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Downtown Kanazawa

2008 June 21

Today was long and full of adventures that began when Ben and I caught the bus from the central campus station to 武蔵ヶ辻, where we met Asami in front of M’Za department store. (By the way – ヶ is an ancient kanji pronounced “ka” or “ga”; ケ is katakana “ke”. This confuses the heck out of me.) She took us across the street to 近江町市場, a street market primarily for the sale of fresh produce and seafood that has existed since the Edo period. It smelled very strongly of fish, and there were all sorts of things I’ve never seen at an American market – octopus tentacles, dried squid of various shapes and sizes, and whale meat. (No, whale meat doesn’t look all that distinctive – Asami just pointed it out to me on our way through.) We ended up stopped by a seaweed salesman who decided to try out his English on Ben and myself. He had a variety of seaweeds (most of them wet) laid out in wooden bowls and handed out samples – literally – by picking some up with his chopsticks and putting it in your bare hand. All of the seaweeds were pretty tasty, though – the last one was a special dried mix that I really found delicious. Then we walked down a few booths and a woman selling shrimp and other smaller seafoods called us over for some more samples. First was 甘えび – sweet shrimp – which I’d had before at a sushi restaurant with the Hashibas and wasn’t all that fond of. My booth sample didn’t do much to change my opinion of it. Then things took a turn for the worse when the woman handed me a very slimy purple something. Ben and Asami both said it was delicious; I wanted to wait until I had stomached my shrimp, but the texture in my hand was freaking me out, so I threw it in my mouth and immediately gagged. I was going to try to eat it, but my repeated gagging faces had Asami reaching for a tissue, so I spit it up and apologized profusely for my weak stomach. I still don’t know if the taste was good or not, though I keep having gag-inducing flashbacks; the texture alone threw me off. It was really embarrassing, though. To make up for it, the woman gave us some fish broth samples, which I stomached much more easily. On our way away from that particular booth, Ben told me that he picked up on it being squid but decided not to warn me in case that scared me. I told him it might have been more of a comfort knowing what I had in my hand, but I appreciated the sentiment.

Asami then took us over to a croquette stand, and we all ordered rice croquettes – probably as backlash to all the fish we were smelling. We then walked out of the market searching for a place to sit and eat, finally ending up in a parking lot on a low concrete wall – a very Japanese thing to do, says Ben, which makes sense considering I’ve been told the Japanese don’t eat on the street. Rice croquettes are delicious, full of cheese and flecks of meat. We ducked back into Omicho-ichiba to get drinks from vending machines and then headed away from the fish smell in search of a shrine. 

We stopped at a small shrine first, where Asami and I were both impressed by Ben’s expertise at the hand-washing purification routine to be observed at a shrine. There’s a stone basin containing a pool filled with running water beside the main shrine building; you pick up the long-handled wooden ladle and scoop up some water, pouring it first on your left and then your right hands. Then you pour some more water into your left hand and drink it, and finally you pour the remaining water over the handle of the ladle itself before replacing it. Asami was also impressed that Ben could read the explanatory sign in front of the shrine as well as convert Japanese dynasty years to Gregorian years. The shrine was one of many to the Kaga clan, which is a family of great importance to Kanazawa considering that Maeda Toshiie of the Kaga clan founded the city. The sign outside this particular shrine noted that the current Kaga clan head, still bearing the name Maeda, is alive and living in Tokyo.

Then we went to a more famous shrine called 尾山神社. Here we wandered through a beautiful garden pond and looked at statues of 前田利家 and his wife 松 (“pine tree”) before walking up the steps to the actual shrine to purchase fortunes. Ben and Asami both bought love fortunes, but I went for a more general fortune that came with a charm. I ended up getting a tiny golden rake, which is supposed to help me “rake in” more money if I keep it in my wallet. The rest of my fortune, however, was not so good; so in accordance with custom, I folded it up and tied it to a rod with other bad fortunes in the hopes that this will make it better. I do have pictures of the shrine, especially of the unique main gate, which I’ll upload after posting this. I also have lots of pictures of the fortune, although not of the bad part, of course!

Asami, Ben, and I wandered over to a 百円 shop – basically a dollar store – in a nearby デパート and met up with Ben’s friend Becks, an Australian exchange student living in the international dorm. It was then revealed to me that everyone but Asami was going to an orchestral concert nearby in the evening, so we were wandering around killing time until then. We ended up walking through a fashion district, where I got to see a lot of very fashionable Japanese clothes and a lot of very dressed-up Japanese young people, including a very ビズアル系 guy in what looked like an open yukata over dark clothes and combat boots wearing yellow contacts. Japanese fashion is more intimidating than the people wearing it, though; especially the gangster subtype that’s catching on now. As I think Ben said, you’ll walk up to a group of young men with saggy pants and flashy hats, and they may narrow their eyes and look tough, but their shirts are always tucked in, and they’ll apologize very politely if one of them bumps into you.

We also ducked into a Kaga yuuzen shop, where we watched a brief English-language video on this beautiful, time-consuming, and expensive kimono-dying technique for which Kanazawa is famous. The video showed a lot of 風呂敷 (wrapping cloths) and bridal hangings, which both seem to use lots of bright colors – contrary to what Prof. Okazawa keeps insisting, that Japanese art is all about subdued color. Guess I need to find me some bridal hangings and furoshiki!

The four of us ducked into Circle K for refreshments, which we enjoyed sitting in a small paved park in front of Oyamajinja. Then we walked over to the hall where the concert was to be held, met up with Nita and crew, and said goodbye to Asami. The concert was for the Kanazawa University Wind Orchestra, in which Nita had played the euphonium. They gave a tremendous performance. The first half of the concert was serious pieces like Perseus, and the second half was a little more fun and big-band style stuff. Marios (from Greece) recorded Perseus and one of the second-half pieces, so hopefully I can get copies from him sometime.

Before heading back to campus, we all went out to dinner together at an American-themed restaurant called Freshness Burger. I enjoyed a lime soda and a teriyaki chicken burger (with mayonnaise, of course, as most things in Japan are), and we all had a really good time. Then Ben, Becks, Marios, and I said goodbye to Nita and Tomo-san (I think? she’s really nice, but fairly soft-spoken, so I always miss her name) and got on the bus to campus, and Marios and I had a nice long conversation in English and Japanese about various things. Becks, Ben, and Marios invited me over to the International House common room tomorrow afternoon to watch Euro soccer with them, which should make the day a little more interesting than just laundry.

Alright, time to upload what pictures I have for now – there will be more as soon as Asami sends me the pictures of me eating seaweed and pointing at fish from Omicho-ichiba. As a side note, my friend Courtney has spent her first day in Beijing and is getting used to using her Chinese (and to breathing heavy air pollution). Welcome to the Eastern Hemisphere, Courtney!

P.S. – Is it just me, or does my blog come up as link number 2 when you search Google for “kaga yuuzen”?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aaron permalink
    2008 June 21 1:06 pm

    Link number 1, actually. Impressive!

  2. marainjapan permalink
    2008 June 21 1:24 pm

    I think this has to do with my spelling more than my originality, but it is a long u after all.

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