How to bathe in Japanese

Day two in Kanazawa started much the same way that the first did: with rain. We headed downstairs for breakfast (skipping the overly salted egg cooked in fish oil) and got ready for the day.

I mentioned a few posts back (I think) that I hadn’t yet had a chance to experience a traditional Japanese bath, common in ryokan inns. That was about to change. This particular bath was set up as two seperate rooms, actually I’m fairly certain most are. The first room is for changing and sink-based activities like tooth brushing, and the second for bathing. The bathing room consists of a wall of faucets in front of a mirror, and have a shower nozzle as well. You retrieve a stool and a bucket, and sit on your stool in front of the faucet with mirror and bathe next to everyone…it’s like a locker room, so no big deal really. Only difference is that you are sitting down. The bucket is for…well I actually I have no idea what it is technically for, though I imagine it is simply a throw back to when fancy things like shower heads didn’t exist.

The real treat however is the hot bath (like a jet-less jacuzzi…not a tub) opposite faucet-row that you jump in AFTER bathing. You DO NOT go in soapy, and you DO NOT bring your towel with you. I only made one of those mistakes…going in before bathing…but luckily there was someone there to help me out and explain to me the process. I could have looked this up before hand, but I didn’t. Sōri. Some bath water is actually infused with stuff and/or is natural spring water so it is claimed to have rejuvenating properties, like Turkish baths, but it was unclear if this one was or not because I can’t read anything or talk to anyone.

1- Kanazawa station
2- Sumiyoshiya
3- Ōmichō market
4- Ozaki Jinja
5- Kanazawa Castle
6- Kenroku-en Garden
7- Geisha district
8- Mojo Cafe
9- Museum of Modern Art
1, red- Samurai district
2, red- Chochinya

We left the hotel and headed up towards one of the Geisha districts in Kanazawa. There really aren’t many Geishas anymore but it was mildly interesting to walk the streets where these women once trained and entertained. The old houses were distinct, but aside from the smattering of temples, a nice policeman who gave us a map (in English), and a few shops, the area was kind of bland. Most of the excitement was in scurrying around trying to stay dry.

Once the weather cleared up, and mostly for good, we hoped on the Kanazawa Loop Bus which, as the name indicates, drives in a continuous circle around the cities sites. We got dropped off by the Kenroku-en gardens, walked around the corner, and had lunch at a place called Mojo; a vegetarian kitchen specializing in curries and sandwiches. The building also doubles as an art gallery but there wasn’t much going on except for a few local crafts. I had the curry and Erin had a bacon & avocado sandwich. Then we left.

We walked about a kilometer or so to the Kanazawa Museum of Modern Art. Typically we are not museum people (and I don’t really know why) but everyone we talked to said to go. Besides, the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees and the wind had picked up so a place to be inside was welcome. The museum was as billed and I’m glad we went. My favorite part was an exhibit of crafts made by local artisans that patrons could actually buy at all price ranges. Sadly, nothing suited us and we left empty handed, but cool anyway.

After milking the inside time for about all we could, we headed back outside and went over to the old samurai district. In “castle” times this was where the high ranking samurai and rich officials lived. The area is walled in (though roads have since been constructed over the tiny moat…which itself has been converted to storm drainage) and all of the houses are now privately owned, save a few converted shops. They are all still kept up with bonsai gardens and the old style, black wood and tile architecture, but mostly it is just a walk through.

We headed back to the ryokan for a rest and then went back down towards the Katamachi Switchback for dinner. We had made reservations at a tiny izakaya called Chochinya where they greeted us as Erin-san and sat us at the counter. The specialities were grilled meats and vegetables (…the grilling is referred to as yakatori, I believe) and boasted a large selection of sochu, a sake-like rice drink. The portions were tapas-size so we ordered a bunch of stuff: chicken thigh, shittake mushrooms, chicken meatballs, and asparagus wrapped in bacon to name a few. We also had a cabbage salad with some pretty banging sesame dressing (hint, it was mayonnaise based). The highlight of the meal though was the Tebaski; basically chicken wings with a sesame sauce that I could have eaten forever.

I also tried the Sochu. There were probably 50-60 different kinds to try so I just asked the server to pick one for me. Apparently you can have this served 3 different ways: in cold water, in hot water, or straight. It took 5 minutes to order this, no joke. There was a lot of pointing and hand gestures involved, and I ended up with some kind of sochu in cold water which was actually quite nice and tasted a lot like a gin & tonic. I could not predictably reproduce this order if I tried or tell you what kind of sochu I had…I think it was #12?

After dinner we strolled through the area and stopped in another bar to have a beer. Communication here was even tougher and required pointing to things behind the bar. “Hai” means “yes” in Japanese and in process-of-elimination-ordering, this word becomes your best friend.

We strolled back to the pad and crashed out after doing some reading on Takayama, which is our next destination.

kicking it in the Geisha district
we got a sweet room upgrade
samurai district streets
20131019-185412.jpga street with bars

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