After the kind-of-emergency earlier in the year, the government has decided that things in Japan are pretty under control at the moment and that people need to go on domestic holidays to restart tourism, like, right now, seriously, please go, why aren’t you going, it’s really quite cheap at the moment, we’ll even pay for half of your trip, just please go on holiday. OK? You’re going now? Gooood.
Essentially, at the moment Japan has a country-wide campaign called Go To Travel which gives you 35% off your hotel and transport costs plus 15% of the value in coupons to spend in restaurants and shops at your destination. With that incentive, many Japanese people are actually taking days off (!) and travelling the country.
My partner and I decided to go to Kanazawa, a city on the west coast famous for its historical buildings and (apparently) production of gold leaf. It also has one of the highest rates of bear sightings in Japan, and is just down the road from a city where a bear spent a day wandering around a shopping mall. Thankfully, we managed to see plenty of historical buildings and no bears.
Like many towns in Japan, Kanazawa was built around the castle of a powerful daimyo warlord. Much of the castle was destroyed by fire (multiple times) but it’s currently being restored to something like its former glory.
The castle grounds are huge, giving you a sense of how important the ruling Maeda (or Kaga) clan were; apparently their holdings were second only to the ruling Tokugawa shogun during Japan’s medieval “warring states” period. It has a fascinating maze-like design common to many Japanese castles, with plenty of routes unexpectedly blocked off by walls and long winding fortified paths leading up to the site of the great hall. Many of the surrounding streets were also designed to protect the castle, with not-quite-straight intersections and odd corners which would subtly lead an attacking army on circuitous routes around the castle instead of through it.
Next to the castle is a huge park called Kenroku-en, which was once the private garden of the Maeda clan.
A sense of the samurai
A few minutes walk from the castle is a small district of traditional samurai houses. It’s a bit hard to take photos because so many houses are behind walls, but the streets were beautiful and very fun to walk around. We realised later that we should have rented kimonos to get the true historical Japanese experience!
Gold leaf on everything
Kanazawa is also famous for producing gold leaf, so naturally every shop sells something gold-leaf-themed. I think gold leaf on food is just silly, but my girlfriend Hina enjoyed the novelty and at least it’s fun to take photos of.
The campaign lasts until the end of January next year, so hopefully we get a chance to go somewhere fun in winter as well!