To open roads and quiet moments (or a post about Taal and Kanazawa)

slouching somewhereSometimes it only takes a few kilometers of open road to remedy a sudden bout of restlessness (or looking at loads of travel photos).

After an exhausting week,  it was a relief to get out of the city. Even if it was just to nearby Tagaytay, just less than 60 kilometers away from Manila and two hours on the road. Even if the scenery on the highway hardly had anything interesting to offer. At least the skies were blue and the road held the promise of wide open spaces. And a view of Taal Volcano. It’s considered the second most active volcano in the country. But when it’s not threatening any sort of seismic activity (and it hasn’t for two years), it’s a soothing sight to see. (Oh look, it’s not going to erupt. Relief.)

taal

Taal Volcano in the middle of Taal Lake from a distance

Beyond the open road (or the railways, or runways), finding quiet moments when one travels seems a good reason as any to be thankful. The buzz of big unfamiliar cities or the hum of trains (a personal favorite) can be as thrilling as time spent navigating empty corridors of ancient temples or taking in every corner of a silent Muay Thai stadium hours before an explosive fight.

***

A week before the road trip, my husband recently went to Japan for a few days for a conference (enough quiet moments… insert me screaming). No, I didn’t get to join him (more screaming).

It was in Kanazawa, a city that was honestly never in our what-to-see-in-Japan radar, which supposedly is a common affliction among Japan-bound tourists who tend to overlook it. It’s smaller than Tokyo, but it has its fair share of well-preserved historical areas like Kyoto.

The capital of the Ishikawa Prefecture is located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. It takes four hours via shinkansen from Tokyo, and four hours via bus from Kyoto. You can also take a plane to Komatsu airport and from there take a 50-minute bus ride to Kanazawa. So yeah, it’s a bit out of the way from the popular Japanese cities.

The trip was only for four days and he had only half a day to go around, which he did with other folks from the media who were also attending the conference. They went to one of the three well-preserved chaya (teahouse) districts, to Kenrokuen (a sprawling landscaped garden, considered one of the three most beautiful in Japan), and, as many tours are often rushed, the gate of the Kanazawa Castle. (“There, that’s it,” he told me pointing to the top of the castle from the photo he took from the outside.)

Higashi Chaya District

Higashi Chaya District, one of the old and preserved chaya or teahouse districts in Kanazawa where geisha perform

higashi-chaya-district

One of the pathways in Kenrokuen

One of the pathways in Kenrokuen Garden

Kenrokuen

Kenrokuen Garden has a number of ponds, streams and waterfalls

In the mornings, he would go for a run and take photos with his phone on the way back. What struck him about Kanazawa, or at least where he stayed was how quiet the place was, almost deserted in some parts. He would call and wonder where everyone was. I guess stillness can sometimes turn so strange. Some of the places even reminded him of locations of some J-dramas we used to watch. But a day before he left, he finally got to see the city come alive: he went to Kanazawa’s largest fresh food market (Omicho Market) and later on got to see what he always wanted to see in Japan–a matsuri or local festival.

It was the Hyakumangoku Matsuri and he and his companions caught its main event, the procession of around 2,000 residents in warriors and princesses’ costumes as they marched toward the Kanazawa Castle.

The trail along a river..

Peace and quiet at a trail along a river for a morning jog in Kanazawa

The streets get lined...

The streets of Kanazawa come alive as local residents and tourists line a main thoroughfare to watch the procession of a matsuri or local festival. (The little girl in the foreground is too cute!)

Before the parade starts

Garbed in traditional warriors’ costumes, the participants gather near the east gate of the Kanazawa Station where the parade starts

Japanese family

A parade participant with his family

The matsuri started with kids...

There are countless matsuri in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates one of its own (Reminds me of our own prusisyon in the Philippines)

Climbing...

There are also teams who stage Kanazawa’s traditional performing arts during the parade

matsuri-horse2

I would have loved to see these!

matsuri-horsematsuri-horses

I always wanted to see...

And while this doesn’t have anything to do with the parade, I just want to include it. There has to be a train photo for a Japan post. (Did you hear about the JR line contest to couples who want to get married in the Yamanote line in Tokyo? Oh to be a guest in that wedding!)

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