May 22: Kanazawa: Kenroku-en garden, Samurai residence, Geisha Houses
This morning, we boarded the Thunderbird train for the hour and fifteen minute ride to Kanazawa (Marsh of Gold). This train is much slower than the bullet, but like it, has a canteen cart to supply drinks and comestibles en route.
We were bussed from the Kanazawa station to the old city to tour a Samurai house, walk by Geisha houses, and gardens. Lunch was tempura followed by a walk through Kenroku-en, an example of an elegant Japanese garden, developed since the early seventeenth century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenroku-en This was a great place for interesting shots.
The hotel was very, very interesting. First, we were escorted to our room past a assortment of stores, and while we sat on cushions, a young lady slid aside the door, and, entering on her knees on the tatami matted floor, presented us with our yukotas and sandles to be worn around the hotel, to the baths, and to meals. Understand, we knew this from our Tauck guide, as we spoke but a few words of Japanese, none of which I now remember including how to request directions to the WC. In any case, we found that the room included a humidifier, a water heater from which I could not figure out how to obtain water for tea, a bathroom with a tub and a stool next to the faucet – 12 inches off the floor – and a basin. Like other hotels, the toilet was a Toto washlet offering either a forward or posterior spray, intensity adjustable. During a sumptuous supper we were entertained by folk drummers who certainly could carry a beat. We learned the more forceful drum beating was most effective in banishing one’s evil spirits.
We returned to our room to find that the table had been replaced by two futons each covered with a comforter. Earlier, we had noted that our room looked out on a body of water, so we opened the window to enjoy the breezes. All was well until that nocturnal imperative required me to get off the mat – no mean feat in the eighth decade.
I mentioned earlier that I would offer information about Shintoism and Japanese Buddhism. Here is a cryptic description for Shintoism: http://www.religionfacts.com/shinto/index.html and another about Japanese Buddhism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_Japan . From our local guides we learned that daily spirituality relied upon a mixture of the two traditions: Shintoism for health and good luck, Buddhism for funerals, and at other times. Christianity is represented by about 2% of Japanese.