This post is a continuation from our last Japan trip, you can read part-1 here.
Our next stop was from Osaka to Kanazawa.
We took the Shinkansen, doing our usual of eating on the train to make the most of our time. We reached Kanazawa around lunchtime and was greeted with a beautiful architectural archway at the station. We got to the hotel, dumped our stuff and headed straight to Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Gardens via bus. It was a rainy cold day and ice had formed on the majority of the ground so everything was covered in a blanket of white aside from the protruding bamboo structures that poked out from almost every tree. We wondered what they were for as they were everywhere to be found. Turns out, the structure is to protect the trees and branches from heavy snowfall. The structure essentially breaks the snow into smaller chunks thus reducing the impact on any weak or new branches. How cool is that!? Another thing we saw were these cute little mini snowmen that were outside one of the shops surrounding the gardens. They even had their own little hats and scarves. I love how creativity stems from literally anywhere in Japan 🙂
After slip-sliding our way through the gardens, we headed to Kanazawa Castle. The castle was huge! May absolutely adored all the features of the roofs and we got to go inside and see the amazing wooden rooms and stairways, as well as the different look-out windows. It also gave us time to warm up and dry off our wet socks, which by now were heavily soaked from all the puddles and deep snow paths. One thing I remember clearly was the melting snow of one of the big archways. Everyone had to run through it quickly as the snow was melting fast and falling off in huge chunks. We stood there for a while, trying to time our escape. It definitely felt like a one-sided snowball fight and no one wanted to be on the receiving end lol.
We stopped for a quick snack of crab and sushi before heading to Kanazawa’s Higashi Chaya District to check out their version of Gion; the Geisha district. The streets here were smaller and quieter than Gion’s but there was a nice mix of craft shops and tea houses. The area is famed for gold leaf so most wares tend to feature the fragile sheets being used to decorate ceramics, cover delicate handmade jewellery or line intricate designs on the thinnest of chopsticks. You can also try out Kanazawa’s famous gold leaf ice creams! Some places even sold silver leaf versions and for those who have trouble deciding between the two, you can of course have it half half. We opted for gold leaf sweet potato soft serve ice cream and I have to say, hands down, it was the most creamiest ice cream I’ve ever tasted so far 🙂 Highly recommended!
The following day we woke early to head to Shirakawa-go (aka Shirakawa). We didn’t realise you had to book a train ticket in advance so naturally all the spaces were taken up. Luckily for us, the lady at the train station suggested we could take the highway bus which was yet to leave and had a couple of spaces left. We enjoyed the scenic drive and as the motorway started to disappear, snowy pepper-coloured mountains and foggy skies encroached. We got off at the bus station but felt like we’d landed in some real life Christmas card! The scenery was absolutely stunning! The rain had stopped and the sun was out and all you could see were beautiful thatched triangular-shaped roofs covered in thick snow.
By now we were snow-pros; socks remained dry, we had on our ice cleats and we packed waterproofs in case we got caught in the rain. Score! One big fail was when I saw this shot I wanted and took a step off the cleared path, only to have my leg knee-deep in snow. Suffice to say, I didn’t get the shot and May didn’t stop teasing me about that for at least a couple of hours.
Whilst May recreated her version of the mini snow man/bear, I stood watching this old grandpa removing the snow from his roof. It was as high as his waist and he was cutting of slabs and pushing them off his roof. I can’t imagine doing the same thing when I get to his age! Truly impressive.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the little village – sliding tactfully across the long rope bridge, having lunch at the simplest of restaurants and then making our way to the observation deck to get a birds eye view of the village. It felt like Christmas had come early and we were just waiting for santa to turn up any minute now.
As we made our way back to Kanazawa via the same route we came, I couldn’t help wonder what Shirakawa would look like in the summer or autumn months. I’ve no doubt it would look equally pretty no matter what. I guess the only way to find out is to come back 🙂
Words by May
Photos shot on EOS M3