Kanazawa has never really been influenced so much from court nobles’ culture, but rather from the samurais!
Some years ago, this city was praised as a little Kyoto, but technically it hasn’t received so much influence from the court nobles’ city. Kanazawa has been flourishing since the Lord Maeda moved here for governing the region during the Sengoku or “Warring States” period, thus local people humbly boast of this city as a samurai town.
Nagamachi is well-known as a former residential area for samurai, yet you should know you can’t meet any samurai there in this modern age. Today, local people quietly live in the area. Disappointed? Don’t despair, it’s still good to feel or learn about the olden times while you stroll past the golden mud walls.
Unfortunately it was raining when we visited the area, but drenched stone pavement or soaked Japanese gardens are the best to see, so we were actually lucky. Katja in a gorgeous kimono caught all the tourists’ eyes. Of course it was her first time to walk around in such a historical place while wearing a kimono. As the rain lifted, and the weather was finally improving with sunshine, many visitors called out, “Beautiful!” or “Kawaii (pretty)!” In Nagamachi, you’ll see well-maintained Japanese houses with black-tiled roofs, but not all the houses were owned by samurai clans. Remember to look up for the ornamental tile on the end gable of the shingled roof. If the ornament is a chonmage (samurai’s topknot), that’s the sign of the class.
A chonmage(samurai’s topknot) ornament
This samurai district is located between two canals which were useful for transporting materials from the Kanazawa port to downtown to build the Kanazawa-Jo castle, and also indispensable in cases of fire. The water comes and goes after meandering through the private gardens. Thus the atmosphere of this area is always elegant with the sound of the streaming current. Although the term ‘samurai’ sounds brave and mannish, actually the samurai district is pretty feminine.
Nomura-ke with a magnificent garden is
the only samurai house opened to the public!
Bukeyashiki literally means a samurai family’s house. Just so you know, in Nagamachi Nomura-ke is the only samurai house you can walk through. The structure was built and owned by Denbei Nobusada Nomura, who was a clansman for Lord Maeda. They received two stars in the Michelin Guide, and their garden is ranked as the 3rd best Japanese garden in a technical journal from the US. So needless to say, it’s a must-see when you are in the district! As mentioned above, private gardens in this district are designed for drawing a stream of water from the canal into them. Nomurake’s is no exception. Just after the rain, the mossy garden was moist with fresh air, and Katja was curious about the colorful carps in the pond. The CEO explained that carps hibernate in winter, and that the garden covered with snow in winter is quietly beautiful. The garden was fantastic, and the landscape paintings on the sliding doors in the tatami room were breathtaking. “I want to lay around here all day. It’s very comfy in here.” Katja said. It’s bit nostalgic to think that the Denbei’s mortuary tablet in their Buddhist alter quietly watches tourists every day.
Katja at Nomura-ke’s garden
Green tea time for looking
down at the garden
from the 2nd floor!
Nomura-ke’s tea ceremony room,“Fubaku-an”
After enjoying the garden on the first floor, keep walking to the end of the house! Hop on the rocks and turn right to walk up a narrow slope! The corridor is pretty interesting. You’ll realize that the design of the building and the garden is quite extraordinary! There are no stairs, but you’ll unconsciously arrive at the second floor. On the other hand, the two ponds within the garden are beautifully layered as if it occurred naturally.
In the tea ceremony room called “Fubaku-an”, try a cup of matcha green tea if you have the time! It’s just 300 yen, and comes with a small confectionery. The view from the 4.5-tatami sized room is also tasteful. Listening to birds singing and the sound of the stream there is peaceful. From there we saw some couples were having a good time downstairs. A girl was posing at the garden for her boyfriend, while he was trying to adjust his camera for good pictures. “I want to be back with my boyfriend again!” Katja exclaimed.
Enjoy the procedure to sip
matcha green tea!
1. Eat the sweet first, and then take the tea bowl!
2. Turn the bowl clockwise twice!
3. Slowly drink the thick green tea!
4. Wipe the sip mark off the bowl with your fingers!
5. Turn the cup counterclockwise twice and set down the bowl!