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.
Icho-gaeshi was a hairstyle worn by Japanese women in the Edo period (1603-1868). The root of a pony tail is divided into two parts, each of which forms a sidewise 8 shape. The tips of the tail are wound around the root and fastened with a hairpin. As the fan shaped knot resembles the gingko leaf, it was called Icho-gaeshi (literally meaning “a turned-up gingko leaf”).
It was originally worn by young girls aged 12 to 20. Later as geisha and gidayu musicians began to wear their hair in this style, daughters of townspeople, who favored stylish fashion, began to follow their styles. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), it became popular among middle aged women, widows, geisha and entertainers. As it was easy to do up in this style and one did not have to go to a hairdressers’ shop, Icho-gaeshi was the most popular hairstyle up to the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Pochi-bukuro is a small envelope in which to place New Year's gift money. The envelopes are also called “Otoshidama-bukuro.” These are a kind of small-typed Noshi-bukuro (a traditional Japanese wrapper used to give money as a gift). The term “pochi” is said to have come from “pochitto” in Kansai dialect or “kore-ppocchi” Kanto dialect, both of which mean “very little.” This type of envelope was originally used when one gave a gift money to a Geisha or Geigi. As the amount was usually small, an envelope came to be used instead of kaishi paper to prevent the money from dropping off. Since the middle of the Showa period, Pochi-bukuro has been used for New Year’s gift money and come in many patterns such as paintings of congratulatory figures. At the present, anime characters are most favored by children.
Toka Ebisu Jinja Shrine enshrines Ebisu (God of Fishermen, Good Luck and one of the Seven Gods of Fortune) and Daikoku (one of the Seven Gods of Fortune), and is located in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture.
Takeuchi Goemon, from a money-lending branch of the Kashigu Daiguji family, was a merchant from Hakata. In 1591, he happened upon a statue of the god Ebisu washed up on Kashi beach. Takeuchi took the statue home and seeing that he treasured and cherished the statue, his family fortune flourished considerably.
Word spread about the statue and many people came to worship it as the God of Prosperity in Business. By 1690, there were so many worshippers and believers, that a shrine, now known as the Toka Ebisu Jinja, was established. The shrine deities are Kotoshironushi-no-Kami (Ebisu) and Okuninushi-no-Kami (Daikoku). These gods are known to provide prosperity in business, safety for families, and good health.
From 8 to 11 January, a New Year Grand Festival takes place each year at the Toka Ebisu Jinja, during which approximately a million people come and visit the shrine. The Kachi-mairi, a famed event where 'geiji' (women performers) walk in a line to the shrine while singing the 'Toka Ebisu no Uta' song and playing shamisens, flutes and drums, is both elegant and magnificent. This annual event is held to invoke better fortune and prosperity in business throughout the year.
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.