This morning we got the “Thunderbird” train from Kyoto to Kanazawa, a city on the West coast of Japan. Kanazawa has a very regular hop-on-hop-off bus service from the train station to all the main sights of the city for a very reasonable price. I would recommend this as a way to get around and explore.
The lady in the tourist office in the station was very helpful and was able to reserve us our first activity which was Myoryu-ji, also known as the “Ninja temple”. We asked her to do this as you require a reservation to visit and we had failed to make any prior plans, it all worked out well though.
The Ninja Temple actually has nothing to do with Ninjas, it is called such because it was a tactical temple that had many hidden levels and passageways throughout that could be used if there was an attack. The guided tours are all run in Japanese only (there are so few other tourists it isn’t worth them doing more) however we were provided with books that had all the information translated into English so we were able to follow al that was going on. It was fascinating and so clever how all the passageways linked together and how a 2 storey house actually had 7 storeys. I would definitely recommend it as a place to visit.
Next up was Kenrokuen garden, one of the top three gardens in Japan. This was very pleasant to stroll around. I especially liked the fact the trees had bamboo “hats” on to protect them from any snow. As with all Japanese gardens water was heavily featured alongside the trees and shrubs. It was very scenic and peaceful.
Our last stop was Higashi Chaya a famous Geisha district (because of limited time we had to pick between visiting either the Geisha or Samurai areas). After getting off the bus we followed a Japanese tour group to the main Geisha street, which was very useful as there were no clear signs. The Geisha houses all have distinctive 2 storey wooden facades, it was like stepping back into the past.
Higashi Chaya is also famous for its’ gold leaf production. We found a shop selling lots of beautiful gold leaf memorabilia, and you could book to have lessons in gold leaf decorating but we did not have the time for this. We did try the gold leaf decorated ice cream though which looked very pretty and was delicious, although I’m not sure how much the gold added to the taste!
We then had to head back to the train station to get a couple of trains back to Tokyo. The second of these was a double decker train which I got very excited about as I haven’t seen one of these since I was in Sydney.
In Tokyo we found our hotel then went out to Shibuya to see the famous crossing, so iconic in depictions of Japan. Shibuya was incredibly busy but we were able to find a good viewpoint to look down upon the masses of people from the Starbucks above the crossing. We wanted to explore some of the shops but it was getting late so they were all closing so instead we found a bar and went in to get some food instead. Everywhere was packed but we managed to find a place with a couple of seats by the kitchen before navigating the subway around all the drunken businessmen to get back to our hotel again.