Japan Trip – Day 9 – Kanazawa

The bus that passes by Ainokura at 7:52 is scheduled to be at Joanna station at 8:20. There is a JR train from Joanna station to Takaoka at 8:25. When I was planning for this trip, I didn’t know that virtually all trains and busses in Japan are on time, so I thought 5 minutes was not enough to get from the bus stop to the train. I therefore planned to continue using the same bus all the way to Takaoka, even though the journey was more than 1,5 hours.

When the bus arrived at Joanna station however, the bus driver seemed very surprised that we didn’t leave the bus. I assume we weren’t the first foreigners who took that bus and he did not understand why we would even consider to stay on the bus, if there was a faster train. So he was saying a lot of things to us in Japanese, none of which we understood. But when we asked “Takaoka”, he pointed at the train station and nodded and said “Hai! Hai!” (“Yes! Yes!”). So we jumped off the bus and into the station, which turned out to be very small, with only 2 tracks, and the train for Takaoka waiting on track 1.

Tip: if you take the first bus from Ainokura to Takaoka, you can safely assume that you have enough time to transfer at the Joanna station, thus saving on the bus fare (assuming you have a JR Pass).

The train departed at 8:25, but it wasn’t a speedy train at all: it stops in every station and travels 50 km/h at most. Yet, you get to Takaoka in less than an hour, which is still much faster than the bus.

Takaoka station is a lot bigger than Joanna. Our train to Kanazawa only left at 10:44, so we took the time to grab a coffee.

The Thunderbird train from Takaoka to Kanazawa goes pretty fast. Before we knew it, we arrived in Kanazawa (25 minutes).

The hotel check-in time was 2pm and as we knew by now, they don’t make any exceptions. So we left our luggage at the hotel and went to the bus station (in front of the train station).

Maps Kanazawa (pdf)

Kanazawa has a very useful one-day bus pass that you can use on 3 busses that get you to most of the touristic places.

Tip: Buy a ONE DAY PASS at the bus ticket office (500 yen). It not only allows you to use the 3 main busses that go through the city, it also entitles you to a discount in a lot of places (indicated with a purple diamond on this map)

The bus system in the center of Kanazawa is very simple: you first decide which place you want to go to, then look for the closest bus stop and then take the right bus: the stops are indicated with letters and a number. The letter indicates the bus line (S for the Kenrokuen Shuttle, LL for the Kanazawa Left Loop Bus and RL for the Kanazawa Right Loop Bus). They run from approx. 8 am till 6pm. We had some difficulty in the beginning determining which bus was LL and which one RL (they both depart from bus stop #3), but the colors of the bus stops indicated on the map at the side of the bus can help: green for LL, orange for RL.

You only show you ONE DAY PASS at the driver when you get off. The bus stops are announced in Japanese and English, on a screen and verbally. What surprised me was that the bus driver always says when he or she will start driving (e.g. after stopping at a bus stop or for a red light) and even warns people that the bus will make a left or right turn. A bit overkill, if you ask me 🙂

We first went to the D.T. Suziki museum ∗∗∗ ( on Maps Kanazawa (pdf)). The building is designed by Yoshio Taniguchi (who also designed parts of MOMA (New York) and the Gallery of Horyuji (Tokyo). The architecture is stunning. It’s  pure, elegant and superbly well made. The museum itself is dedicated to the Buddhist philosopher D.T. Suzuki, who is said to have introduced Zen to the Western world. The museum is very Zen as well, with just 3 rooms, a few objects, pictures and books and a design that gives you peace.

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D.T. Suziki museum

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D.T. Suziki museum

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D.T. Suziki museum (Learning Space)

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D.T. Suziki museum (Contemplative Space)

For lunch, we went to the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art ( on Maps Kanazawa (pdf)). We did not go into the museum, but you can have lunch in the restaurant without the need for a ticket. The location is very nice (insert pictures) and the food excellent. Especially the sweets by master pastry chef and master chocolatier Hironobu Tsujiguchi are delicious. The café/restaurant is named after him: “Le musée de H”.

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patisserie (Le Musée de H)

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patisserie (Le Musée de H)

We then visited the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art ∗∗ ( on Maps Kanazawa (pdf)), designed by SANAA. Only half of the building was open (a new exhibition was being built), but the main attraction is “Swimming Pool”, Leandro Erlich.

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“Swimming Pool” (Leandro Erlich), top view

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“Swimming Pool” (Leandro Erlich), bottom view

If you are in Kanazawa, you have to eat sea food. So we looked for a good sushi restaurant and ended up in Morimorizushi Kanazawa-ekimaeten ∗∗, a kiten-zushi, restaurants where plates of sushi revolve on a conveyor belt. This one is special however, as each table has an iPad where you make your selection and the sushi is freshly made. It was definitely the best sushi I ever had. You’ll find the restaurant at the back of the 6th floor of the Kanazawa Forus shopping mall (next to the station).

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Morimorizushi Kanazawa-ekimaeten (selection by iPad)

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Morimorizushi Kanazawa-ekimaeten (selection by iPad)

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Morimorizushi Kanazawa-ekimaeten (you might not easily find it, so this is how it looks like)

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Morimorizushi Kanazawa-ekimaeten (view from outside)

When looking for the restaurant, we were amazed to see that quite a number of them are displaying all their dishes outside, made of some plastic that looks relatively authentic. It doesn’t look very tasty to me, but I assume it works for the Japanese.

It looks pretty real

It looks pretty real

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and then again, it doesn’t 🙂

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Japan Trip – Day 8 (part 2) – Ainokura

To go to Ainokura, we took the World Heritage Bus from the Shirakawa-go bus stop at 13:30 (timetable). In this case, we needed to pay when entering the bus (700 yen per person to go to Ainokura).

The bus stops are announced by the driver, so it was pretty clear where we had to get off.

Ainokura is much smaller than Shirakawa-go and as it is less accessible (not close to a highway, only 4 busses per day), it is much quieter. We booked a stay in a typical Gussho House (Gassho Minshuku Nakaya) as we wanted to have a feel of the village without the tourists. It’s an experience I highly recommend. After 4pm, the village becomes very quiet. The ryokan owners are very nice, and even though their knowledge of English is very limited, you immediately feel at home.

Gassho Minshuku Nakaya

We left our luggage at the guest house and walked through the village. The view from the “Ainokura Viewing Point” is quite spectacular:

View from Ainokura viewpoint

View from Ainokura viewpoint

When we came back into the house, we noticed fishes above the fire. This was probably going to be part of our dinner:

Fishes for dinner

Fishes for dinner

Dinner (“ban gohan”) was served at 6.30pm in the eating room. There were no tables, you eat while sitting on the floor. The food was delicious:

Dinner in Gassho Minshuku Nakaya

Dinner in Gassho Minshuku Nakaya

There was another couple staying in the guest house as well. They were Japanese, so the conversation was not easy, but the man did speak a few words of English, so we managed to talk a little. What struck us was the fact that his wife did seem to ask what we said in English, but every time the man did not answer immediately. We felt that he wanted to “demonstrate” the hierarchy, so his wife had to wait for an answer. Pretty patronizing if you ask me, but I think this is still the case in a lot of Japan, except maybe in the big cities and with younger people.

Meanwhile, the guest house wife had put out the futon beds (Japanese sleeping mats) for us in our room. At 9pm, we heard some kind of Christmas tune throughout the village and a woman saying something in Japanese. I assume she said that the curfew started (you are not allowed to walk through the village after dusk and before dawn).

I slept relatively well, despite the fact that those futon beds are pretty hard. At 6am, we were woken up by that same tune and a voice, probably stating that it was time to get up 🙂

Breakfast was served at 7am and also this meal was very nice. I would not like this kind of (Japanese) breakfast every morning (in particular, rice and tea with every meal is a bit too much for me), but it tasted very well. The only thing I missed was “real” coffee. There was Nescafé, but that’s not the same 🙂

Breakfast in Gassho Minshuku Nakaya

Breakfast in Gassho Minshuku Nakaya

The guest house owner already mentioned that she would drive us to the bus stop (it’s about 1,5 km, which is not that far to walk, but with luggage, it’s a bit cumbersome). The bus passes by at 7:52 and I definitely wanted to be on time, as the next bus would only be around noon. So at 7:35 we were ready to leave. This came as a surprise for her, probably because everything in Japan is so punctual, that she couldn’t understand we actually wanted to be at the bus stop 10 minutes before the scheduled time! Surely enough, the bus showed up exactly at 7:52 🙂

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