Saturday, August 21, 2010

from Kanazawa: habits

Kanazawa appears to have a prosperous edge to it. You see it in the stores along the main shopping avenue. How many half million Japanese cities can support a Gucci and a Tiffany's?

You see it as well in the market. Frankly, it’s nicer than the one in Kyoto. There are plenty of fruits and veggies (have I complained yet about the price of fruits here? Have I focused on the beloved watermelon which costs, in the smaller size, over $10?)...



..and prepared foods, too...



...and of course, since Kanazawa is some half dozen kilometers from the ocean, there are going to be fish. And shrimp. And clams, snails, squid and crab. Lots of crab.




Since it’s Saturday, we stay content poking around the market, though after a breakfast at the hotel, neither of us wants to eating anything. Ever again.

The Japanese market is invariably a noisy place. Lively and boisterous. In a polite sort of way.


It's cooler here than on the outside. Some of the vendors have air conditioning in their shops and the open doors allow the cold to escape and refresh the long halls. There is also the old fashioned way to cool off shoppers.


And it is indeed hot outside. We walk out into the street and immediately seek shade. It's tempting to take a bus to the next destination. It's a compact city and the routes are easy to understand. (And many of the buses are quite cute.)


But you see more when you walk and so we trudge on, all the way across town to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. This (not the castle nor gardens) is where you bring the kids on a hot Saturday morning. Understandably. It's cool, in all senses of the word.

We stay with the free exhibits (only because there is a lot to see even without paying the $20 entrance fee). Some a clear and easy to understand. Others we can only guess at.






Strangely disturbing is the room which I have tilted for you somewhat, so that you can get a sense of the entirety.


It's nothing more than an open space in the ceiling. The eerie feeling is that the sky is almost closing in on you, pushing against the roof in some odd way.


And of course, on this day, it is a very very warm "sky."

All along we've imagined that this kind of warm day is well suited for a beach outing. We've made inquiries and there is indeed a large beach easily accessed by one of the small electric trains that run between a city center and the outlying peripheries.

We walk back to the train station -- and here I just have to include a photo of one of my favorite fountains -- of a clock, with quite an accurate depiction of the hour...


After a seventeen minute train ride, we are in the beachfront community of Uchinada. A twenty minute walk from there puts as at the water's edge.

And what an edge it is!

This will have to rate as the saddest moment of my trip here: to be on this rather spectacular beach (let me point the camera toward the more attractive end)...


And to see it it quite littered with trash, overrun by cars that appear to have easy access to it,  made loud by motorized jet skis -- all this is quite unexpected. Missing are the people. Because really, there are not that many here. Indeed, Uchinada itself is rather empty and shockingly (this being Japan) underdeveloped.

It’s true that the Japanese abhor exposing themselves to the sun.


They use every shield imaginable to protect their skin. On this hot and humid day, I was not surprised to see women wear long glove-like warmers to cover their arms (and long pants, of course).


Still, Japan is so fastidiously clean that it is jarring to set foot on a beautiful natural resource and see it in this state of distress.

I lose interest in swimming. Not so Ed. Water is water and the Pacific Ocean has its own magnificence.


I watch him swim for a while, but it's hot and sticky on that great expanse of cluttered sand. The air is surprisingly still, as if trapped in a porridge of humidity. Ed tells me the water is cooler near the bottom, but quite warm at the surface. I remain completely indifferent to the idea of swimming. It's funny how the uninspiring surroundings can push you into absolute lethargy.

I know that there are places along the oceanfront in Japan that are stunningly beautiful and quite well maintained. Prize spots where vacationers pay a lot for a coveted bit of sand underneath a colorful umbrella. It's interesting that there also these quieter spots (as in Uchinada) that suffer from utter neglect.

We take the train back to lovely little Kanazawa. And then the express to Kyoto. Looking out the window, I see the wonderfully green world of mountain forests and rice paddies. And here, let me include this photo because I haven't mentioned yet how ubiquitous small, match-box cars are in Japan. Upright squares. Nearly all are like this car, speeding between golden fields of rice. The train, even this "limited express," is of course much faster, so that we quickly leave him far behind.


It's late by the time we reach Kyoto.  We opt for a lowkey dinner of grocery store sushi at home.