Today is the first real tavel day; with two brief stops. And after the Asuka-Yoshino-Day I am not that sure that it was a good idea. An early check shall me buy some time.
Hikone castle was easy to find. After a short walk I am in front of the castle wall. The way leads upstairs, underneath a bridge an the over the bridge into the castle. Inside is empty. The main tower is still there. All the other buildings are gone. Only some stones and the footprints are remaining. The tower is one of the oldest orignal castle towers in Japan. Its structure is completely built from wood. Impressive. But cold. I have to take of my shoes. From the tower I can see Hikone and Lake Biwa.
While I am leaving the tower there is a performance of the castle/town mascot. A white hamster(?) with a samurai helmet. This is too japanese for me. The japanese garden seems to be beautiful in summer time. But now in the winter there are no flowers and half of the garden is a construction side. But I could manage to take some pictures without a digger.
Castle Road is filled with old houses; black wooden beams and white walls. A nice view. Here I stop for breakfast and lunch: coffee and cake. But the prices are … pricy. A whole cake in the size of an small pizza costs 3600yen. If I resize the cake to a german standard size I end up with approx 7000yen ($100). I am in the wrong business. By the way. This place is sooo cheesy: Baroque silverware, chair cushions and art noveau furniture (like in anime). I may be the first male customer.
On my way to Tsuruga I have to change in Nagahama. This was not planned. But the tracks are blocked because of an accident. I am already one hour behind the schedule. Where was the accident? Behind me? In front of me? A train arrives from Hikone. This tracks are free. I am getting nervous. Then the Ltd. Express to Fukui arrives. That is all I need.
In Fukui it is snowing. The next bus to Eihei-ji departures at 3:20pm. And the last one back leaves at 4:20pm at the temple. This means to wait more than one hour to only have 40 minutes to visit on of the biggest and oldest temple in Japan. Shall I take a taxi and kill my finances? $50 at least. I discuss my option with the bus station clerk and decide for the bus. I can store my complete luaggage at the office.
I use the waiting time for lunch. Karee. After that I am escorted to the bus and introduced to the bus driver. I am the only guest. VIP. The streets are funny. There is a sprinkler system on the centerline to melt and flush the snow from the street. Interesting system. But what do they do if temperatures are below 14°F?
We arrive at the temple in a magic atmosphere: Snow, some fog. A little bit like Koyasan. Inside there are monks everywhere. I pace thru the halls and hallways. The temple is really beautiful and 40 minutes are far to short for a visit. Because of the weather many hallways are covered with pastic planes. It hard to get clear view into the garden. Monks are praying in big hall. Some of them walking around and carrying things. They walk like robots on rails: high speed straight, then stop and a 90 degree turn. Acceleration. The things they are carry are held above head. Looks funny.
After a last short visit to a chamber with hundred of golden plates a run back to the bus. The bus stops is down the street. It is slippery. I have to buy the ticket in a small shop at the opposite side of the street. The bus drivers is so kind and waits for me. VIP. Again.
On the way back we pass a construction side. Concrete piles. They built a shinkansen track. Soon Kanazawa and Fukui are connected to Tokyo. This will change the location on the map. In the past monks travelled for weeks to get here. I have to spend a day in trains and changing several times. In a few years tourist can visit this place on a daytrip. I am not sure if this is good. Eihei-ji will lose some of its mystic aura.
Another stop for dinner before I enter the next train to Kanazawa. I decide for a cafe where the coffee is boiled in a all glas coffee maker. They have 20 different blends. I decide for the European Blend and watch the waiter preparing it: Hot water in the lower bowl, coffee grain into the upper. Heating the water and it goes up. Looks like I need a more powerful bunsen burner at home.
Kanazawa: On the way to the Ryokan it starts to … it is not rain, neither snow. The Japanse call it Arare. I think we would call it graupel. I am surprised by its sudden intensity combined with heavy wind. Within seconds and without any warning the streets are completely white. No time to take cover. After a few minutes the show is over. I was hoping for snow but it was planned differently.
Kanazawa at Arrival
Where is the Ryokan? That shall be the right street. Even the guy I ask doesn’t know anything. Nice. But a colleage is helping. The Ryokan is somewhere close. Idead. A closer look shows it 30m away on the left. What a benefit if you can read Kanji.
After check-in I visit a izakaya around the corner, the was recommended by the staff. The place is part of the fish market. Here even for Japan the fish is really fresh. I order the sashimi plate: squid, shrimps, tuna, salmon, octopus, sea urchin. All fresh, all raw, all yummy. It is a fine, distinguished taste. Hot Nihonshu (sake) makes the evening perfect. I heard that sushi and sake doesn’t match. But the waiter says, that it is ok for sashima, because there is no soured rice. Back in the ryokan some onsen. Why? Because I can.