Monday, August 16, 2010

Kanazawa: 21st Century Samurai

I came to Kanazawa on the advice of friends, but ended up being entirely taken with the city for unexpected reasons. First of all, the fantastic 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art - gotta love their bold name - was a fun breath of fresh air having just emerged from the 8th-18th centuries in Kyoto. 
Jan Fabre's "The Man Who Measures the Clouds" atop the museum
"Leandro's Pool"

Second, the intimate Guest House Pongyi is just great. It's the most unique of all the places I've stayed in Japan, inhabiting a small former kimono shop squeezed up against a larger building and next to a canal. The proprietor, Masaki-san, is helpful and friendly, and introduces all his guests to one another as they arrive. Traveling on one's own can get lonely, and Pongyi was the first place I've stayed where most of the other guests were traveling solo, too. Both nights I've been here, people hung out together, went to dinner, etc. Last night Masaki-san organized us all to set off sparklers along the canal and tonight he made sure that it would be ok for me to go to the public bath, which is an iffy endeavor for anyone with tattoos because they are usually forbidden due to their perceived connection with yakuza.

Kanazawa is also the site of the Myoryuji, better known by its nickname "Ninja Dera" or Ninja Temple. It actually has nothing to do with ninja, but was a temple designed for samurai protection of the territory and the nearby castle, complete with hidden staircases, traps, secret rooms, and even a hara kiri room (once you enter you can't get out!).

Kanazawa is also pleasant for strolling through the Geisha district, the Samurai district, the Kenrokuen garden, and along the canals.

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