Saturday, August 25, 2018

Kanazawa to Mt. Fuji

Leaving Ducky we took the train to Kanazawa, something of an up-and-coming destination for tourism, meaning if you've been to the major sites but still want to go to a great secondary one, Kanazawa is high on that list.  Its best known attraction is the Kenrokuen Gardens, which are widely considered one of the top 3 of Japan, and the nearby Kanazawa Castle.  There is also a small traditional neighbourhood that is nice to walk around in.  The gardens were stunning and we spent most of our time just strolling around and through them.  The Japanese are more about landscapes than flowers so they really use the terrain to it's full potential, dividing it up into separate sections, usually revolving around water, whether a pond, stream, waterfall or fountain. The grounds around the castle were extensive and quite nice too.  If we had had a more flexible schedule I could've seen us spending more time there.

From the train on our way to Kanazawa

Kanaawa castle

Kenrokuen gardens

Historic neighbourhood of Kanazawa.

Our next stop was a brief one in the little village of Shirakawa-go.  It is listed as a Unesco site along with a few other nearby villages for their unique and well preserved architectural style involving very thick thatched roofs on wooden A-frame homes.  The village is small and feels fairly remote in a little mountain valley with some nice views.  It can get very cold in the winter and it almost looks like the roofs are thick hats on the homes to keep them warm. The only way to visit is by bus or on a tour, so we took the bus, stopped for a couple hours (all you really need) and then continued on a later bus to Takayama.

The village of Shirakawa-go

Takayama is a well known (some say tourist-trap) town in the mountains with easy access to nice scenery in nearby areas as well as many craft shops in the historic quarter to explore.  We must've been lucky because we didn't see that many people and ended up enjoying the town.  The historic quarter is just a few blocks by a few blocks, but the area along the river is also nice. There is a longer trail that goes around the back side of the city linking a handful of temples and shrines which made for a pleasant afternoon stroll.


Craft shops

From Takayama we caught another bus direct to Fujikawaguchiko (Sasha took a while to learn to say it but she remembered it better than I did just now).  Unlike the bus from Kanazawa to Takayama via Shirakawa-go which felt like it passed mostly through the mountains in tunnels and skipped the scenery, the first half of this ride was on some very narrow windy mountain roads with some great views.  Our destination, hinted at from the name, was a town at the base of Mt Fuji.  There are a few spots to base yourself near the mountain, or alternatively, people visit Mt Fuji on day trips from Tokyo, but it was on our way so we stopped at the most well connected town of the bunch.  It seems like a nice place.  Busy, touristic, but nevertheless nice.  We had a hotel room with a view of the mountain.  We didn't see it.  It rained nonstop and the cloud cover was so low we couldn't even be sure we were beside anything. 
We still had a nice visit to the Fujisan Heritage Centre, a little museum/visitor centre about the mountain itself.  Mt. Fuji has a massive influence on Japanese culture and so it is not surprising that there are all sorts of shrines and historic routes and starting points for ascents up the mountain to see around the base.  There are also 5 small lakes on the north and east sides of the mountain to visit and we walked along the closest one until we were soaked by the rain.  The stubborn tourist never wins against mother nature though so we left early and finally made it to Tokyo.

Lake Kawaguchi

A pilgrims temple at the base of Mt. Fuji



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