Saturday, January 17, 2015

Kanazawa, Japan: Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen

After our three weeks in the US, we headed back to Asia with a eight-day stopover in Japan. Many different destinations were discussed (including Hiroshima, Hokkaido and Tohoku) but in the end we decided on the "snow country", the north central part of Japan's main island. Since B's main goal was to experience snow with R, it made sense to go to one of the snowiest places on earth.
We started off by taking the train to Kanazawa. Japanese trains are amazing: extremely clean, fast and utterly reliable (virtually always on time). R watched shows on the tablet while B and I admired the scenery. Now that she's old enough to like TV, stationary traveling like this is now a breeze.
Kanazawa is built around its castle, the seat of the Maeda clan. The main castle burned down in 1881, but the gate, moat and walls remain; some buildings have been reconstructed using traditional techniques and materials.

The entrance to the castle; the gate dates from 1788.
R really liked the castle, maybe because it reminded her of Gummi Bears (which is set in a medieval kingdom)?
R looking at the moat and walls
Marveling at the Ishikawa-mon Gate
The castle is pretty impressive: it's very large and dominates the central city. The main gate is beautiful if somewhat daunting.
R saw her first snow and naturally leaped right in, slipping and sliding on the mini-mountain.
Like always, R was popular with the visiting public. Here she is getting her photo taken while pretending to be a dog. She is now very fond of being a dog and frequently becomes one, going on all fours and requesting to have a leash on walks (which we put around her wrist). Her dog persona even has a name: Roxie, and she will only respond to that name when in dog mode.

R got cold and tired, so we returned to our hotel for a break. Here she is after a hot bath
Later we returned to the vicinity of the castle, this time to see one of Japan's most famous gardens, Kenrokuen. It did not disappoint, being absolutely stunning.
The trees were all prepared for the winter, being supported by wooden poles and tall rope structures (visible below on the right: the ropes get covered in snow and can look very striking.

The beauty of the gardens was mostly lost on R. However, she enjoyed running around and participating in impromptu snowball fights with laughing strangers.

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