Postcards from Kanazawa

Tomorrow sees the arrival of Japan’s first Golden Week holiday for 2020, with a further three holidays set for the start of next week. Of course, during this time millions would usually be on the move – visiting their hometowns, or off to sunnier climes in Okinawa. This year? Not so much. While the government can’t actually stop people travelling, I’m pretty sure most Japanese people are finally starting to get the message that for the coronavirus State of Emergency to work, we all need to restrict our movements. And so, this year (at least in Tokyo) Japan’s beloved Golden Week has officially been renamed ‘Stay Home Week.’ For obvious reasons, we won’t be up to anything overly glamorous over the next few weeks – but here’s a look back at our last trip to Kanazawa from just before Japan (and the world) got turned upside down. Stay safe, everyone!

1. Kanazawa trip Oimachi station

As we set off, the sun was shining on the Oimachi platform, a station just a few stops from Tokyo…

2. Kanazawa trip Shinkansen

Where we caught our shinkansen! I still always feel the need to take a picture of these trains every time I’m beside one.

3. Kanazawa trip shinkansen 2

Let’s go to Kanazawa!

4. Kanazawa trip Fuji from train

As the train left Tokyo, Fuji was clearly visible, seemingly perched on top of an expressway. It’s actually quite surprising how easily you can spot Mount Fuji from random places in Tokyo.

5. Kanazawa trip cloudy mountains over Nagano

The further west we headed, the cloudier it got. Rain was forecast for our first day, but thankfully it only lasted a few hours. I stared out the window as the train sped silently past the Japanese Alps.

6. Kanazawa trip Kanazawa station

Kanazawa station’s intricate interior…

7. Kanazawa trip Kanaazawa station 2

And exterior! This huge gate was designed to evoke the image of the tsuzumi, a type of Japanese drum.

9 Kanazawa trip tempura lunch set

After we checked in to our hotel we set out for some lunch. A tempura set…

8. Kanazawa trip matcha chasoba

With chasoba – soba noodles made with green tea.

11. Kanazawa trip samurai district nagamachi

Our hotel was not too far from Nagamachi, a samurai district located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, where samurai and their families used to reside. With clouds hanging overhead, and knotted trees growing from the cracks, it was atmospheric to walk around these old alleyways.

12. Kanazawa trip samurai district nagamachi

Nagamachi in Kanazawa

13. Kanazawa trip river dusk

In comparison to Tokyo’s 13.5 million, Kanazawa has a population of 465,000 which makes walking about this city a quiet affair. It has a few central areas, but just a few blocks outside these places it becomes eerily empty. My first impression was that it looks like it’s in decline: storefronts and signage which were obviously modern about 30 years ago, are now lonely and rusting. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. It’s just different.

17. Kanazawa trip game center old retro

One of Kanazawa’s many textured buildings: there’s still beauty in these scenes.

14. Kanazawa trip building dusk

A gorgeous evening glow shines on a strange building. I felt like this belonged in Twin Peaks.

15. Kanazawa trip temple dusk

A neglected temple in Kanazawa at dusk.

16. Kanazawa trip restaurant night

A restaurant glowing, waiting for its first customers of the evening.

18. Kanazawa trip tree

The next day, the sun was shining. A quiet morning filled with greens, blues and whites.

19. Kanazawa trip tree 2

And a huge piece of broccoli

21. Kanazawa trip Ishiura shrine torii gates 2

At Ishiura shrine, we found a red pathway of torii gates.

20. Kanazawa trip Ishiura shrine tori gates

And went for a stroll

22. Kanazawa trip Ishiura shrine chozuya

The chozuya, where you cleanse your hands, was filled with floating flowers. I’d never seen this before in a Japanese temple.

23. Kanazawa trip Ishiura shrine 4

The sun casting a nice light over Ishiura shrine.

24. Kanazawa trip Ishiura shrine 5

Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper that you can usually purchase at shrines for about 100 or 200 yen. If your predicted fortune is bad, it’s customary to tie up your paper and leave it at the temple. I guess a lot of people had bad fortunes here!

10. Kanazawa trip Kenrokuen, Kanazawa sunshine 1

The best shade of green. I wrote a separate post about our visit to beautiful Kenrokuen here.

25. Kanazawa trip modern art museum

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art was completely rammed when we went, ie. hundreds of people lining up to get in. This was just as social distancing was becoming a thing around the world, and so we stayed away (plus I couldn’t be bothered to wait). Instead, we just browsed in the museum shop, chilled out in the grounds…

26. Kanazawa trip curry rice lunch

And then went and grabbed some lunch at a nearby cafe. This curry rice was great, featuring a different type of curry on each side.

27. Kanazawa trip local restaurant chinese showa

While dinner was at an old-school mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant: sparkling clean, but equally old, its decor unchanged from the 80s.

28. Kanazawa trip empty shinkansen

An empty carriage on the train back to Tokyo. It was totally full on the way up, but because we left early in the day, we beat the crowds on our return trip. Now, of course, the train would be empty for different reasons… I wonder how long it will be before Japan is open for business once again?

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  1. Kane Tan

    Wow. I got a very meta moment in your photo of that rusting building, and then from the reference to Twin Peaks… both likely from the same eras!

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