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Although Kenji and I had had a number of ideas for places to go during Golden Week holidays, we ended up doing a small road trip since we were still pretty tired and broke from our Europe Trip the month before. We decided to head to the Japan Sea side of the country and hit major cities and minor sights in Niigata, Toyama, and Ishikawa Prefectures, including the famous city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa as well as the rural Noto Peninsula. We spent about four days in the area, in between the weekends to avoid the crowds, which worked out really well since we didn’t hit much traffic at all. I really enjoyed the area a lot, and would love to go back again! Then again, I say that for pretty much every place I go, so…

Anyway, we started out the trip later in the evening and basically got a lot of the driving done before crashing at a hotel by the side of the highway in Joetsu, Niigata. The next day we decided to skip highway driving and instead drove the slower but much more scenic coastal road all the way into Toyama, stopping at various points along the way that struck our fancy.

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Our first stop, just to see the ocean, near Tsutsuishi in Niigata. There wasn’t really anything specific to see, we just wanted to enjoy the breeze! The weather was cloudy and windy, but luckily not rainy.

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Our second stop was when we saw these koi-no-bori attached to an interesting-looking island.

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The scenery was really beautiful. It reminded me of the games I used to play like Myst and Riven; that kind of almost other-worldy scenery. And it was pretty exhilarating with the wind and weather!

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We probably spent almost an hour stopped here!

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A few more

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Right up the mountain a bit was a cool traditional style temple and museum, but no one was around, so we didn’t stay too long.

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Later we headed inland a bit, stopping at a reproduction of old-timey houses and getting some nice mountain views

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I really like this picture!

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And we ended up in Kanazawa to stop for the night. The main Kanazawa station is REALLY interesting (and big!)

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I thought this clock-thing was really cool… it gave the time and also “welcome to Kanazawa” in water!

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We ate around there, then headed a bit outside of town to get a hotel for the night.

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Day Two was exploring around Kanazawa. First we parked the car and walked to the old-style Chaya district of Kazue-machi, with its pretty old-style buildings and narrow streets. After that, we hit Omicho market where we had a fresh seafood lunch, then on to Myoryuji Temple, also known as “Ninjadera”. Once we did the tour for there, we walked to Kenrokuen, considered one of the top 3 Japanese gardens in Japan, as well as the ruins of Kanazawa Castle. We finished up the day visiting another Caya district, this time Higashi, for dinner before driving on.

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The Chaya districts are where the teahouses in which geisha perform and entertain are located. In Kanazawa, they are still active and are preserved well. In the morning, however, there is almost no activity, so we just walked around and admired the buildings.

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Lunch was at Omicho, a market well-known for its fresh seafood and produce. It has covered streets and features the many stalls on the bottom floor, with restaurants on the second.

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The unagi and other dishes were expensive, but GOOD!

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From there, we decided to walk to the Ninja temple, but we still had enough time to stop at the interesting Omiya Jinja. It has a very unique gate (you can see it in the first picture in the background) that was designed by a Dutch architect.

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It also has a beautiful garden surrounding it

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The atmosphere was really nice and quiet with the rain and lack of people. We spent quite some time just enjoying the greenery!

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But then it was time to get to the Ninja Temple for our tour. In contrast to the rest of the places we’d visited so far, Ninjadera was VERY crowded! Also, we couldn’t take pictures inside, so I don’t have that many. I do, however, wanna describe it, because it is a REALLY cool place!

Myoryuji, nicknamed “Ninjadera”, was built by the Maeda Clan lords in the Edo period. At that time, the Shogun imposed strict rules on the people, such as codes about what you could wear, or what you could build or how many stories a building had, etc. This was to weaken the regional lords, and to make sure they followed the rules, the Shogun often had “guests” (aka hostages) in the form of the lords wives and mothers kept with the Shogun at all times. But the Maeda lords were clever. Not only did he act like a total idiot anytime he was at court that the whole country thought he was harmless, but he also built Myoryuji like a defensive base, with tons of secret rooms, hiding spots, passageways, etc. so that if it ever came to battle, he had a safe place as well as a place to get away. Myoryuji doesn’t have anything to do with ninja, but because of all the defensive features, it might as well be a ninja temple! The tour we took went through the whole temple and explained all the features.

Since I can’t use any pictures to illustrate and it would be confusing to just describe all the interesting stuff in the building, I’ll spare you the paragraphs of text I COULD write, and just show one thing I was able to take a picture of:

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This is an entrance to the temple, a staircase leading to a door. But while the staircase is wide, the door is small. There is a secret door on the other side leading to a hallway going to another floor which isn’t apparent from the outside. But the REALLY interesting part is that if you open the door from the outside, even if the other door is open, it immediately closes and locks the other door in a way that you can’t tell there IS another door. Moreover, staircase uses paper on the backs of the stairs not only to let in light, but also anyone sitting below the stairs can tell when someone’s approaching the door because of the shadows cast by their feet. Such a little thing, but the whole temple was like that… everything really well thought through and detailed. It was really fun!

Anyway, let’s move on.

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The entrance gate

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Kanazawa Beniya, the kimono blog I follow, has a store here. They were closed, but it was probably a good thing…

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Heading up to Kenrokuen

I have WAY too many pictures of Kenrokuen to really go through and write about all of them, so I’m just going to post them in one massive chunk. Sorry.

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And after the garden was a visit across a bridge to the old castle grounds, parts of which have been renovated

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And other parts are currently being renovated, although I don’t think they plan on doing the whole castle, just the gates.

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And then we got hit with a torrential downpour

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And then we headed on to the Higashi Chaya district to walk around a bit and get dinner

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We got there too late to see any of the teahouses beyond their doors, but that’s okay

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Dinner was really good, and then we headed out to make some time on the road before stopping for the night.

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Day 3 found us driving along the beautifully scenic and rural Noto Peninsula of Ishikawa Prefecture, hitting sightseeing spots along the way, until finally managing to drive around the entire thing and ending up back in Toyama Prefecture for a night before finally heading home the next day.

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Our first stop was the Keta Taisha Shrine, which was a really nice-looking shrine with a large off-limits forest behind it which has been closed off for ages.

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The shrine is one for love, so I guess the arrow is appropriate?

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What we could see of the old forest was really nice

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Up next was Myojoji Temple, a pretty large temple with a big pagoda and various other buildings

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Various gates and guards, stones and statues

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There was even a shrine on the temple lands proper which was pretty unusual… they often are built close together, but this is the first time I’ve seen a shrine literally surrounded by a temple!

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Up next was the Okunato Coastline, including the famous Ganmon Rocks.

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We walked around then took a boatride to see the area from the water

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The ride was choppy but fun!

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Our boat

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Further down from Ganmon, the Haoto Iwa rocks

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We skipped Sojiji Temple and headed into Wajima for lunch since we were getting low on time.

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But the next stop was a don’t miss it! sort… the Senmaida Rice Fields

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We got there right at planting time!

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Koi-no-bori and clouds a bit further down

By that time we were actually pretty tired, and it was getting a bit late. We stopped a few more times along the way, but nothing super note-worthy, and it was pretty late by the time we got off the peninsula and into Toyama to find a hotel.

Day 4 was basically just driving home and relaxing.

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Postcards from Toyama and Ishikawa

So that was our Golden Week trip. If we’d wanted to continue another day I would have liked to spend more time in Noto. It was definitely hard to do in one day, and we had to skip some sights I would have liked to see. But I’m glad we got the chance to go, even if it was only for a short trip!