AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Kanazawa to Matsumoto

Kanazawa to Matsumoto


Posted on Jul 16, 2014

A few days earlier we’d driven from Nagoya, near the south coast of Japan, to Kanazawa on the north coast, passing by the edge of the Japanese Alps. We would now start our journey southwards again, winding around the mountains and zigzagging a bit until we reached Nagoya again in just under a week’s time. Our destination for this leg of the journey is Matsumoto, famed for its castle. But rather than drive directly there we would take a scenic detour to see something on the way. I’d decided this would be Kurobe Dam. It’s almost 200m high and is the tallest dam in Japan. Plus there’s a huge reservoir behind it and there looked to be lots of walks in the area. It took 3 hours to drive to into the mountains and up to the dam. When we reached it we found out why it was so popular. It was one of the end points of the Alpine Route, a famous hike and journey across a few peaks and through some incredible scenery. Annemarie had looked this up a few weeks ago and dismissed it for a number of reasons, it involves a few cable cars (which I hate), it’s rainy season so walking isn’t fun and finally, the 20m deep snow tunnel (the road is cut out of the snow which is up to 20m deep, melts in June). I hadn’t bothered to look any of that up and just decided based on a few photos that we should go there. Oops! Anyway, we were in the car park now so we could probably wander around near the dam. Every piece of land which doesn’t contain man-made stuff is forested, so even a short walk around here would be nice. We spent a while looking at the tickets and options and debating if we should go further up or not. There is a ropeway, which pulls a train, then a cable-car to a resort at the top, followed by a bus around the top area to another resort, then a cable car and bus down to the other side. In the end we decided to just get the bus as far as the dam because it was quite late and it looked a bit chilly up there (we were wearing shorts and t-shirt). The bus was due 10 minutes after we bought the tickets, so we sat around waiting. By the time we were sat on the bus it was drizzling with rain. Damnit, we had left both umbrellas in the car because the sun had been shining when we walked across the car park less...

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Kanazawa

Kanazawa


Posted on Jul 15, 2014

Our first destination in Kanazawa was Kenroku-en, which is a couple of kilometres from the centre of town where the train and bus stations are located. Our hotel was a 1 minute walk from the bus station and it was pretty simple to find the bus which would take us to the castle and gardens. Like most of the buses in Japan it was a flat rate fare so no worries about how much it was to a specific destination and also no worries about reaching the destination as announcements were made and a screen showed the name of the next stop. In the UK (and most of Europe) I hate buses because I don’t know where I am or where my stop is, whereas here it’s so simple and easy. The fare is paid when you get off and there is the change machine if you only have large notes. Kenroku-en are famous Japanese gardens and considered one of the top three gardens in Japan. The name means, six attributes garden. The attributes were described by a Chinese poet in a poem famous in both China and Japan. The attributes of a perfect landscape are: spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, waterways, and panoramas. The garden is huge and really nice. There’s no flowers and very little colour, it’s all about the trees and bushes and water flowing through the garden. We wandered around the huge lake at the top of the garden first, then down past a large steam to another section of the garden. We ended by seeing the fountain, which is supposedly the oldest fountain in Japan. We walked for an hour around the garden and covered almost a mile. © OpenStreetMap contributors Download Opposite the gardens is Kanazawa Castle. This is a reproduction of the castle, it burnt down for the final time in 1881 and wasn’t rebuilt until 2001. Before that fire, the castle had burnt down at least 5 times since it was originally built in 1583. I don’t know why the castles weren’t built of stone, but all Japanese castles were built of wood and almost all have burnt down a few times. The Chinese had the same problem with their city gates, built of wood and frequently burning down. Amusingly, the vast majority of the fires were internal, not enemies burning it to the ground but people working within the castle. Oops! And in battle I’d imagine that sitting near the top of a wooden castle is a frightening experience, all the enemy has to do is fire enough blazing arrows at the castle and one of them will probably start a...

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Nagoya to Kanazawa

Nagoya to Kanazawa


Posted on Jul 15, 2014

After visiting the Toyota factory the day before I decided that our hire car should be a Toyota Prius. I’ve never driven a hybrid car before and everything I’ve read about them has convinced me that while they are a good idea in practice they are not much more efficient than a new diesel engine car. Time to see if I was right… Picking up the car was easy but driving away wasn’t so easy. The woman showed a few buttons and pedals, assumed I knew what they meant and left me to drive off. I’ve only driven an automatic once before and never one with a park button or the handbrake as a pedal near the clutch rest. The gear stick selects which mode to go into then pops back into the middle and the park button is used to stick it into park once stopped. Figuring that out in the city centre at traffic lights was fun! Also it won’t go into drive unless the brake pedal is pressed, I found that out when revving the car to pull away from the lights and going nowhere… Our first destination was Inuyama Castle. This is on the outskirts of Nagoya and is one of the four castles that are classed as a national treasure. We parked in the castle car park and walked up the very slippery slope to the castle. We were offered an English speaking guide to show us around the castle, for free, obviously we said yes. Our guide offered to take a photo in what is supposed to be the best photo spot, but the trees covered most of this tiny castle. Inside, the bottom floor, which was used for storage, was tiny. Along its ceiling is a huge wooden beam supporting most of the next floor. It’s original and over 400 years old. Up the steep stairs was the first floor. This had the usual windows to fire arrows out of. There were also boards at the edge of the room to allow rocks to be thrown down onto enemies climbing the walls. We went up another floor and saw where the lord of the castle would sit, on a raised section in the middle of the room. Surrounding him would be his warriors. On display were a number of samurai suits of armour. They were brightly coloured and very decorated making suits of armour in Europe look very plain and boring. On the helmet of each warrior was the family crest. This could be a flower, or horns, etc. Our guide told us about the family crests and how everyone in Japan...

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