The new Shinkansen line, Hokuriku Shinkansen line, opened between Tokyo and Kanazawa in March, 2015. By using Kagayaki, it takes only 2 ½ hours to get to Kanazawa from Tokyo. So we decided to go to Kanazawa to visit its famous garden, Kenroku-en. Kanazawa, like most of other mid-sized cities in Japan, was originally a castle town. So it retains the culture of the Edo/ Tokugawa period (1600 to 1868) when war-lords ruled Japan. At Kenroku-en we enjoyed strolling within the large garden and having tea (served in more or less traditional tea ceremony – the tea itself was made out of sight) at Shigure-tei teahouse located in the garden. The tea was delectable and served in a beautiful and slightly uneven bowl followed by a serving of nama-gashi (Japanese freshly made sweets). Later, the proprietor of the teahouse explained the origin of the garden (the war-lord wanted to give jobs to his people when they were suffering from famine) and the tiny chashitsu (tea-room) on one end that survived the fire of 1759. It was interestingly informative. Later we visited Kaga-Yuzen (Kaga style yuzen silk dyeing) Kaikan (Museum).
Hamarikyu garden in Tokyo is our favorite garden, and since our hotel was situated nearby we visited the garden, and then we took a water bus from the Hamarikyu port to go to Asakusa. Asakusa is a laid-back Tokyo district, famous for the Sensoji Buddhist temple that seems to appeal to foreigners who look for distinctly Japanese atmosphere of the area. Asakusa was more crowded than usual because Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival was scheduled the following day. The area was glut with yukata-clad women who seemed to enjoy buying snacks and other trinkets in groups. Unfortunately we had to miss the fireworks because it was scheduled on the day of our departure. We certainly did experience Japanese matsuri atmosphere.
While in Tokyo, we visited the Studio Ghibli Exhibition titled “Ghibli Expo: From Nausicaä to Its Latest Film, The Red Turtle” held at the Tokyo City View Observation Deck on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower. The exhibition covered 30 years of Studio Ghibli works focusing on the way the studio staff worked hard to market its animation films to domestic as well as international audiences. The exhibit underscored the fact that no work of art or entertainment, no matter how excellent or interesting it may be, will be known to a great number of people without effective publicity materials, such as film posters and catchy phrase copies. The exhibit that contained life-size Totoro as well as a huge moving reproduction of the “Castle in the Sky” battleship was enjoyable probably for both film students and children. We found it very interesting.