asia,  japan,  travel

Golden town – Day 11


My train didn’t leave until 10 am, so I was able to leisurely finish packing and surfing. I was a little leary of hauling my somewhat heavy luggage down to the station, but in lieu of spending money, I opted to just leave a bit earlier and take it slowly. It was a beautiful morning, and it actually wasn’t too bad a walk. I stopped briefly at a convenience store to get a sandwich and changed my remaining US currency into Yen. I was amused at a group of school kids who appeared to be accosting random tourists outside the station (perhaps for a class project?) and getting photos with them. I quickly found my platorm, and train arrived promptly at 10:10 am. I was soon settled into my seat to get some work done for the next couple of hours.

It wasn’t long before I was rolling into Kanazawa. I disembarked and got my bearings, heading off to find my guest house. While I was proud at having found it so easily, tucked away as it is, I was soon crestfallen upon discovering it was closed for cleaning from 12 – 3 pm, which meant I was stuck with my luggage for the next 2 hours. I’d known that they wanted you out in the afternoon to clean (most hostels do), but I suppose I didn’t anticipate them to be closed and locked completely. I trundled over to a nearby restaurant to have lunch and pass the time. Pizza, ice cream and GRE studying later, I’d only killed about an hour, but I decided to head back to ring the bell again. Unsuccessful, I ended up just sitting on the curb outside the guest house, whipped out my laptop and worked on my conference poster. It was perhaps 15 minutes later when the owner noticed my rather pathetic sight and came down, very apologetic.

I left my things there and headed back to the station to catch the “Loop” bus, a tourist-oriented bus that does a large one-way loop around the city. The town seemed a pleasant, quiet sort of place, dotted with traditional-style buildings and canals. I got off at the Higashi chaya district, an area known for its teahouses (and accompanying geisha). The buildings were wooden and curiously austere, which had its own aesthetic appeal. I wandered into Hakuza, a shop selling gold-leaf wares. Apparently, Kanazawa produces something like 99% of all gold leaf in Japan. They had a small building on display, surrounded by a little garden, whose interior and exterior walls were completely covered in 100% pure gold leaf. I continued my wanderings in search of Sakuda, a famed gold and silver leaf shop. Upon arrival, I was ushered into the back room, where an old man explained in fabulously broken English the process of making gold leaf. We watched ladies painstakingly cut each gold leaf piece into squares and package them into bundles to be further pounded flat (the ultimate produced is one micron, or a ten-thousandth of a millimetre, thick). It was amazing to watch these ladies use these wooden tongs, carefully manipulating each billowing piece and blowing it flat. Afterward, we were given tea with gold leaf in it, which ostensibly has some sort of medicinal benefit. There I chatted with a fellow from Quebec who had learned some Japanese and was in Japan for a few weeks trying it out. We hopped on the bus and continued chatting about our various exploits. I marveled that this was his first real trip outside of Canada, and he a year older than I am! I counted my lucky stars that I have been so fortunate to be able to travel and see the world as much as I have–a trend I hope very much to continue. I discovered he too was heading to the festival in Takayama in a couple of days, and he said it would be good to know a friendly face, as apparently it’s quite overwhelming with the massive crowds of people (and not very common for foreigners to attend).

We parted ways and I headed back to Guest house Pongyi. I chatted with Masaki, the friendly owner, who I learned had lived in Brazil for a long time before briefly becoming a monk in Burma. He was very helpful in showing me a little English newspaper on Kanazawa that had a section on restaurants. I was introduced to my bunk mate, the only ever guest for the evening, a Japanese girl from Kyoto. Despite my plans for a convenience store dinner, it seemed a tacit assumption that we would go out for dinner, so much time was spent debating on where to go. In the end, we settled on a recommended yakitori restaurant within walking distance. So, we headed out, and I chatted with my bunk mate about the usual things (what do you do, how is your trip, etc.). I was grateful to be able to go have dinner with some who speaks Japanese, allaying the usual fear I have when searching for and going into a restaurant. We found the restaurant relatively easily, and they ironically actually had an English menu available. Yakitori are grilled shishkebab, and so I latched on to the chicken covered in cheese, and, for David, ordered pork neck. We shared a Caesar salad, which was amusing to eat with chopsticks, and some delicious tebasaki (seasoned deep-fried chicken wings). And for the first time on this trip, I ordered a drink (I felt it appropriate given that she was having a drink as well), a surprisingly tasty jokki sour (lemon-flavoured vodka soda). With a little liquor to loosen us up, we were soon chatting gaily about men and other pursuits. I regaled her with the story of my new husband, and she talked of her time living, funnily enough, in Vancouver learning English. We finished off the evening with deep-fried cheese (for me), bacon wrapped rice cakes (for her) and  I even tried some of her chicken skewers dipped in a raw egg yolk. All in all, an entertaining evening that cost about $30 each, and we headed back to the guest house to call it a night.

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