Adventures of the 2016 Deaf Sakura Tour: Experiencing Japanese Harmony

Kanazawa is a unique city that boasts a harmony between past and present days. Kanazawa’s traditional arts and crafts have a significant role in making this city an attractive tourist destination. On June 2009, Kanazawa was registered as a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art. Many art galleries, craft workshops, studios, and shops are found in the city.

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The Kanazawa Castle

Historical attractions, Kanazawa well-restored castle, traditional performing arts, and Kanazawa cuisine also captivate tourists, too.

Upon arrival to Kanazawa, we met with our local Deaf guide, Makoto Yoshioka and a few other Deaf locals who joined him. Yoshioka took us all around town using various public transportation.  He explained many interesting things about Kanazawa.  The two other Deaf locals who joined us in our tour helped answered additional questions we had along the way.

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The Kotojitoro Lantern inside the Kenrokuen Garde

Kanazawa’s main attraction is the Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens” and by many considered the most beautiful of them all. The name Kenrokuen means “Garden of the Six Sublimities”, referring to spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. We strolled around Kenrokuen with our Deaf guides who help us understand this landscape theory. We learned that Kotojitoro Lantern, was famous because it was built with two legs instead of “one”. And that it is an iconic symbol of Kenrokuen.

After our delicious Japanese-Western style luncheon that we ate with forks, knives and spoons, the utensils that we were most familiar with, we went into the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, that was opened in 2004. The museum is among Japan’s most popular. The architecture of the museum is unique. It is comprised of a circular building, with no facade or main entrance. Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool”, a pool where people appear to be underwater; and James Turrell’s “Blue Planet Sky”, an exhibit exploring light as a medium are seen at this museum. We thought these two exhibits the best. And our favorite spot was at the People’s Gallery with Michael Lin’s red floral artwork on a wall. We made a bunch of selfies with the background.

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Micheal Lin’s floral artwork on the wall at the People’s Gallery

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The Nagamachi, also known as the Samurai District

By the time we got out of the museum the first rainfall of our tour came down. We took a taxi to our next site visit, the Nagamachi, an area known as the samurai district. It is located near the Kanazawa Castle and used to be the site where samurai and their families lived. The area has a historic atmosphere with remaining samurai homes, earthen walls, private entrance gates, narrow lanes and water canals. One of the main attractions of Nagamachi is the Nomura-ke, a restored samurai house with a beautiful garden. We entered the house while the rain came down pouring. We were lucky to be indoor of a beautiful home with many shoji doors, a kind of sliding door, that slides open. The shoji opens to a lovely garden. We sat down and gazed at the beautiful garden for several long minutes.

Finally, the rain stopped, we hurried down to the Omicho Market before it closed for the day. The market has been Kanazawa’s largest fresh food market since the 16th century. It’s one of the oldest remaining public markets in Japan. The market is a colorful network of covered streets lined with about 200 shops and stalls. Most shops specialize local seafood and produce. We stopped at a stall owned by a CODA man who signed Japanese sign language. He gave us samples of his produce that were grilled. We couldn’t quickly figure what the meat was. It looked like beef and so we politely ate it. Then we found out it was fresh water eel. It was a surprise to some of us who didn’t eat fish.

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The new Kanazawa JR Station opened in 2015

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The tsuzumi

Another thing about Kanazawa is it’s newly opened JR train station and Shinkansen railway. The US Travel Magazine” Travel Leisure” picks up Kanazawa Station as one of the World’s Most Beautiful Train Stations. At the station, the Tsuzumimon Gate has an interesting appearance. It looks like a big wooden drum-shaped gate. The drum is a tsuzumi, the kind we often see used in a traditional Noh performance.  Noh is very popular among the citizens in Kanazawa. There are many other art sculptures set out around the station. And there’s a water foundation that can tell you the time of the day. Also interesting was that our hotel was inside the station, too.

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A Panorama photo of our Kanazawa Friendship Dinner

By the end of the day, we joined a friendship dinner by Kanazawa Association of the Deaf. The president of the association welcomed all of us and made a toast for a wonderful friendship this evening. And for the rest of the night, we had an all you can eat and drink course of delicious Kanazawa food. And then came a surprise of two birthday cakes for two people Joan Revell who was traveling in the D-travel Agency Sakura 2016 tour and Haruki Miyakawa who joined us as our guide’s helper for the day. We all sang in sign language, Happy Birthday to both of them. They blew out candles and shared with everyone a small piece of cake. We laughed at how small Japanese cakes were in comparison to Birthday cakes as made and sold in the USA.

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Happy Birthday to Miyakawa and Joan.

Afterward , the tasty sweet cake put us into a heavenly sleep in our hotel rooms above the busy train station.