Christmas in Kanazawa

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This is by far the most unique Christmas experience I”ve ever had. Not only did I spend it in another country, but it was also my first Christmas completely alone. This was the first trip completely organized by my efforts. This was distinctly my Christmas and no one else’s.

Well, I should say I spent it solo instead of alone because “alone” implies that I experienced feelings of solitude and loneliness. As a truly independent entity on such an enormous American holiday, I was able to see this tradition through another lens and I honestly didn’t mind celebrating it the way I did. Funny enough though, from what I’ve gathered, Christmas is suppossedly a couple’s holiday in Japan, so I completely botched that part (explains why several people before and during the trip asked if I had a girlfriend).

Kanazawa is a beautiful city littered with architecture from modern impressionism to ancient landmarks. Nothing exemplifies this more than the placement of the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum next to Kanazawa Castle. The contrast of unique contemporary artwork just meters away from the castle speaks not only to Kanazawa’s traditional and modern historical fusion, but a good chunk of Japan’s as well.

Kanazawa Castle was ruled by the Maeda family (After Lord Maeda Toshie) for 280 years. Over the years, the castle sustained heavy damage including a fire that burned down a castle tower that was never rebuilt and other fortress buildings that were repeatedly attacked. As a result, the castle has been restored numerous times and has led to the castle tacking on various shape and materials over the course of 400 years.

dsc_0628The biggest recommendation I received before visiting Kanazawa was to visit Kenroku-en, known as one of the “Big Three” gardens in Japan along with Koraku-en (Okayama) and Kairaku-en (Mito). Kenroku-en is set next to Kanazawa Castle and was developed and maintained by the Maeda Clan for generations. The garden features ponds, small rivers, stone lanterns and numerous trees. This is a unique time of year where all of the tree branches are tied up with rope as to not break when snowfall arrives.

Speaking of which, my only complaint from the whole trip was that the region didn’t experience any snow fall while I was there. I romanticized my expedition to Kanazawa to the point I expected full white, lush blankets of snow for half of the trip through the Ishikawa Prefecture. Perhaps my expectations were too lofty.

All-in-all, my 30 hours in Kanazawa were well spent. While I didn’t get to indulge in the region’s famous snow crabs and eat at a couple of particular restaurants (My planning wasn’t the best), I still had a wonderful time and experienced one of the most refreshing days I”ve had in a long time.

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