Posts Tagged With: tips for traveling in japan

Whirlwind Of A Day In Kanazawa – Matt’s Trip To Japan

If I did decide to settle permanently in Japan, there is only one city that I could happily live in forever: Kanazawa. Kanazawa City is about 2 hours away from Fukui, and it’s been my little version of paradise these past three years. It’s somewhere I could escape for some quality alone time, and enjoy both modern and traditional Japanese culture.  In my opinion it’s a hidden tourist gem of Japan.

I was over the moon to get to bring my brother here to explore for a day. I took a day off work (so worth it!) and we once again hopped into my tiny car, nicknamed The Snickerdoodle, and headed out on Road Trip #2! I had downloaded the soundtrack from the movie ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ and we really enjoyed cruising down the highway listening to that.

The first thing we did when we got to Kanazawa was meander through the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.

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It’s my all-time favourite museum in the world, and if you ever visit Kanazawa you MUST go there! I never really “got” modern art, and I’m nearly certain I rolled my eyes the first time someone suggested we go. But trust me, this museum really changed my opinion of what modern art can be. It’s very interactive and will make you feel like a little kid at times. It’s full of permanent exhibits (like the awesome Leonardo’s Pool) and also has numerous rooms with rotating shows to spice things up, so every time I’ve gone it’s been different.

This new exhibit was cool! Peek-a-boo Matt!Kanazawa 21st museum2Kanazawa 21st museum

I also really loved this metal capsule you could climb inside, and it felt like you were the the heart of a silver geode! The light shone in through the cones and reflected off everything! Pretty neat, eh?!Kanazawa 21st museum3 Kanazawa 21st museum4

This new elevator exhibit was pretty trippy too!

Kanazawa Modern artMatt, of course, loved my favourite exhibit “Leandro’s Pool” which is a permanent exhibit at the museum and by far THE coolest modern art I’ve ever seen. First you look down on the pool from outside…Leandro's pool exhibit

Then you go down a flight of stairs, and enter the pool from below. Matt’s just a smidgeon taller than the national height average in Japan…poor guy!

Leandro's

Lucky there’s lots of room inside! Enough he could jump around for joy! Leandro's Pool2 Leandro's Pool3

And when you look up you can see the other museum explorers through the water and glass ceiling. Such an amazing concept in my opinion, a full kudos to Leandro Erlich (the artist) for this idea!leandro's poolAfter the museum we went to the second best thing to do in Kanazawa: Kenrokuen Garden!

Kenrokuen Garden is the 3rd most beautiful garden in Japan and definitely worth walking through. Matt wasn’t the keenest on this but I insisted because I love it so much and the weather was beautiful. Lucky us, the iris flowers were in full bloom and quite spectacular to behold! Ummm, gorgeous much!?!?! kenrokuen garden kenrokeun Kenrokuen Garden Iris 3Kenrokuen is beautiful regardless which season you go. It’s even beautiful in winter! So add it to your list of things to do if you ever visit there.

We also nipped through the Higashi Cha-ya District, which is an old preserved area Kanazawa’s past.  It used to be a street of tea houses and shops, and when you walk there, it’s like you’ve been transported back in time. I love strolling through this scenic neighbourhood with its cute shops and cafes, but unfortunately most shops were closed the day we went.  Having been open for the weekend, I guess they take Mondays and Tuesdays off. Matt still enjoyed our stroll though. Higashichaya Tea District KanazawaAfter that we did a little shopping at the Kanazawa train station and spent our time choosing a nice cake for dessert.  We were headed back to Fukui for dinner at my friend Tomomi’s house and didn’t want to show up empty handed. Tomomi had invited Matt to dinner so she could teach him how to make Sauce Katsudon, another very famous Fukui food. Sauce Katsudon is a thin breaded pork cutlet which is then fried, covered in delicious sauce and plopped on top of a bowl of Fukui rice. Did you know Fukui’s rice is supposedly the best rice in Japan?

After dinner Tomomi’s very kind father-in-law taught Matt a little Japanese calligraphy. It was my first time to try calligraphy too, so I had a blast with him. I learned how to write the kanji 茶, read “cha” which means “tea” (my favourite thing in the world), and Matt learned how to write 山, read “yama” which means “mountain” (his favourite thing in the world).

It was a wonderful whirlwind of a day! Matt’s enormous smile as we drove home from Tomomi’s house made me feel like singing “Happy” by Pharrel Williams. (Because I’m happy! Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. Because I’m happy! Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. Because I’m happy! Clap along if you know what happiness is to you…)

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What To Do In Kyoto

If there is one city in Japan I wish I could spend more time exploring it’s Kyoto. Being an avid lover of traditional culture, Kyoto is the epitome of everything I love about Japan.

I think Japan is a very unique country for many reasons. One of the biggest being that Japan is fortunate to have not only a very strong traditional culture that is still alive today, but also a second evolving modern culture. If you’re looking to explore Japan’s modern culture I recommend Tokyo with its big city lights…. but if like me you’re looking to immerse yourself in the more subtle traditional culture, than Kyoto is where you’ll find what you seek.

Kyoto is home to more than 2,000 religious sites such as temples and shrines, and there are hundreds of beautiful gardens in addition to that! You could spend a month here and still have things to see! All in all, it can be quite daunting for a traveller to decide which places to visit, especially with only limited time to explore.

I have traveled to Kyoto six times now since I arrived in Japan two and a half years ago. I wish I knew then what I know now. It would have saved me a lot of stress when planning to visit this maze of temples with family and friends. This is why I’ve complied a list of the best things for Kyoto visitors to experience.  I wanted to share my recommendations so that you too can see the best Kyoto has to offer.

Top 10 Places To Visit in Kyoto

#1) Fushimi Inari Shrine  (伏見稲荷大社) – Choosing my #1 recommendation for Kyoto was tough. This one was the winner because it’s not just a beautiful place to see, it’s also an experience like no other in Kyoto. Nothing can compare with the magical atmosphere felt walking up the mountain passing under the orange torii gates for what feels like a small eternity. (More info here)

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#2) Kinkakuji Temple  (金閣寺) – The Golden Pavilion is hands down the most beautiful structure in all of Kyoto and absolutely can not be missed if visiting. (More info here)

kinkakuji

#3) Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺) – One of the most popular temples to visit in the heart of Kyoto. The streets and shops leading up to it are very quaint.  Also, the trees surrounding the temple are breathtaking in spring during cherry blossom season & in autumn with the fall colors. (More info here)

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#4) Explore the Arashiyama area – There is SO much to do here, it’s the perfect day trip to escape the chaos of Kyoto. Be sure not to miss the bamboo grove! Check out the monkey mountain and some of the beautiful gardens if you have a whole day to spare.arashiyama bamboo forest

#5) Kenninji Temple (建仁寺) – Located in the heart of the Gion district, Kenninji has the most breathtakingly beautiful dragon ceiling and its calm, relaxing atmosphere makes it one of my favourite temples to wander around. (More info here)kenninji2

#6) Gion Street At Night Gion is the oldest district of Kyoto, the area you’re most likely to catch a glimpse of an elusive ‘maiko’.  At dusk (just after the sun’s gone down and the lights come on) is the best time to take in this area’s splendor. kyoto_gion_at_night_0701

#7) Sanjusangendo Hall (三十三間堂)A stunning hall filled with 30,000 golden deity statues is sure to wow any visitor to Kyoto. I love this temple because it’s very different from all the other temples and there’s nothing else like it in Kyoto, perfect for anyone who’s feeling a little “templed-out” or “over-shrined” sanjusangendo hall

#8) Nishiki Market  (錦市場) – This is a large covered market area with lots of local goods and foods (tempura chocolate anyone?). Grabbing lunch here one day is sure to be an adventure, and an excellent place to do a little shopping.

nishiki market

9) Shopping in Kyoto Station + Malebranche CafeAs powdered green tea is one of Kyoto’s specialties, visitors often want to try matcha and matcha sweets. My favourite hideout is the Malebranche Cafe which is located on the bottom floor of Kyoto Station. These desserts are seriously Kyoto’s best kept secret.  It’s the perfect place to recharge after a little shopping in one of Kyoto’s coolest shopping centers, all of which is underground and therefore perfect if the weather’s not the nicest!dessert1

10) Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺) – This temple, whose name poetically translates as “The Temple of the Dragon at Peace”, is home to one of Japan’s most beautiful rock gardens. It’s one of Kyoto’s quieter and less busy temples, so feelings of zen and great tranquility can be felt here as you sit gazing out at the garden. Kyoto-Ryoan-Ji

If you have any other recommendations, or special little gems in Kyoto you’ve stumbled upon, I’d love to here them! I’ll be going to Kyoto for one last visit in May and I’m already excited!

Categories: Tips For Traveling In Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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