October 16, 2008

Kanazawa

Aha! I found my widget for transferring pics to the computer!

I'd been laid up a few days with a cold, a foot injury and there had been days of rain from a typhoon that hovered offshore. As my entire discretionary budget after various fiascoes had ended up being <$400...for a month in Tokyo...I was coming to the end of my financial tether. Nevertheless I was determined to see something else not in the Tokyo area and as I was blessed with a rail pass transportation costs were not an issue. The problem was that  touristy places tend to require money, so with 3 days and ~
70 bucks left, I looked for something off the beaten path and cheap.
 
Kanazawa is unusual in that it is one of the few large cities that was outside the range of the B29s in World War Two. Reportedly much of the Edo period architecture remains unscathed. It is not on a bullet train line and can only be reached from Tokyo via a 6 hour overnight trip from Ueno station...either via a sleeper car or a normal train...as the rail pass is no good on sleeper cars I took the sitter car.

In stark contrast to the shinkansen and other trains I saw on the east coast, the train to Kanazawa was a retro special.



....So much so that I was one of several who wanted a picture of it.....


Unlike the non-bullet trains on Kyushu that I took to Nagasaki (but like the Shinkansen) this one was electric, but it was far less gracefully appointed. Like most older facilities I encountered in Japan, it was well maintained to the point that it appeared to have been dropped almost new out of the 1950s.



Arriving in Kanazawa station, the retro sort of feel was reinforced by the old style commuter trains that were stopping there. The stations embarking area was quite old apart from what appeared to be a recently redone floor....



Beneath the station and the whole city I later found out is a network of underground walkways, similar to those at the big stations in Tokyo, but without any shops. Very stark, modern and utilitarian, they look like sets from Logans Run or something





The locations in this series of tubes were, shall we say,  unimaginatively named



Up the stairs! There was a wheelchair transporter available if needed...the platform was retracted into the wall, but it would have ridden on this geared assembly.



Emerging into Kanazawa station proper, the retro feel was....well...lost.



Holy frickking crap! The train station in Kanazawa is huge, ultra modern, and seriously impressive. This gate is made of cypress like a shrine gate, but is of massive size (and steel reinforced). It appears to be over 80 feet high and is surrounded by fountains. The trees, though large, are, in fact, bonsai trees!



Oh look...modern art...carefully designed to create maximum loss of life in the event of an earthquake....



The food court in the station is huge, and aside from a McDonalds seems to consist entirely of local restaurants serving Chinese, Korean or the local (known as Kaga) cuisine. It is unbelievably diverse and surprisingly cheap. I hit a Kaga (mainly seafood) place shortly after arriving and a Chinese joint before I left. I did not spend more than 10 bucks either time....and despite being a food court in a train station, it was not mall food at all. It was excellent.



Adjoining the station is a bathouse...with washing machines and comfy chairs. It is only 120 yen for 3 hours, so, after a bath, doing my laundry and a 2.5 hour nap I was pale, rested and ready to see this historic city.

The Kanazawa tour bus costs 500 yen and in the US would be a children s bus at a kiddie park. I was the first on the bus and got a seat, however as the company uses the clown car method of bus packing, and because there was an elderly lady standing, I spent the ride standing up, hunched over and contemplating how short its interior was. The only non Japanese on the bus were a young Russian couple and they, like me, were too small for the hobbit bus...so when the conductor announced that "We are about to stop at a tourist trap." (!) ..the three of us extracted ourselves with some difficulty.

Looking at the map, I saw that the whole bus route was a bit less than 10 miles.  We decided that we were not getting on that hobbit bus again.




Kanazawa has an interesting history, from 1488-1580 it was ruled more or less democratically by the peasants, as opposed to the more traditional feudal arrangement. This "peasants kingdom" was conquered after a hundred years but Kanazawa continued to have a somewhat independent flavor and because of its position on the west coast have contacts  (often quite unofficial) with Korea and China.The city has been unusually spared the sort of disasters that have hit other cities, very few earthquakes (though here was very minor damage from last years Niigata quake) no major fires (outside of he castle), being on the west coast it is spared the brunt of typhoons, and as mentioned, it was beyond the range of the B29s. The result of this is that outside the banking district the city is astoundingly old.....


The city is designated a historic area, but it is a working town...these are, by and large, homes, shops, restaurants and offices, in buildings that are 400 years or more old....

A few newer buildings are interspersed in the older areas and a few had stucco and such added before the building codes were enacted to preserve the area, but a remarkably large swath of the city is composed of the same buildings that were there centuries ago!

The roads of course, have been paved and there have been utilities added (particularly power, water and sewers) so its not a living museum or anything, but its all the more remarkable that it is a perfectly functional city.

It seems that major repairs to pre Taisho period buildings are now required to use traditional techniques for things not involving plumbing or electrical repairs. At least one home was open to the public so these could be observed. The Russian couple and I went in and we guys began discussing the fact that it looked like they had standard sized boards and cuts of wood in feudal japan as well as the different techniques for running floor supports...

*

At which point the Russian lass broke morale and, determined that there were going to be no Tim Allen moments on her trip, drug her husband/boyfriend away from the bad influence American and I never saw them again.

Brickmuppet....awful diplomacy since 2008.


Where the facades were not traditional, hey were often corrugated. Like many other places I had observed  in Japan, (and like most of the US south) there are very wild differences in income level from door to door. Which makes for a more eclectic neighborhood

A 500 year old Konbinri...(convinience store) where I bought batteries for my camera. You might be surprised to learn that they carried Coca-Cola too....

In the historic areas most signs are less garish. I assume there are local ordinances that require they be traditional in appearance.

I came across a garden with half a dozen women taking pictures of Yoruichi here. So I took one too...

This is a statue of a famous female magician, or witch, or something...I'm not entirely sure. The statue is on the edge of what was once the Geisha quarter, so I assume she was an entertainer of some sort.

Unlike the rest of the city and the other castles I visited, Kanazawa Castle has suffered from fires, earthquakes and even wars. It is not in the best shape though it is undergoing meticulous repairs.

One of the wall has collapsed and is being rebuilt....

This has its advantages, since the tour is unsupervised and admission is only charged for part of the day.


Parts of the castle have been either very well preserved or very well restored....

And parts haven't.... Note too that the story that Kudzu is not a destructive force for chaos in its native environment is a lie....

This is the uppermost parapet, which was destroyed by fire in the 1880s. The castle suffered several fires, and was restored several times, but was not rebuilt to a great degree after the 1880s until recently.


Kanazawa is full of shrines....LOTS AND LOTS OF SHRINES. There are literally hundreds of them and they are active.

The girl is taking a picture of this....stained glass in a Shinto Shrine.

Kewell

There are gardens in the shrines..lots and lots of gardens.

As one approaches the station again the architecture becomes more contemporary culminating in the spectacular modern edifices in and around the station...near there was this...a branch of Gamers.

I ambled inside to discover hat they were apparently either having a big seasonal clearance sale or were going out of business, everything was 25-75% off.

I of course, was broke.....


Kanazawa is a remarkable place. If I ever go again it is going to be high on my return list and I'll spend 2 or three days there as opposed to the day I spent on this trip.

I'll also likely spend more than 33 dollars..... which is what I spent on 2 meals, a bathouse a coke and some batteries.


Even more remarkable I never encountered any....OH NOES!!!1!

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 10:18 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 beautiful country, I like your capture   

Posted by: deviana at Sun Jul 1 12:08:14 2012 (QeoXH)

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