You Win Some, You Lose Some

The locals are so friendly here in Kanazawa

Brrrrrr… boy it’s cold out there. I’m in Kanazawa now, which is up close to the coast of the Sea of Japan. I arrived late morning coming from Kyoto and although Kyoto was cold (8 to 10 degrees) we are now entering new territory. The sign said 2 degrees when I arrived about 11am. Yep.

But the upside? Snow! And lots of it. Not that nice drizzle we got in Kyoto that didn’t last, but a foot of snow everywhere. But it has its upsides and downsides which I will get to.

So the train was uneventful in the best way, but that is what Japanese trains seem to be… nice and reliable (touch wood). What was great about this trip was that only about 15 minutes out of Kyoto the snow arrived, and didn’t let up the whole 2 or so hours to Kanazawa. So cool (it better be… I am settling in for a week and a half of snow).

The trip to Kanazawa was about a few things. One was getting a little more off the beaten track, although Kanazawa is hardly off the track. It is a city (200,000 people or so) and is world renowned for its main gardens which draws lots of tourists. So I am hardly the first. But it takes a little effort so is not on the radar for most. Secondly obviously to go somewhere new. Thirdly, it is a roundabout way to Nagano. And fourth, the gardens I speak of.

First things though was to drop my bag off. I met my lovely host at Guesthouse Namaste. This was a guesthouse in the true sense… nice and small and run by a charming man who could not be more helpful from the first second. Within half an hour my next 6 hours were planned.


So armed with my map and helpful instructions, I headed off to see the sights of Kanazawa. First of all was a swing by the local Fish Market. Kind of like a smaller version of Tokyo Fish Market, I think by the time I was there a lot of the action had disappeared. But it allowed be to get some octopus on a stick to munch on for lunch (I seem to be eating a lot of octopus). Nothing too wacky out there, but a LOT of crabs.

Sapporo Beer... favoured by Geishas

From there is was a meander to the old Geisha district which now operates mainly as a quaint alley for teahouses. Although I did spy the above advert on the way. Maybe the geishas were beer drinkers too?

Not a Geisha to be seen. Lots of tea houses though.

So I arrived at the Higashi Chayagai district to have a look. Quite a small area, but some quaint lanes with old teahouses, each advertising their wares outside.

Not sure what they are selling but it looks nice!

Apparently this is the area for gold leaf as well, but none that I could spy. One tea house even serves it up for you to drink I hear.


My advised path then took me toward the famed gardens. But as I approached something pretty impressive got my attention. Castle! How I love Japanese castles. I know I didn’t worry with the Kyoto one the other day (I think I was just building-ed out by that point) but this looked amazing.

The main problem when attacking the castle is cold, wet, feet

The snow added to the dramatic effect. What was great is that it was free to just wander in the grounds and soak it all up.

Snow shenanigans

Given all the snow, I couldn’t help but get into some snow hijinks. I am sure this time in two weeks I will be cursing the cold and wet, but right now I am loving it.

Japanese castles are too cool

So a wander around the castle grounds bought great images at every turn. Makes me want to visit more castles now (which I read just today one of the big 4 in Japan is just under an hour away from Nagano… hhmmm…).

Protecting the trees from winter

Next up, the famed Kenrokuen Gardens. I was pretty excited for these as they are considered the primo gardens in all of Japan.

Wintery Gardens

This is where unfortunately things get a little disappointing. I am guessing the depths of winter is probably not the best time to see the Kenrokuen Gardens. It makes complete sense, but as a result while the trees were still fairly green, everything else was quite barren.

Wintery Gardens 2

The snow made for some amazing parkland, however without the colour everything just blended a bit in to each other.

Wintery Gardens 3

I have it on good authority that the gardens are quite spectacular in season. Oh well, you win some you lose some, but it was hardly a big loss as I still spent a lot of time just wandering and soaking it all up.

More fancy self-portrait

Always time for self portraits too.

From there I wandered past the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Only a little pop in as I wanted to get to the samurai building district before the sun went down.

No samurai either... maybe they are out with the geishas

This district is where the samurai used to live and the mud brick walls are evidence of that. It is mainly peoples residences now, but like the geisha district, the charm of the old is still there.

Then it was back to the hostel, seeing the odd thing on my travels…

I don't know what it means either

Local gangster and his ladies

And with that, 5 or 6 hours of wandering came to a close. Grabbing some food I have spent the evening at the Guesthouse typing away. Tomorrow is 4-5 hours of train to Nagano where I will set up camp for 4 days. That will be the base for a few things… snowboarding, maybe a castle, and snow monkeys! Until Nagano…


  1. AyakoGlen
    January 9, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Kanazawa. The garden is impressive in warmer weather. The castle looks much more impressive in snow though. The photo of the dude with the girls is for a ceremony for young adults when they turn 20 years old. Enjoy the cold weather. It is a little warmer still here (maybe 7 degrees today) in Nagoya.

  2. Carmel D
    January 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Fantastic blog Matt – sounds like you’re in Kit Kat heaven!!

  3. January 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    great photos. When you come home you can thaw out.

  4. lavenderfarm
    January 11, 2012 at 9:54 am

    You ate their octopus on a stick???? I’ve seen it on TV – with tenticles and all. Brrrr…. Please say it was not moving and that it was cooked! I would probably pass out just watching you eat it. LOL I normally love embracing local culture but I obviously have certain barriers here.


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