Kanazawa + Tokyo, Part 1: Day Trip Detour to Kanazawa

Back in June of this year, my long-time friend LK told me he would be visiting Japan and Hong Kong with his family, and I immediately requested a day of his time in Tokyo. School had finished for the academic year a few days prior to our meet-up, so I took the opportunity to add in a side trip to Kanazawa that I had bookmarked ages ago.

The most efficient way between the Kansai region and Kanazawa is probably the JR “Thunderbird” limited express train (between ¥7000-8000 one-way), but the cheapest is still the highway bus (I paid ¥3000 through the JR Kousoku Bus website). I was lucky to find a bus that departed in the morning; by 1 PM I had arrived at Kanazawa Station.

From the streets of Osaka to the coastline along the Sea of Japan

From the streets of Osaka to the coastline along the Sea of Japan

The "drum" gate in front of the station

The “drum” gate in front of Kanazawa Station

This was also very cool (a coordinated waterfall clock)

This was also very cool (a coordinated waterfall clock)

My main objective in Kanazawa was to visit the famous 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. I had seen these pictures of the museum years ago, bookmarked it, and told myself “Someday!”. And finally, finally that day had come (I love it when that happens!).

From the station, this shuttle bus goes right by the museum.

From the station, this shuttle bus goes right by the museum.

In terms of museums, this one was one of the most beautiful I have ever visited. The exhibits were not that numerous, nor were the rooms themselves that big, but it was curated well, and everything “fit in” (for lack of a better word). The building itself was gorgeous (the type that gets featured in magazines), and it was a rather calming experience to just wander around and soak up the sunlight in-between exhibits (hurray for lots of windows!).

One of the installation works I encountered on my way towards the museum entrance

One of the installation works I encountered on my way towards the museum entrance

I loved how it pulled into focus a small section of the surroundings

I loved how it pulled into focus a small section of the surroundings

Signage for the exhibitions that were on at the time of my visit

Signage for the exhibitions that were on at the time of my visit

Another outdoor installation

Another outdoor installation

Detail of the saturated colours

Detail of the saturated colours

If you keep your eyes on the light in the center as you move through, you see it change colours, until the sudden reveal of its true white colour

If you keep your eyes on the light in the center as you move through, you see it change colours, until the sudden reveal of its true white colour

One of my favourites (and one that allowed photographs) from the exhibition: "The Moonwalk Machine -- Selena's Step" by Sputniko. It parodied some elements from magical girl stories, but gave off a strong sense of feminism by the end!

One of my favourites (and one that allowed photographs) from the exhibition: “The Moonwalk Machine — Selena’s Step” by Sputniko. It parodied some elements from magical girl stories, but gave off a strong sense of feminism by the end!

One of my favourite corners of the museum. The amount of natural light the museum gets is amazing!

One of my favourite corners of the museum. The amount of natural light the museum got was amazing!

I was particularly struck by how this simple tunnel looked completely different depending on where you were standing

I was particularly struck by how this simple tunnel looked completely different depending on where you were standing…

The optical illusion is stunning!

The optical illusion was stunning!

The view from inside the tunnel itself

The view from inside the tunnel itself

The view from other side of the tunnel

The view from other side of the tunnel

Leandro Erlich’s “The Swimming Pool”, which is part of the permanent exhibition, was the main reason I had to come to Kanazawa — and the entire experience did not disappoint. It was very thought-provoking, from the physical construction of the pool (“How did he do that?“) to the implications of being both an observer and the observed, to the fascinating distortions of the water and sunlight. I thoroughly enjoyed people-watching from both above and below the water!

The official write-up by the museum, which is much more eloquent than I could ever be

The official write-up by the museum, which is much more eloquent than I could ever be

Observing from above

Observing from above

Descending to the bottom of the pool

Descending to the bottom of the pool

Experiencing a strange sense of entering another world

Experiencing a strange sense of entering another world

Almost like looking up from a well

Almost like looking up from a well

Sunlight through water

Sunlight through water

The museum is only one of the famous Kanazawa landmarks though; another one that gets mentioned most often is Kenroku-en (兼六園), a garden located right next to the ruins of Kanazawa Castle and is considered one of the “Top Three Gardens” in the country. However, my time in Kanazawa was limited, and my interest in gardens is quite superficial generally, so I decided to use the admission fee to buy some soft-serve ice-cream instead!

Kenroku-en is located directly across from the 21st Century Museum (and is right next to Kanazawa Castle Park)

Kenroku-en is also located directly across from the 21st Century Museum

A map of the extensive grounds of Kenroku-en

A map of the extensive grounds of Kenroku-en

About as far as I got into the garden, before I turned around

About as far as I got into the garden before I turned around

The first kanji of Kanazawa (金沢) is the Chinese character for gold. The legend goes that a peasant was digging for potatoes in the area when he discovered gold flakes in the marsh. Later in the 17th century, the second and third Maeda lords had the business sense to channel their massive wealth into arts and handicrafts, particularly lacquer and gold-and-lacquer-work. To this day, the area is still renowned for it and produces 99% of the gold leaf in the domestic market.

Which is why it makes sense that my ice-cream (a “summer special” by a branch of Imai Kinpaku located across from the garden), has a thin sheet of gold leaf on it.

You can't really taste the gold though. Either way, ice cream on a hot summer day is always delicious!

You can’t really taste the gold though…  Either way, ice cream on a hot summer day is always delicious!

Soon after, I boarded another highway bus and spent the rest of the night travelling to Tokyo!

Part 2 of this trip, with pictures of all the food that LK and I ate, will be posted soon!

 

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