Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Kanazawa - Japan

You can check out our full 11-day Japan Itinerary here.

Day 7
Today we travelled from Nagano to our next stop of Kanazawa.  The main attraction here was to visit one of the ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’, called, ‘Kenrokuen Garden’ as well as to help break up our journey back to the south west to visit Kyoto. 

Elderly Japanese ticket worker in Nagano station

On the old school train from Nagano to Kanazawa

We took the cute little train to the main Nagano station, from there we used our JR passes to take the train to Kanazawa station.  We had booked ourselves a well-situated but budget hotel called Toyoko Inn Kanazawa.  They had a shuttle service from the main station to the hotel but unfortunately this didn’t start until around 4pm, which is also when their check-in opens! We got there by public bus and left our bags to go and see the garden.    It was hard to fathom the amount of snow piled up at the side of the streets and covering the tops of rooftops and cars.  Kanazawa is large and not the kind of city that can just grind to a halt because of the weather.  The snow was obviously no surprise as many of the roads and pavements had built in sprinklers to prevent the snow from sticking.  Many of the smaller streets, however, didn’t and you’re at the mercy of ice and slush!

Statues in Kanazawa look like their playing in the snow

The garden was a 15-minute walk from the hotel and when we arrived, the snow really gave it a unique and magical feeling.  It wasn’t too busy and overall the garden wasn’t as large as I had predicted.  We walked around the iced ponds and lakes, the snow-capped pagodas and teahouses and winding paths. The experience would be totally different in the spring or summer, as though visiting two completely different gardens.  All in all, we spent around two hours crunching the snow under our feet in the garden before heading out and into the nearby Kanazawa Castle.

The castle was also a sight to behold, especially as the snow was really coming down now and icicles, some that looked up to six feet long, protruded down sharply from terracotta tiles.  The grounds where the castle is situated are extensive.  There are a few watchtowers which look great as well as some original materials from an early 1700’s reconstruction (fire seemed to be a recurring problem throughout Japan) at the main entrance gate. 

Kanazawa Castle

Right next to our hotel is a branch of the ‘Oriental Brewing Company’ which was super convenient for pre-dinner drinks.  They also had a range of snacks on offer (we tried the deep-fried lotus root which was tasty).   They have their home brewed beers whilst also stocking other craft beers and the prices are reasonable. 

Oriental Brewing Company

Whilst we had been making the most of the Japanese cuisine available, we decided to embrace a local Indian/Nepalese restaurant, also close to the hotel, called ‘Aashirwad’.  The quality of the food and service was incredible.  If you do go, try the naan bread as it is to die for.  We ordered a fair amount of food and I didn’t think we would get through it all.  I was wrong. 

Indian/Nepalese banquet at Aashirwad

We were due to head to Kyoto the following day.  Our decision to have a nice one night stopover in Kanazawa was looking like it had been a great decision, and it would have been had things gone to plan...