On Saturday, it rained. A lot. I knew it was going to rain, and I decided to go to Kanazawa anyway. (I didn’t melt. It worked out pretty well.)

I had all these lofty plans, actually, where I was going to get up really early and get to Kanazawa by around 9 am – it’s a 45 minute train ride away, and a 20 minute drive to the train station so yes, early. The two ALTs nearby were going to come with me, we were going to see the gardens and the marketplace and anything else that there was to see.

This fell through when the other girls weren’t interested in going in the rain, and when I failed to wake up early. So I got to Kanazawa by around 11 am, which turned out just fine.

The train ride was nice – I tried to get some shots of the mountains through the window, but only a few came out properly. I can’t usually see them from where I live – they’re sort of low on the horizon and a bit distant. Maybe also a bit shrouded in clouds or mist. But they’re very attractive, and it was nice to see them up close.

Kanazawa was much larger than I realized. I guess I hadn’t much in the way of preconceived ideas, but somehow I wasn’t quite expecting a proper city. I’m not sure why – it has Japan-famous gardens and a very nice castle, so it was clearly important at some point.

The first thing I went to see was the Omi-cho Marketplace. (It was raining, but it turned out the market was covered. Awesome!) Omi-cho is this crazy warren, and during the day it was lively and full of fish and noodle vendors and stores selling overpriced foreign food items. Some of the stores were clearly permanent, others were very clearly set up for the day with folding tables and awnings. Which is not to say that they aren’t probably there in the exact same place every single day, but they don’t have a building. They do have a roof, however, because the whole market does. Given that Kanazawa seems to call itself the “Rainy City” this is probably a good idea.

For all it’s awesomeness, I can imagine it being more than a little creepy at night. Now, maybe it’s not – maybe the temporary stores clear out and suddenly you have wide opens streets. But when I saw it there was a distinct maze-like quality with extreme potential for getting lost, and between the narrow paths and the roof I can see it being a really good spot for shady clandestine meetings and/or full of homeless people.

Not that I’ve seen a single person here who looked homeless.

So I wandered the market, and bought onigiri and a tea-box. I found canned chickpeas but didn’t buy them because I had no intention of dragging heavy cans around all day. One of the proper stores had a second floor full of foreign food – this is where I found the chickpeas – and it also had an entire wall full of spice bottles. It was a beautiful sight.

By the time I finished with the market, the rain had stopped. I took out my map and asked how to get to the Castle – I’d gotten turned around within the market – and spent some time wandering over the castle grounds. Japanese castles don’t seem terribly – okay, at all – defensible, but there was some sort of wall structure that had broken down, which was presumably more effective at withholding attackers.

The gardens are right next to the castle, across a broad street. They’re sort of on a hill, and they’re not so much a “botanical garden” as a park with very little space for grass. Which also has some fountains and some statues and some fancy landmarks.

There weren’t a lot of flowers – there were a bunch of iris lining a cute little stream, which looked very nice, but otherwise the emphasis was much more on “dramatic trees.” They do a funny thing there, where they prop up the branches of the tree with poles. Maybe to protect them from snow? Maybe because the branches grow very horizontally and would otherwise break? Whatever the reason, it’s hilarious looking.

After the garden, I set off in the direction of a shrine. It started to pour though, and I decided to avoid the rain by going into various shops I probably would have skipped. One was a shop that did gold leafing. They did various traditional and modern things with their gold – you could buy tiny containers of gold leaf fragments to sprinkle in coffee and tea, or you could get dishes with leaf, or you could get a curl of gold on top of an ice cream cone. (Yeah, I don’t get it either.) You could get sake with gold either in it, or in a little envelope attached. There were glass-and-gold jewelry items and several different pieces of wall art.

I also discovered that in the event I ever become a gazillionare, I probably will have to buy some lacquerware. I went into a store devoted to it, and wow. Some of it is stunningly gorgeous. People in Japan seem mostly to have cheap, plastic versions these days, in traditional colors and designs. This is because real lacquerware is appallingly, gratuitously expensive. By which I mean, items in the store basically started at 40,000-50,000Y ($4-500) and went up, up, up from there. Several things were in the $6000 range – towers of boxes, for example, were very pricy. But also stunningly gorgeous.

But it would actually kill me to spend that kind of money, which means in order to do it I would have to be so staggeringly rich that I could live a wildly indulgent lifestyle off, say, the interest of my accounts. (Wouldn’t it be nice to have an endowment? I think so. I think I deserve one. Wanna get right on that, dad?)

So I spent a bunch of time hiding from the rain in hideously expensive stores, and then decided to make my way over to the Ninja Temple. (Not the temple I was originally heading to, but then I saw it on the map, and well… Ninja Temple. How could I not?)

It turns out, that you need reservations for the tour of the Ninja Temple, and also that they close at 4:30 and I got there around 4:35. So I looked at the outside, scoffed at what Japan considered a “street,” and went to look at one of the geisha districts. This area was full of broad streets, and larger houses, but it didn’t have the architectural structure I was expecting. Which is to say, I know Geisha houses were built with these open rooms on the bottom floor – or possibly sort of porches – with delicate vertical latticework acting a screen so that the girls could sit “modestly” but still be seen by the outside world and attract customers. The houses had something like that, but the open spaces were so tiny I can’t imagine the girls would have been visible at all.

By this time, it was late, and I was hungry, and I had cooking of chickpeas to do, so I meandered back to the train station and went home.

Back in Kosugi, I stopped at the Kahma to look at blenders – for making hummus – and got sidetracked by the rice cookers. It turns out I should have gone next door to Yamada Denki – there was a rice cooker there that WAS on sale – but when I was looking for a toaster the prices had been better at Kahma. I discovered this on Sunday when I went back to get a blender because my attempts at making hummus without one had failed utterly. I couldn’t, at first, figure out at all how to use my rice cooker – the instructions and buttons are all in Japanese – but Sunday morning gave me the bright idea of looking on the ‘net for an English version of the instruction guide. The exact model I have apparently isn’t sold in the states, but the company had a very similar item offered and I got the instructions for that. It worked out.

Saturday night, I ate spaghetti and boiled chickpeas and rolled my eyes a lot at how long that takes, and scooped chickpea skins out of the water and then smooshed at the chickpeas themselves trying to get the skins off faster. Every now and then my stove would decide that I wasn’t really using it anymore, and would turn off. (Okay, I admit, this is a very good function because it might prevent my apartment from burning down. But it was inconvenient last night, and any other night when the things I’m making require lengthy boiling.)

Sunday was sort of boring – it was gorgeous and sunny, which backfired on me when I decided to walk home from Kaiwomaru Park a different way from the path I’d taken there. The new route, which I’d hoped would be shorter – I could feel the heat on my shoulders and wanted to get home – turned out to instead involve Getting Very Lost and walking through lumberyards. Eventually, I found myself at the upper end of a park that I sort of know – I live near the middle section – and it had some layout similarities. I wasn’t sure, at first, if it was the right park, or where in the park I might be, but I got to the other side and discovered I was very nearly home. I went to the grocery store to reward myself with some mango gummy candies, but sadly they had none. So I bought a blender instead, and finally finished my hummus. (It is delicious. Very very delicious.)

ETA: there are photos. Go look!