From Traditional to Modern: An Art-Inspired Adventure in Ishikawa - Day1
With a long-time association with Japanese traditional arts and artisans, Ishikawa Prefecture has evolved into a destination for those who appreciate Japanese art, both traditional and modern. Let’s take an art-inspired adventure to get hands-on with Ishikawa’s wide variety of arts and crafts.
Arrive early at Kanazawa Station and visit the Kanazawa Tourist Information Center, where you can receive help and brochures in English and many other languages. We arranged to have our luggage dropped off at our hotel so we could enjoy our first day in Kanazawa hands-free. The service costs only 700 yen, and our luggage is scheduled to arrive by 5:00 pm, so we could fill our day with adventures in Kanazawa and have everything waiting for us when we check into our hotel. Perfect! You can also purchase a Kanazawa City One Day Pass, which allows unlimited travel on most city buses for an entire day.
Outside of the station, where the impressive Tsuzumi-mon Gate welcomes visitors to the city, you can catch the Loop Bus at bus stop number 6. Depending on your destination, the Loop Bus circles the city’s major attractions in two directions, so consult the map to see which direction will get you to your first destination the fastest.
10-minute bus ride to..
No visit to Kanazawa is complete without a stroll through Kenrokuen Garden, known as one of Japan’s three great gardens. Built by the Maeda family, who ruled over the Kaga domain that included present-day Ishikawa Prefecture from 1583 to 1869 from Kanazawa Castle, the garden embodies six characteristics that ancient texts say make up a perfect garden. Whether you recognize these characteristics or not, you’ll certainly find there is much to love about Kenrokuen Garden in any season.
One of the garden’s central features is Kasumiga-ike Pond and the iconic Kotojitoro lantern. Tourists line up to take a photo on the stone bridge beside the lantern, but it moves quickly and is worth waiting for a special photographic memory. The Karasakinomatsu is also here, an ancient pine tree that has been grown in the shape of a soaring crane. Beside it is Horaijima Island, in the form of a turtle, completing the pairing of auspicious animals of Japanese lore. There is always someplace to pause and reflect on the garden's natural beauty and the incredible forethought into the design that makes it so.
We ate lunch at Kenjotei, a teahouse near the garden’s Katsurazaka gate. Although the building maintains its traditional exterior, the interior renovated was designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma. The chef of Kenjotei makes a daily visit to nearby Omicho Market to select the finest seasonal ingredients to include in his dishes which are served in beautiful lacquerware bento boxes and on Kutani ceramic ware. The restaurant makes liberal use of edible gold leaf, making this dining experience as lavish in appearance as it is in flavors.
5-minute walk to…
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, is the perfect location to appreciate the modern side of Kanazawa’s thriving art culture. This aery and spacious museum is full of light and the space was specifically designed to create an openness to connect the museum with the park and city outside its circular glass walls. While Leandro Erlich’s “The Swimming Pool” is one of the museum’s main attractions, you’ll find many contemporary exhibits in the museum’s permanent display both inside and outside the building, including the “Colour activity house” by Olafur Eliasson and “The Man Who Measures Clouds” by Jan Fabre. In addition, temporary exhibits change regularly within the museum’s exhibition galleries.
As the museum was designed as a place the public can enjoy at any time, several public spaces within the building do not require admission to use. These are perfect spots to rest your feet, duck out of a sudden rainstorm, or just contemplate the view of the city outside.
10-minute Loop Bus ride to…
Hakuichi Gold Leaf Craft Experience
anazawa artisans have been perfecting the art of gold leaf production for over 400 years. Currently, they provide 99% of Japan’s gold leaf, pounding it into a leaf that can be up to 1/10,000 of a millimeter in thickness. At this thickness, gold leaf can be used in a wide variety of crafts and beauty products and even eaten as an extravagant and lovely garnish for food.
We visited Kanazawa Bikazari Asano Hakuichi in the Higashi Chaya district to experience the art of making a traditional craft by applying gold leaf decoration. Choose from a variety of lacquered goods and many stencils of shapes to apply your gold leaf pattern. After applying the stencil with an adhesive, you will carefully layer gold leaf over it. Be careful — even your breath can cause the thin gold leaf to flutter, making your task more difficult! The experience is just simple enough that anyone can do it and yet challenging enough that you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete the process and admire your handiwork.
If you are craving gold (spoiler alert: there is no taste), a sister shop serving the gorgeous gold leaf-covered ice cream is just steps away.
Higashi Chaya District
While you are in Higashi Chaya District, take some time to enjoy its traditional buildings. In addition to the Geisha house, there are restaurants and stores for goods. Here you may find women (and a few men) dressed in kimono, enjoying a stroll along the streets where this traditional Japanese attire seems to fit in perfectly.
Kanazawa has three preserved districts known as Chaya districts, Edo Period entertainment areas where merchants enjoyed the songs, dances, and games of geigi, the local name for geisha. Even today, geigi exist in Kanazawa, and you might find them hurrying to their appointments in the evening hours or hear their music and laughter from the second-story rooms lining the streets.
The architecture of the buildings in the area makes it difficult to peek inside, lending an air of mystery to the place. But don’t be afraid to peer into the many shops and restaurants open to the public; you might be surprised by what you’ll find inside!
15-minute walk to…
Dinner at Coil
Time for a unique dinner at Coil, a restaurant in Kanazawa Hakomachi, a shopping center just across the street from the famous Omicho Market. Coil mixes traditional and modern Japanese styles in both cuisine and décor and is a cool introduction to the artistic flair of Kanazawa city.
There is a beautiful tea bar where you can select from several different types of tea and brew it in your teapot in a Japanese tea ceremony-like style. First, choose your tea and scoop it into the pot with a tea ceremony scoop, then transfer hot water into the pot with a tea ceremony ladle. It is a fun introduction to the Japanese tea ceremony, a tradition that still has a strong influence in Kanazawa.
Our main course came in the form of make-it-yourself makizushi sushi rolls. These are just like the rolls most of us who have been to sushi restaurants are familiar with, except this time, you select the ingredients and roll them up yourself! Coil offers a wide selection of traditional and not-so-traditional ingredients to add, including various types of seafood, vegetables, meat, and even camembert cheese! Choose 5, 6, or 8 different ingredients, and they will be served with four rolls of nori seaweed and rice with a side of tempura. Simply place the ingredients you want in your roll on the rice, and using the bamboo mat provided, roll it up! We had a great time experimenting with combining different ingredients and flavors to make our signature sushi roll.
After enjoying your dinner, return to your accommodation, where your luggage will be waiting for you.
Continue to Day2, Day3.