ik

Thanks for reading this crazy long story, let me know if you have questions!

Hannah

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