Japan 2010: Day 10 (Kanazawa)

Day 10, Saturday. On this morning, I said goodbye to my Okazaki hotel (AB Hotel Okazaki, which I recommend) and headed to the city of Kanazawa for a two-day trip with one of my best friends in Okazaki. This was originally going to be a one-day trip, but we found that we could add an extra day for only an extra 3000 yen, so I'm like, why the heck not? I didn't get many other chances to head out to unknown places, after all. (I'd like to mention that I took over 850 photos just on this trip alone. I think I have a problem.)

We shipped (or rather, trained?) out on an express train called the Shirasagi from Meitetsu Nagoya Station around 10 AM and found ourselves winding through small towns and beautiful mountains and fields for the next 3 hours. Along the way, we chatted and just generally joked around as we usually do. The 3 hours flew by.

Around one, we arrived at Kanazawa Station and checked into our hotel, which was very close by and offered a very nice thirteenth-floor view of most of the city. Sweet.

Once we got our belongings settled, we headed out into the city. The first thing that we did was buy an all-day bus pass, which turned out to be an excellent purchase. Riding around, I saw that the city was larger than I'd expected. (I thought the same of Okazaki back when I arrived in 2006.)

Our first sight-seeing stop was the so-called Ninja-dera that actually has nothing to do with ninjas at all, Myouryuuji (妙立寺). I was surprised that it is located on a fairly small, nondescript street in the city. It is essentially a temple full of booby traps to thwart invaders. That might have been the first time that I've seen an actual trap door. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside.

When we entered, we sat and listened to a recorded message about the history of the temple. It was an older guy speaking using some archaic-sounding constructions, so I didn't understand much of it at all. I was despairing this until my friend, who is Japanese, informed me that she didn't understand it so well either. Relief!

Fortunately, the actual tour guide was a young woman who spoke very clearly and in normal-human-speak as well. I was marveling at her Japanese as much as the temple, truthfully. She didn't misspeak or trip over her words even once. I wonder how many times she's done that tour to have it down that well.

Anyway, the temple itself, as I said, is full of deceptive doors, floors, and walls. Some of them are really pretty clever. I'm not too sure what else to say, except that I think it's worth a visit if you get a chance. Here, have some photos of the exterior!

After that, we left and went walking through the Nishi Chaya District (にし茶屋街) a bit, just wandering about. We then hopped a bus to Kenrokuen (兼六園), one of the Three Great Gardens in Japan. It is indeed quite beautiful, full of lush greenery, flowing streams, and even containing Japan's oldest fountain.

After walking through the park, we decided to stop by the Kanazawa Castle Park (金沢城公園), which was quite beautiful as well.

After some more exploring, we ended up back at Kanazawa Station, which itself is pretty awesome-looking:

We rested for a while until evening, then headed out to sing karaoke together. My friend has an amazing voice and so I was looking forward to it. We took the bus to the local Cote D'Azur and, to our surprise, were assigned an enormous room with a stage and everything. The sound quality of the room was a bit lacking, but it was great fun.

And after that, curry at Coco Ichibanya, the place that I came to like when I first when to Tokyo with Mom.


After all of this, we headed back to the hotel and conked out for the night.

The next day, after buying another bus pass, we took a bus to an area of town with a lot of older, smaller businesses in a residential neighborhood. I'm not sure what it was called, so I'll distract you with more photos!

Once done, we hopped the bus again to a shopping area named 近江街 (I'm not sure how to read that).

After walking about for a while, we hopped another bus (see why we bought that pass?) and headed to a museum that looked interesting and cheap. We exited the bus right in front of it, but there was an interesting looking place right across the street that needed some visitin' first:

And then we crossed the street to visit the museum. I couldn't take photos of the most of the interior, though.

Probably my favorite piece in the whole thing.

By this point, we were running out of time, so we returned to the hotel to have some tea before gathering our belongings and boarding our train back to Okazaki.

When we arrived back in Okazaki, I picked up the suitcase I'd left at my friend's place and then got a ride up to the northern side of Okazaki, up in the mountains, to the next place at which I'd be staying: a Japanese family's place. My first-ever homestay! Stay tuned!

Japan 2010: Day 9

Day 9 in Japan was another day in which I was able to lounge around a bit.

I ran out of toothpaste so I decided to walk down to B&D, a local drugstore, in the light rain to buy some and pick up some souvenir snacks as well. On the way back I, by chance, walked through the Okazaki Civic Center outdoor walkway and, upon seeing the library within, thought that maybe I'd kill some time there.

I entered only to find Matsubara-san, a kindly older lady whom I met at Kurashi no Gakkou (暮らしの学校) during my original stay in Japan, sitting right near the entrance. I was hoping to see her while in Japan, but I had no idea how to reach her and had pretty much given up on the idea, so this was really lucky.

She was overjoyed to see me and probably three times as shocked as I was. She immediately invited me to tea at the cafe in the Civic Center, where we caught up for about thirty minutes. She just couldn't stop going on about how our meeting was like a dream and how glad she was that was could meet. It really was quite ぐうぜん to meet like that.

She invited me to write a message in her notebook, so I found an empty spot and did just so (in Japanese). She was impressed that I didn't have one mistake in my message (which I was glad to hear—I even threw in some keigo for her) and asked me to write something in English and sign my name as well.

After taking a photo together, I had to head out for a lunch appointment with someone, so I bid her a thankful adieu and headed back out into in the rain. I deposited my B&D goods at the hotel and then walked to Yamasa to meet my lunch partner, a buddy from the old days I always wanted to spend more time with. We dined at Kitsutsuki, the on-campus cafe. I was surprised that the ladies that run the place remembered me, but indeed they did. Lunch was delicious and the conversation, most enjoyable.

As I my lunch partner and I left, I saw one of the two fellows that I met the other day at W-san's house sitting in the cafe, so I after seeing off my friend, I returned and chatted a while with him and the other fellow, who'd come in my absence. These are guys with whom I share a similar view of Japan and ended up exchanging stories and whatnot for at least 30 minutes. I even went a little senpai on them and offered some advice regarding studying Japanese and places to visit in Okazaki. Great guys that I'm sure I'll keep in touch with.

As I mentioned before, they are SILAC (short-term) students and they said that they impressed that I did the whole two years. Funny thing is, they asked if anyone else had done that. I'd never even though about that before. I don't. To the best of my knowledge, I'm the only one of my Yamasa generation (the Greatest Generation™) that went the whole two years. (Neo came close, though.) Maybe that just shows my insanity, but still, I guess that is kind of cool, objectively speaking.

After a while, we all parted ways and I found myself wandering about my old Hane-higashi (羽根東町) neighborhood for a while. I went by Seiyu for a while and bought some souvenirs. Once I left there, I decided to see if Hane Shokudou (羽根食堂), right down the street, was still there. It was indeed, so I went in for a quick bite for old times' sake. Delicious. I pretty much had the place to myself as well.

That evening, I went to Nagoya to meet a few folks. The first was my old classmate Andy, so just happened to be attending a goodbye party for an acquaintance that I (just happen to) know. Unfortunately, though, the location of the get-together was quite tough to find (I later heard), a situation exacerbated by the fact that I rushed out of the hotel to catch my train without taking any information with me. I ended up walking the streets for an hour in the rain looking for the blasted place but to no avail. Sorry, Andy!

I was, however, able to meet up with someone else, the friend that I'd be traveling to Kanazawa with the very next day. I met my friend on the street and she guided me to the restaurant and introduced me to her co-worker, with whom we'd be having dinner.

After walking around in the rain for an hour, I wet, tired, and a bit grumpy—and nothing hurts my Japanese ability more than being tired—so I was worried about how it would go, but it went quite swimmingly. My friend's friend is a blast. I guess I made a good impression because, by the end of the night, she was telling me (in quite good English) that I was very interesting and funny. I like the way she thinks! (Har!)

When we left the restaurant and were walking down the rainy street, I ran into no other than Aritaki-sensei! Yet another lucky meeting! I called out to her and, yeah, she was about as shocked as you could imagine. We chatted briefly and took a photo together before parting ways. That was awesome. A great bonus for the evening.

Anyway, I found myself back at my hotel for the last time that evening. The next evening would be spent in Kanazawa!