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.
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.
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.
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.
The unagi and other dishes were expensive, but GOOD!
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.
It also has a beautiful garden surrounding it
The atmosphere was really nice and quiet with the rain and lack of people. We spent quite some time just enjoying the greenery!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!