Sunday, January 18, 2015

Walking in Kanazawa's Winter Wonderland

It started snowing in the late afternoon of our first full day in Kanazawa, and continued more or less for the rest of our trip there. The difference was magical. 
Rather ordinary city (if startlingly clean, like all of Japan)...
becomes a winter wonderland with the snowfall.
 R experienced snow on our last trip to Japan, but since she was not yet two then, this was the first time in her memory. She loved it.
Making snowballs
Making snow angels

Our goofy snowman
I love the snow!
 I hate the cold (one of my favorite things about living in Singapore is that it is never ever cold here) but fresh snow is one of the most beautiful sights I know, and makes the cold completely worth it.
The castle mount covered in snow
 We were in Japan over the New Year, perhaps their biggest holiday, which had some disadvantages (like that most museums and attractions were closed for at least part of the time). One advantage though was being able to see the Japanese celebrating by visiting the local Shinto shrine for good luck in the coming year. It was packed!
We visited Oyama Shrine, constructed in 1599.
The gate was designed by a Dutch architect
The shrine itself is quite traditional though
There was a festival atmosphere with little booths selling souvenirs and snacks of all kinds
R got a yogurt-covered banana
Some dogs visiting for good luck, in their dog stroller (very common in Japan)
The grounds of the shrine were beautiful
 Later we toured some of the sections of Kanazawa where the traditional architecture is preserved (it was the second largest city to escape World War II air raids, so quite a bit remains).

Traditional houses are mostly low and wooden, each surrounded by strong walls (which in winter are wrapped in straw as a protection measure) and guarded by a large gate. I wonder if this was a crime protection measure?

We visited several of the houses which are open to the public (others are still lived in and therefore are private residences). The interiors are beautiful if spartan. And cold! especially because like in all Japanese houses, one must remove one's footwear.

It is incredible to me that in such a climate houses were traditionally built of the flimsiest materials (thin wood and paper, for the windows) and heating was only provided by a single not-very-large fire. The ancient Japanese must have been very hardy.

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