The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Our first overseas visitor

I've been mad busy this past week, with my school's exams (yep, writing AND marking) and planning itineraries for our visitors. Rob's aunt, Chris, was in Tokyo last week for a work conference and she paid a visit to our little prefecture for a couple of days on the weekend. Chris and her husband Laurie lives in Hong Kong (our dream residential destination) and they were fantastic hosts to us when we went to Hong Kong for our honeymoon more than two years ago. This was our chance to repay the kindness (at least to Chris) and hospitality shown to us.

As you probably can tell from our tales of travels, I like to organise and plan trips - haha, probably due to my tendencies towards OCD. When Chris, Rob's mum and my parents told us they'd be visiting (all within one month of each other!), I told them to leave their Japan's travels to me (my parents and Rob's mum were worried about getting around in a foreign country, which is totally understandable at their age). Being our first visitor, Chris was our guinea pig to test the itinerary planned, and she was a gracious test subject. Readers, take note - this is the likely itinerary we'd have planned for you if you come for a short visit (this is also my online reference). (My parents and Rob's mum will be here for a couple of weeks so their itinerary will include (another) trip to Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, and we will accompany them to reduce the stress of being in a foreign country.)

I had a great time this weekend, and it is always fun to chat with Chris. She is a seasoned traveller and fellow foodie, and I love to ask her about other countries that she's been to. Chris really enjoyed the food (Rob and I did too!), and it was great fun bringing her around to try the seafood specialties of the Noto.

Saturday around the Noto

Picked Chris up from the airport at 11am, and drove west to Wajima, famous throughout Japan for its lacquerware. We dropped by the Lacquerware Centre with a mini-museum upstairs and a store downstairs. There are some very expensive items, but a lot of care and effort goes into each piece. The art of lacquerware is a time-consuming and elaborate affair, and there are many beautiful pieces.

We went to a Japanese restaurant nearby called Meigetsu for lunch, which was one of the places recommended by my supervisor who resides in Wajima. The seafood was great! Review will be added later.

We made a stop at the Kiriko Hall which Chris thought was fascinating. Inaka (countryside) Japan is amazing for its matsuri (festivals), and it truly is quite an experience. A kiriko is an omikoshi (portable shrine) lantern that are often used in these matsuri, and this hall held and displayed many of the kiriko used in the Noto area.

Hall full of kiriko used in festivals:

We then headed off for a scenic drive up the Sosogi coastline towards the tip of the Noto peninsula. We made a stop at Senmaida, the "thousand rice paddies". The winter scenery without the usual snow cover is not as beautiful as the summer and autumn views. I've seen photos of the field in winter, and the sight is breathtaking with the whiteness of the snow contrasted with the blue ocean and sky.

The fields of Senmaida in winter sans snow:

Following up the coast, there is a rock called Madoiwa (Window Rock), so named because of a 'window' in the rock formation. We almost missed it (like we did last time) because the 'window' is only visible in the other direction.

Madoiwa aka Window Rock:

Then we cut across the peninsula through the mountains to the east coast of the peninsula (north of where home is), and made a short stop at Mitsukejima (Battleship Rock), so-called because of its shape. The following photo was actually taken during our first month in Japan last August when we first stumbled across this place by accident (we got lost).

Mitsukejima (Battleship Rock) with a bell under an archway:

By now it was already almost 16:30, and were feeling a bit travel-weary from all the driving, so our final sight-seeing stop for the day was at the Blueberry Farm/Winery in Yanagida. Blueberry wine is actually pleasantly mild and sweet. It was yummy, but being non-alcohol drinkers, we walked away with some good blueberry jam instead.

Dinner was at Flatt's, which has got to be the highlight of the day (I've talked about the Flatt's previously). Apart from being a bakery and a cafe, the Flatts' also run a restaurant and a minshuku (Japanese-style inn) next door. This place is quite popular and foodies from all over Japan travel to this remote location to try Ben's cooking - it gets booked out quite far in advance. The food was awesome, prepared by the talented Ben Flatt - we're still talking about how great the food was, and a review will be written later. Chris stayed overnight at the minshuku, which she enjoyed as she did not have the chance to stay in a traditional Japanese-style inn before.

Sunday in Kanazawa

It was an early start on Sunday as the next part of the itinerary whizzes us through Kanazawa, which is 1.5hrs drive away from home. It was a lovely warm day, the warmest it has been since winter began. And there was quite a crowd at each place we brought Chris to. We bumped into many familiar faces today..

First stop was the Myoryuji (aka "Ninja" Temple), and Chris thought that the traps and tricks within this temple were quite fascinating.

We stopped by Monja-tei for okonomiyaki lunch, which was a first experience for Chris. We then took the short walk to Kenrokuen, one of the must-see tourists sights in Kanazawa, and it was packed! The garden was beautiful, as always, but the best sight for me was probably the plum blossoms. The plum blossoms were in bloom, and that can only mean one thing: the cherry blossoms are not long away! There is a section of the garden called the "Plum Grove", and that was where half the crowd in the garden was at (which made it difficult to take nice photo shots). According to one of the veteran JETs we bumped into, that was the first time in 3 years she got to view the plum blossoms in Kenrokuen - it was usually too cold or snowy when they bloom.

The pink and white blossoms of the plum trees:

Winter? Hah! One of the lakes in the garden, and an ancient tree planted by a 13th Lord of the Maeda house(?). The tree supports used during winter season were still up:

We stopped by the Castle Park next door for a look-see, then we headed off to the Gold Foil Museum (Kanazawa produces approximately 98% of Japan's gold foil production). Unfortunately we arrived at the museum just after it closed, so we decided to just head into the Forus complex and have an early dinner.

Wow, it's a long post. Well, it was a busy weekend, and I had fun playing host. I wonder if I'd still find it fun if I was working in the tour industry...

No comments:

Post a Comment