Ice Cream

Nagoya

My first long-ish venture into Japan travel proved to be surprisingly stress and hassle free. About two weeks before departure I booked a hostel online and bought a bus ticket at the train station in Toyama. I’m no stranger to bus rides, having been a student traveling home or to Toronto and back countless times. The three and a half bus ride to Nagoya was amazing. Yes, amazing. The highway from Toyama to Nagoya cuts directly through the Japan alps, and so I was treated to a spectacular and seemingly endless view of mountains and small villages tucked between them.

Impressions of Nagoya… A large, lively city. I was only there for a brief time and in the major areas, but from my experience it would be a good place to go with friends or family. There are countless stores and shopping malls, and restaurants. One of the highlights was the Ossu Kanon Temple, where we received our fortunes and tied them to the ropes for good luck.

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We also spent an hour and a half waiting for Hitsumabushi, a Nagoya specialty of eel cooked over a bed of rice. The long wait was completely worth it for this amazing meal.

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Apparently Nagoya is also the coffee hub of Japan (who knew?). The absence of cafes is something I noticed quickly in Japan. There’s a breakfast chain in Nagoya called “Komodo”, which we ate breakfast at on our last morning.

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Day Trip to Kanazawa

Ah, the long weekend! A chance to wind down after a hectic week of teaching and seize the opportunity of extra time to take a quick trip to the neighbouring Prefecture of Ishikawa.

We left in the morning and arrived just in time for a lunch of (of course) Ramen.

The main attraction was the Kanazawa Castle park and Kenrokuen gardens, an enormous property full of winding paths and buildings. The castle itself was built in the 1500s and burnt down several times. Now what remains are the many utility buildings that have also been reconstructed, the largest of which is the Gojikken Nagaya warehouse reconstructed in 2001. It’s recent construction (although it uses traditional building techniques) makes the inside of the building feel more like the swanky interior of an upscale vacation home than a warehouse.

Then we walked through the massive and meticulously groomed Kenrokuen gardens, enjoying the lush trees and flowing water… an accompanying green tea ice cream cone making it all the more sweeter.

The final stop was the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa much to the delight of the Art History nerd in me. The circular building features high ceilings and glass walls that often allow views straight through to other parts of the museum. As its name suggests, the museum was filled with Contemporary art, mostly video and installation work. In many of my contemporary art classes we talked at length about the impact that a museum’s space has on its visitors. That the construction of the building, positioning of art work, the text on the walls and much more all inform, dictate, and facilitate an experience that extends far beyond visual perception. I certainly felt this as I walked from room to room, standing in the dark watching a film, or sitting in a glass room listening to a poem as those on the outside stared in at me.

An extremely captivating work was Leandro Erlich’s “The Swimming Pool” of 2001. At first glance it seems to be a typical swimming pool, save for its positioning in the middle of a museum. But standing on its edge, viewers can look down and see the shapes of other people underneath the water. The work is multi-level, and visitors can enter into a room underneath the pool and stand beneath the surface of the water. It’s an absolutely simple yet thrilling moment to re-experience the familiar setting of a backyard pool.