Wednesday, February 22, 2006

(Yet Another) Kanazawa Daytrip

Yesterday I went to Kanazawa with Laura the yoga instructor/beer drinking buddy and her Japanese friend, Elli. Laura had the day off because she had to work on a Saturday a few weeks ago, Elli had the day off because she only works four days a week, and I had the day off because I'm not working yet.

Our goals for the day were to visit Kenrokuen and to find the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Anything else we did would be bonus.

Finding the gardens would prove to be no problem, but we had no idea how to find the museum. We only knew that it was somewhere in Kanazawa. There is a tourist information booth in the train station, but it wasn't open when we first arrived, so we had breakfast at a German bakery while we waited for it to open.

After munching on a delicious cheese danish and not so delicious mushroom stuffed pastry thing-a-ma-jig, we were told by the good people at the information desk that the museum was right next to the park (woot!). We decided to go to the park first and then the museum second.

Kenrokuen is quickly becoming my favorite place in Japan. Every visit is like visiting a new park; the whole park changes along with the seasons. I've seen the place covered in fall foliage (and middle-aged Japanese people with expensive looking photography equipment) and I've seen the park covered in a meter of snow. Yesterday I visited it during the onset of Spring. You notice different things and see the park in new ways with the changing of the seasons. I know I'm not describing it very eloquently. I know, I suck. Maybe the pictures at the bottom of this post can better visualize what I'm trying to articulate.

In addition to walking around the park, looking at the budding trees, koi, lanterns, and water we visited two shrines just outside the park and had a tea ceremony in a rebuilt teahouse inside of the park.

The tea ceremony was obviously put on for the benefit of tourists who want to be able to say that they partook in a tea ceremony inside of Kenrokuen. You were given three options for tea: You could have whisked tea for 700 yen, green tea for 300 yen, or have no tea and take a look around the tea house for free.

I don't think the tea house was a tea house at all. Westerners are told that a tea house is supposed to be a rustic little shack in a beatiful garden. The main room in this tea house was 48 tatami. If you don't think in tatami, trust me when I tell you that 48 tatami is huge.

We didn't really participate in a tea "ceremony" either. A lady in a kimono came out with a mochi sweet for each of us and told us that we had to have at least a bite before she brought out the tea. After we took a bite, she brought out the already whisked, whisked tea. So much for the ceremony.

We did our best to imitate a Japanese person having tea. We admired the plates, the tea cups (are they cups or bowls?), the hanging scrolls, and the flower arrangements. We even drank our tea in three gulps. Then we went outside to admire the garden, where we were hushed for giggling too loudly.

I'm not Japanese. I just can't get it right. I'm getting used to it.

The shrines were an experience in themselves. Laura bought a book when she was in Kyoto that is a shrine and temple passport of sorts. It is basically just a blank book that you take to a shrine or a temple to get "stamped," and when I mean "stamped," I mean filled with calligraphy and the shrine or temple's official hanko. I think that the book is a brilliant idea. No two "stamps" are the same (even from the same temple) and thus no two books will ever be the same. Doesn't that make for a really unique souvenir?

At the second shrine we visited, we had to ring a doorbell to call somebody to stamp Laura's book. While the book was being stamped, Elli asked if we could have a look at the inside of the shrine. The girl had to go ask permission and she came back a few minutes later with a lady that was a few years older.

She showed us into the shrine and told us about some of the history, paintings, and other art work. Turns out that it was the oldest shrine in Kanazawa. Lucky us, all we did was walk past it and go in looking for a "stamp."

We probably spent about 20 minutes talking with the lady and her husband, who came out to meet us a few minutes later. I don't know if they or their family owns the shrine, but they told us that they lived in a house out back and that they took care of it (and stamped tourists' books). When we left, they gave each of us a little gift, to help keep the bad spirits away, or to help attract good spirits, or to help us be lucky. I'm not really sure which.

We went from the oldest shrine in Kanazawa to the newest museum in Kanazawa, the 21st Century Museum of Contempory Art. It was across the street. Literally. Only in Japan. I love this place!

My only complaint about the museum was that the special exibit we toured was a little expensive at 1200 yen. Had the museum been free, I would say that it is the greatest place in Kanazawa.

(This post is getting kind of long, so I'm going to keep this kind of short.)

We put our bags and our jackets in a locker inside the museum. The only thing I carried was my camera on it's tripod. When I tried bringing it into the galleries, I was told that no pictures were allowed.

They told me to leave my TRIPOD at the ticket and information counter. I was allowed to bring my camera into the museum.

That my friends, is Japanese logic at its finest.

Since I'm not an art buff I won't even attempt to explain the museum's contents. I would just get it all wrong (not like that has ever stopped me before). I'll leave the critiquing up to Laura.

I did, however, love the pool by Leandro Erlich. The "pool" is in an outdoor courtyard in the middle of the museum. When you stand on the edge, you can see people walking around, apparently underwater, on the bottom of the pool.

It is really just a trick.

The pool really isn't a pool at all. It is a room, designed to look like a swimming pool, with a glass ceiling. A few inches of water on top of the glass ceiling give people looking in from above the impression that people are standing at the bottom of a pool.

If I ever own a nightclub, I'm going to incorporate one of these pools into the design.

Alright, enough of my endless writings. Enjoy the pictures:


More pictures of trees with yukitsuri in Kenrokuen:

Laura setting the timer on her camera:

The photo that Laura was setting the timer for:

I don't know what this is for (grinding rice perhaps?), but I thought the reflection of the trees was pretty:

Japanese kids running away from the scary gaijin taking pictures of them:

A chubby old guy doing his best to act Japanese:

Komon bridge (Komon, which is the name of the person this bridge is named for, also means anus) and a little waterfall:

Another Kenrokuen waterfall:

Ishiura Shrine, the oldest shrine in Kanazawa:

Can you guess what is in these barrels?:


And finally, the view from beneath the surface:

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1 comment:

gretel said...

took care of that scathing critique for you...