Kanazawa still feels like a castle town. It is the site of a castle as well as many samurai houses. In addition, the romantic teahouse streets have not changed at all.
Nishi Teahouse Street is to the south of the Sai River, and is synonymous with Kanazawa. In the third year of the Bunsei period, the Kaga Domain had the street built along with Higashi Teahouse Street.
Even today, Japanese-style restaurants and geisha-girl delivery stores produce items of great elegance. After dark, the sounds of the shamisen can be heard, lending the streets further charm.
In olden times, most teahouses used to refuse first-time customers. This was the case with Higashi Street, but now there are Japanese-style hotels, souvenir shops and cafes lining its sides. It is most enjoyable to walk down the street.
Nishi Teahouse Museum is located in the building where Seijiro Shimada, a writer born in Mikawa, Ishikawa prefecture, lived when young and there are items exhibited here describing his early life.
Butsuryuji Temple is a Shingon Buddhist temple located in Uda, Nara. It is a branch temple as well as the south gate of Muroji Temple.
The temple was founded in the third year of the Kasho period (850) by the priest Kenne and is said to have been originally a house belonging to Shuen, an officer of Kofukuji Temple.
There is an 11-faced Kannon bosatsu statue in the center of the temple, which is reputed to have been made by Shotoku Taishi. The temple also holds the remains of a rare pyramidal-roofed stone hut: the grave of Kenne.
This temple is famous for being the place where Japanese tea was first made. Kenne planted tea leaves that Kukai, his master, had brought from China. Here are the remains, too, of a millstone that Kukai brought back from China.
The flight of stone stairs leading up from the gate is one of the most famous in Japan: in spring, 900-year-old cherry trees welcome you, while in autumn, red clusters of amaryllis add color along the way to the temple. The views are beyond words.
Teahouses with red-brown lattices line a narrow stone road. The road is next to the Asano and Onna rivers that run down through Kanagawa from Mt. Asano. This is Higashi Teahouse Street.
In the third year of the Bunsei period (1820), the Kaga Domain established this street. Nishi Teahouse Street was built at the same time, and in the second year of the Meiji period (1869), Kazue-machi Teahouse Street was also built.
Higashi Teahouse Street is the most prestigious and grandest of the three streets. In olden times, after nightfall, men went drinking in this town and appreciated artistic accomplishment.
Most teahouses used to refuse first-time customers but now there are many cafes renovated from the old teahouses, and anybody can drop in casually. Even now, after dark, with the lights under the eaves aglow, the sounds of the shamisen and drums can be heard. This is a time when the street looks very attractive.
The street is described in Hiroyuki Itsuki's novel 'Suzaku Grave'. In 2001, the street was designated as a site of Important Traditional Japanese Architecture.
Iron kettle-making is one of Japan's major traditional handicrafts. To make an iron kettle, metal is melted at a temperature of over 1500℃ and poured into molds in a technique known as 'fuki', which takes many years to learn.
This traditional technique has been passed down over the ages, and products are still being made by hand. The 'nanbu iron kettle', made in Morioka, Iwate prefecture, is famous in Japan.
In fact, recently there has been a small boom in iron kettles. Mankind today is said to be deficient in iron. It is said that one in five people suffers from anemia or semi-anemia. Water boiled in iron kettles carries enough iron to effectively replace any deficiency in iron. Connoisseurs can tell the difference between tea or coffee made with or without water boiled in an iron kettle. The taste of hot water boiled in an iron kettle is highly valued even abroad.
The three major teahouse streets in Kanazawa are Higashi, Nishi and Kazue-machi. While Higashi-machi and Nishi-machi were built in the Kaga Domain area, in the third year of the Bunsei period (1820), Kazue-machi was established in the second year of the Meiji period (1869).
Kazue-machi is located to the southwest of the Asano River, between Asanokawa Ohashi Bridge and Naka-no Bridge; Higashi-machi is located to the northeast of Ohashi Bridge; and Nishi-machi to the south.
While Higashi is the most prestigious and the biggest, Kazue is beautifully sited next to the Asano River and is highly valued as 'small Kyoto'. Bars and restaurants secretly display a store curtain or shop sign, making them the place known only to connoisseurs.
On spring nights, cherry blossoms are reflected in the river, creating views beyond description. In fact, Kazue-machi is beautiful in any season.