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FIVE THOUSAND MILES One Prew's adventures in Japan. April, 2014.

Day 6: Kanazawa

Kanazawa is not a big town, compared to Tokyo, so it was fairly easy for me to see everything I wanted to see in one day – and on foot. Also bearing in mind I'd been to wander one of the temple districts and along the river on the afternoon of my arrival, the day before.

I started my morning, after having breakfast in the café underneath my hotel, by walking to the Oyama Jinja shrine. This is not something I'd heard of before looking at the map but we passed it on the bus from the train station so I had seen what it looked like and was keen to check it out up close.

It's an odd shrine in that it takes inspiration from European architecture as well as Japanese using stained glass.

I walked through the grounds of the shrine enjoying the garden and particularly the pond that had stepping stones across it.

Leaving Oyama Jinja shrine the opposite way to where I entered, I headed across the road to Kanazawa castle park. Suddenly it dawned on me that perhaps there wasn't a whole castle anymore, like Edo castle in Tokyo…

I was right, there isn't a complete castle but there are quite a few turrets, storehouses, gates and other bits still there. They are also currently re-building and renovating parts of the grounds. It was very quiet whilst I was wandering around, I guess it was before 10am and anyway I'm not complaining.

There were lots of still-in-bloom-unlike-Tokyo cherry blossom trees around too which teamed with the black and white of the castle buildings made for a picturesque setting.

They really like their trees in Japan. So much so that they prop them up with sticks if they need it!

I spent an hour or two in the castle grounds then headed over the bridge to the Kenrokuen garden.

This was a beautiful garden and well worth the entrance fee. There were ponds, streams, bridges, lanterns, shrines, statues, pine trees, cherry blossom trees, steps up and steps down, winding pathways and just generally stunning scenery.

I also had my second green tea ice cream – it's really tasty stuff, although this one was more like a Mr Whippy-type ice cream.

Lots of stone lanterns and even more old trees held up by sticks.

Somehow I'd managed to do the two main things in Kanazawa, and not without pausing a hundred times to take photos, in just one morning. I still had the rest of the afternoon to do things.

The 21st Century Museum of Art was next to the gardens so I popped in there but found the layout weird and confusing so I left without really looking at any art. What I did see was very ‘modern’ anyway, the only art I'm interested in in Japan is ukiyo-e!

I like this little bike man.

And diggers painted to look like giraffes!

Walking across town towards the Nagamachi samurai district, I stopped for lunch in a small café-restaurant. And I didn't have a soup-based dinner! Well, it came with miso soup but I had ‘fried’ prawns (not quite tempura but coated somehow?) with rice, salad and what I think was pickled ginger or something like that. It was all very tasty and I am pleased I can use chopsticks correctly and functionally! They had an interesting looking macha (green tea) cake on the dessert menu but I was stuffed. Planned to look out for it elsewhere.

The Nagamachi samurai district is an assortment of old samurai homes amongst the modern day homes and businesses. Most are fairly well intact which is what makes it worth a look around. So I wandered the streets, trying to not get run over by Japanese cars as paths and roads are narrow – why are all the cars in Japan square by the way?

Rubbish/recycling trucks!

After I'd finished in the samurai district, it was still only about 2.30pm so I figured I ought to go check out the large market area, Omicho. It was a little bit of a walk from Nagamachi but I had the time! When I got there I basically just wandered through the middle taking in the sights, sounds and smells – mostly fish. I didn't stop to buy anything but it was good to see anyway.

Still too early to go back to the hotel and call it day yet not much else left I wanted to do, I went back to Kanazawa castle park and just sat and read my book for a while. It was warm and although my BBC weather app insisted the day was a cloudy one it was quite sunny just with an overall haziness keeping the sky from being bright blue.

Here I also spotted some unknown birds of prey that circled over the castle. I tried taking some photos but I'm not sure even my super zoom caught them particularly well. (Never fear though, I have a good photo of a similar bird later in my trip, in Kyoto!)

Still, plenty of cute animals on every street corner anyway.

When I did decide to leave and head back to my hotel, I popped in a 7-11 first to buy some snacks and something for my evening meal. I didn't want anything big as lunch was my main meal so just got a little nori/rice/fish ball and some Pocky for my travels. I also managed to find an elusive green tea kit kat, which I had been looking out for since I got to Japan. It was delicious, as were the edamame crisps I picked up – they simply sounded intriguing.

I planned to use Japan's luggage forwarding system for the first time the next morning – a popular and common process in Japan and not too expensive really. I would be sending my suitcase on to Takayama, whilst I took only my rucksack to Shirakawago for just one night. I would then travel on to Takayama, bulky-luggage-free, to be re-united with my suitcase on arrival at my hotel. I asked at my Kanazawa hotel reception and I thought we had worked out all the details. Unfortunately the person I spoke to didn’t speak the best of English and I was unable to write the Japanese address on the form myself. I didn’t want it to mistakenly end up elsewhere! So, we got the form filled out and I just needed to drop off my suitcase the next morning when I checked out…

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Day 7: ShirakawagoNext