Shimane Art Museum, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan

The Shimane Art Museum is known for its futuristic architecture (located on the banks of Lake Shinji), its eclectic collection of Western and Japanese art (many works incorporate water as a theme), and outstanding sunset views

The Shimane Art Museum is known for its futuristic architecture (located on the banks of Lake Shinji), its eclectic collection of Western and Japanese art (many works incorporate water as a theme), and outstanding sunset views from the first floor and outdoor terrace, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The Shimane Art Museum, located in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Japan, is the largest art museum in the San-in area.  It is located on the banks of Lake Shinji.  Many of the works in the museum incorporate water as a theme (“harmony with water”), including sculptures, crafts, photographs, and paintings.  The museum opened in 1999 and was designed by Kiyonori Kikutake, a well-known Japanese architect.  With a total floor area of 12,500 square meters (134,500 square feet), it houses a collection of Japanese and Western art, including Momoyama folding screens and paintings by Corot, Sisley, Monet, and Gauguin.

In addition to the beautiful art, visitors can watch the sunset from the museum, an evening that is popular among tourists year round.  Visitors can watch the sun slowly sink into Lake Shinji from within the beautiful first floor lobby.  The sunset viewing lobby on the first floor is free of admission, open to the public and exhibits a number of objects.  The shades of the sky and sun change with each passing moment of sunset; Lake Shinji’s sunset is known as one of the best 100 sunset locations in Japan.  Unfortunately, the day we visited, it was totally overcast and raining on and off, so we did not get to view the sunset.

 

Shimane Art Museum #2, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – the mezzanine art library is open to the public

Shimane Art Museum #2, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – the mezzanine art library is open to the public

 

Shimane Art Museum #3, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – a large Rodin sculpture graces the second floor foyer that opens up to the art exhibition galleries

Shimane Art Museum #3, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – a large Rodin sculpture graces the second floor foyer that opens up to the art exhibition galleries

 

Shimane Art Museum #4, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – in the photography gallery, our favorite of the mid 1920’s photographs on display was this silver gelatin print titled “Coastal Scenery”

Shimane Art Museum #4, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – in the photography gallery, our favorite of the mid 1920’s photographs on display was this silver gelatin print titled “Coastal Scenery”, reminding us of the Pictorialist’s work at the beginning of the 20th century

 

Shimane Art Museum #5, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji

Shimane Art Museum #5, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji

 

Shimane Art Museum #6, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji

Shimane Art Museum #6, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji

 

Shimane Art Museum #7, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji

Shimane Art Museum #7, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji

 

Shimane Art Museum #8, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – nine hares outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji (note that the hare has special significance in Japan -- a symbol of cleverness and self-devotion)

Shimane Art Museum #8, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – nine hares outdoor sculpture overlooking Lake Shinji (note that the hare has special significance in Japan — a symbol of cleverness and self-devotion)

 

Shimane Art Museum #9, Matuse, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – a wedding couple is preparing for a photography session on the shore of Lake Shinji by the museum

Shimane Art Museum #9, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan – a wedding couple is preparing for a photography session on the shore of Lake Shinji by the museum

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine (Izumo Grand Shrine), Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan

The main entrance to Izumo Taisha Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest and most important shrines, is at the giant torii gate pictured here; Izumo, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

The main entrance to Izumo Taisha Shrine, one of Japan’s oldest and most important shrines, is at the giant torii gate pictured here; Izumo, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

“Izumo Taisha (出雲大社) is located in the city of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture, a one hour train ride west of Matsue.  It is one of Japan’s most important shrines.  There are no records of exactly when Izumo Taisha was built, but it is often considered the oldest shrine in Japan, being already in existence in the early 700s as revealed by the nation’s oldest chronicles.

“Izumo used to be ruled by a powerful clan in pre-historic times, and the region plays a central role in Japan’s creation mythology. The main deity (kami) enshrined at Izumo Taisha is Okuninushi no Okami.  According to the creation myths, Okuninushi was the creator of the land of Japan and the ruler of Izumo.  He also became known as the deity of good relationships and marriage.  Visitors consequently clap their hands four times instead of the usual two times during their prayers: twice for themselves and twice for their actual or desired partners.

“Every year, from the 10th to the 17th day of the 10th lunar month (falls usually in November), Shinto’s eight million deities from across the land gather at Izumo Taisha for a meeting.  It is for this reason that the 10th lunar month is known as Kamiarizuki (“month with deities”) in Izumo, and Kannazuki (“month without deities”) everywhere else in Japan.  As per tradition, the Kamiari Festival is held at the shrine during this period.” — http://www.japan-guide.com

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine #2, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

Izumo Taisha Shrine #2, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine #3, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

Izumo Taisha Shrine #3, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine #4, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

Izumo Taisha Shrine #4, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine #5, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan – the main hall (Honden) and two smaller shrines, surrounded by two sets of fences

Izumo Taisha Shrine #5, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan – the main hall (Honden) and two smaller shrines, surrounded by two sets of fences

 

No one knows exactly when Izumo Taisha Shrine, dedicated to Ōkuninushi, the mythological god of marriage and good fortune, was erected, although it is referenced in Japan’s oldest written record, “Kojiki”, compiled in 712 A.D.  One of the country’s most revered pilgrimage sites, the shrine was at one time the tallest in Japan, standing 48 meters (157 feet) tall before collapsing several times over the years.  The shimenawa (massive straw ropes) outside Oracle Hall is the largest in Japan; custom decrees good fortune awaits anyone who can lodge a tossed coin inside the cut ends of the rope.

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine #6, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

Izumo Taisha Shrine #6, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine #7, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan – a massive straw rope (shimenawa), 30 meters (99 feet) in length, the largest in Japan, hangs in front of Worship Hall

Izumo Taisha Shrine #7, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan – a massive straw rope (shimenawa), 30 meters (99 feet) in length, the largest in Japan, hangs in front of Worship Hall

 

Izumo Taisha Shrine #8, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

Izumo Taisha Shrine #8, Izumo Taisha, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture, Honshu Island, Japan

Matsue Castle, one of only twelve surviving castles from the 1600s in all of Japan, is the second largest and the third tallest and is regarded as an excellent example of watchtower-type castle tower construction; Matsue City, Japan

Matsue Castle, one of only twelve surviving castles from the 1600s in all of Japan, is the second largest and the third tallest and is regarded as an excellent example of watchtower-type castle tower construction; Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Japan’s National Treasure Matsue Castle was completed in 1611 under the rule of the founder of Matsue, Horio Yoshiharu, and his grandson Horio Tadaharu.  Located in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan, it was the stronghold of the Horio clan for one generation, then passed to the Kyogoku Clan for one generation.  Finally, in 1638, Matsudaira Naomasa was given control of the domain, and ten generations of the Matsudaira Clan ruled from that point until the Meiji Restoration [the restoration of practical imperial rule to the Empire of Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji].  As the only remaining original castle tower in the San-in region (and one of only twelve surviving castles in all of Japan), it is a precious asset to the local area, and in 1934, it was designated as a national historical landmark.

 

A priest coming down to the shrine adjacent to Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

A priest coming down to the shrine adjacent to Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

A wedding couple was having their professional wedding photographs made in front of Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

A wedding couple was having their professional wedding photographs made in front of Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

The watchtower and shachihoko (ornaments made of wood and plated with copper – here, two fish) at the top of the castle, Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

The watchtower and shachihoko (ornaments made of wood and plated with copper – here, two fish) at the top of the castle, Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Of the twelve remaining castle towers in Japan, Matsue Castle is the second largest and the third tallest.  Although many castles across the country were dismantled in observance of an official order for their demolition at the beginning of the Meiji era, Matsue Castle escaped destruction due to the efforts of a former retainer of the Matsue Domain and a wealthy local farmer.  It was protected by the citizens thereafter and passed down to the present day.

 

Windows could be opened for both fresh air and for defense of the castle from attacking warriors, Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

Windows could be opened for both fresh air and for defense of the castle from attacking warriors, Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

A samurai in full armor (karuta (カルタ金 karuta-gane – meaning small square or rectangular plates that compose the armor), on display in Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

A samurai in full armor (karuta (カルタ金 karuta-gane – meaning small square or rectangular plates that compose the armor), on display in Matsue Castle, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

A view of Matsue City from the fifth floor watch tower (the highest floor) in Matsue Castle, part of a 360-degree view from the tower, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

A view of Matsue City from the fifth floor watch tower (the highest floor) in Matsue Castle, part of a 360-degree view from the tower, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture on Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Ōmi-chō Market and Morimori Sushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

One of the 170 vendors in the famed Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, that has been supporting Kanazawa’s gastronomic culture since the middle of the 18th century

One of the 170 vendors in the famed Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, that has been supporting Kanazawa’s gastronomic culture since the middle of the 18th century

 

From our ship in the port, one day in Kanazawa we headed downtown mid-day and went to the famed Ōmi-chō Market where there is a dizzying array of local produce and fresh seafood.  We planned our time there so we could get a number at Morimori Sushi (restaurant) and shop while we waited for our turn to be seated (see below).  The market has directly supported Kanazawa’s gastronomic culture since the middle of the 18th century.  It has more than 170 vendors selling local delicacies, clothing, fruits, Kaga vegetables, seafood and meats.  Additionally, there are several restaurants and ramen shops within the market building.  We splurged at the market and bought some beautiful sliced wagy-like beef for a home cooked dinner in our apartment, with special local mushrooms and fresh vegetables.

 

An array of beautiful (and colorful) fresh produce at a vendor’s stall in Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

An array of beautiful (and colorful) fresh produce at a vendor’s stall in Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Notice the packaging of these melons – quite special, with prices to match (US$18 to US$30, EACH!) -- Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Notice the packaging of these melons – quite special, with prices to match (US$18 to US$30, EACH!) — Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

While you’re splurging, how about one crab for US$80? -- Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

While you’re splurging, how about one crab for US$80? — Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Then there’s the wagyu-like beef slices, which are about US$40 per pound (it’s actually priced in Japanese Yen per kilogram (2.2 pounds)), Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Then there’s the wagyu-like beef slices, which are about US$40 per pound (it’s actually priced in Japanese Yen per kilogram (2.2 pounds)), Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

We ended up paying about US7.50 for one of these special local mushrooms to accompany our lightly pan seared (in lard in a cast iron skillet) wagyu-like beef

We ended up paying about US7.50 for one of these special local mushrooms to accompany our lightly pan seared (in lard in a cast iron skillet) wagyu-like beef slices – it was quite different from button mushrooms and porcini and king mushrooms, and had a nice spiciness; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Morimori Sushi is Kanazawa’s most recommended conveyer-belt sushi restaurant, offering sushi of outstanding freshness; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Morimori Sushi is Kanazawa’s most recommended conveyer-belt sushi restaurant, offering sushi of outstanding freshness; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan – here the intrepid traveler is receiving a platter of specially ordered tuna (maguro and toro) for lunch

 

Morimori Sushi is Kanazawa’s most recommended conveyer-belt sushi restaurant, offering sushi of outstanding freshness.  We were forewarned that there is always a line to get in, so we arrived earlier than our desired luncheon time, put in our names, got a ticket with a number, and then shopped in Ōmi-chō market for a half hour before our turn came up to be seated at the counter.  In addition to selecting items from the conveyer belt, diners can (and we mostly did) order from an online iPad menu.

 

Tuna (five kinds, including toro (fatty tuna belly)) on a platter at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Tuna (five kinds, including toro (fatty tuna belly)) on a platter at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Delicious, sweet shrimp (ebi) sushi at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Delicious, sweet shrimp (ebi) sushi at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

It has to be special when you pay US$23 for five nicely boxed apple pears at the Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

It has to be special when you pay US$23 for five nicely boxed apple pears at the Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Local seafood delicacies and other prepared foods, including tofu; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Local seafood delicacies and other prepared foods, including tofu; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

We saw only one sake store in all of Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

We saw only one sake store in all of Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

We returned to our favorite food vendor from our previous visit, selling yellowtail tataki and salmon tataki, which we had thoroughly enjoyed – this time we bought several (frozen and vacuum packed, so it travels well!); Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa

We returned to our favorite food vendor from our previous visit, selling yellowtail tataki and salmon tataki, which we had thoroughly enjoyed – this time we bought several (frozen and vacuum packed, so it travels well!); Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan [Tataki is a Japanese food preparation method where the meat or fish is very briefly seared over a hot flame (or in a pan) and then thinly sliced and seasoned with ginger (ground or pounded) and served with soy sauce and garnishes, like sashimi.]

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Otomezushi , Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The charming wooden exterior of the excellent (but hidden from street view) sushi restaurant, Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, where we enjoyed an outstanding luncheon

The charming wooden exterior of the excellent (but hidden from street view) sushi restaurant, Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, where we enjoyed an outstanding luncheon

 

After our self-guided walking tour of Kenrokuen Garden, we walked over to the Naga-machi (old samurai) neighborhood, where, with the guidance of Google maps, we were able to walk behind a fence along a hidden path by a hostel to find a jewel of a sushi restaurant, Otomezushi.  Luckily, we had made a reservation considerably in advance of our arrival in Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, as the sushi counter has only eight coveted seats and the restaurant has just a few small tables in the adjacent small dining room.  We were greeted by a very friendly sushi chef behind the counter who spoke some English and made us feel right at home, leaving the menu selection (8 pieces of sushi for lunch, plus soup and beverages) up to him – omakase.  Our hour-plus luncheon turned out to be some of the best sushi we have ever eaten.  Back on the ship a little reading online brought us several critical reviews noting that Otomezushi is not only the best sushi restaurant in Kanazawa (a city of nearly 500,000), but is considered one of the best sushi restaurants in Japan.

 

We were mesmerized by the skills of the master sushi chef (we were seated at the center of the counter, giving us bulls-eye dead center seats for watching the preparation of all sushi for the restaurant over lunch), and, being surrounded by all Japanese diners, felt it would be inappropriate to photograph the individual servings of sushi.  The chef did agree to let me take a couple of photographs at the end of the meal.  Unfortunately, the photographs can’t fully convey how fresh the seafood was and the expertise of the chef in cutting and preparing the fish and seafood, rolling the rice, and then adding wasabi, sauces and garnishes to each individual piece of sushi.  Definitely the best uni we have ever eaten, and the toro (super fatty tuna) was right up there, too.  A fabulous experience (both the theater of watching all the preparations and the enjoyment of the superb sushi) – and we were very pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the total bill was.  Otomezushi gets our highest recommendation.

 

The master sushi chef preparing individual pieces of sushi – our seats were at the counter, right in front of the chef; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The master sushi chef preparing individual pieces of sushi – our seats were at the counter, right in front of the chef; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The chef’s sushi knife and a selection of fresh fish and prawns in the cooler at the preparation counter, viewed from our seats; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The chef’s sushi knife and a selection of fresh fish and prawns in the cooler at the preparation counter, viewed from our seats; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The master sushi chef preparing calamari by scoring the surface in several directions – it was amazingly tender; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The master sushi chef preparing calamari by scoring the surface in several directions – it was amazingly tender; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A broader view of the selection of fresh fish and seafood in the coolers at the preparation counter; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A broader view of the selection of fresh fish and seafood in the coolers at the preparation counter; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan (2019)

Looking past the Kotojitoto Lantern across Kasumigaike Pond in the center of Kenrokuen Garden, considered to be one of the three great gardens of Japan in Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Looking past the Kotojitoto Lantern across Kasumigaike Pond in the center of Kenrokuen Garden, considered to be one of the three great gardens of Japan in Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Having thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Kanazawa, Japan, on the north coast of Honshu Island (the island Tokyo is on), we were pleased that we had the opportunity for a return visit.  [See our 2017 posts: “Geisha District (Higashi-chaya-gai), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan”, “Kanazawa Gardens, Honshu Island, Japan”, “Eat local: Sushi dinner (Kaiseki), Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan” and “Kanazawa shrines, Honshu Island, Japan”.]

Kanazawa (population 462,000) is a popular travel destination due to its preserved historical districts, world-class museums, Michelin-starred Japanese cuisine, and authentic teahouses.  Notwithstanding its popularity, the city has kept its intimate and welcoming personality.  Having escaped the ravages of World War II, the city kept several key historical attractions dating as far back as the Edo Period when it served as the seat of the Maeda Clan.  Our first stop was a return visit to the stunning Kenrokuen Garden adjacent to Kanazawa Castle Park in downtown Kanazawa.  On our way to a wonderful sushi lunch at Otomezushi in the Naga-machi neighborhood to the west, we walked by the innovative 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and the museum and tea house (where they do a tea ceremony) at the Nomura Samurai House (which we toured on our previous visit to Kanazawa).  We concluded our walking tour in the afternoon with a very educational visit to the Kanawa Shinise Memorial Hall (museum) and a quick stop at the chocolate shop, Le Pon du Chocola Saint Nicholas — rare in Japan! — for some refreshments for the ride back to the port.

 

We came across this traditionally dressed woman taking part in a photography shoot in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

We came across this traditionally dressed woman taking part in a photography shoot in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kenrokuen Garden is considered to be one of the three great gardens of Japan.  Literally translated as “Garden of the Six Sublimities,” and rated as one of Japan’s top gardens, this Edo-period haven, built by the powerful Maeda clan in the 1600’s, takes its name from kenroku (combined six), referring to the six garden attributes needed to achieve perfection: seclusion, spaciousness, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and desirable views.  During the winter months, branches are suspended with ropes from a post at the center of each tree to form elegant conical shapes, protecting them from Kanazawa’s heavy snowfall.

 

The Omuro Pagoda resembles the pagoda in Kyoto’s Omuro Palace; Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The Omuro Pagoda resembles the pagoda in Kyoto’s Omuro Palace; Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

One of several scenic flowing streams in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

One of several scenic flowing streams in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A traditional lantern (contemporary outdoor light) in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A traditional lantern (contemporary outdoor light) in Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Kenrokuen Garden, originally the outer garden of neighboring Kanazawa Castle, is located on the slope facing the castle.  The garden was developed in many stages over the centuries following its origins in the mid-1600s.  Over the years the pond was enlarged and some winding streams were added that harmonized with the garden.  The garden was opened to the public on May 7, 1874, when the domain system was abolished.  In the twentieth century, the garden was designated a National Site of Scenic Beauty and a National Site of Special Scenic Beauty.

 

This small house, “Uchihashitei”, was relocated to the Kenrokuen Garden from Renchitei Garden in 1874;p0 Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

This small house, “Uchihashitei”, was relocated to the Kenrokuen Garden from Renchitei Garden in 1874;p0 Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Looking at Kasumigaike Pond from the western side of Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Looking at Kasumigaike Pond from the western side of Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The exterior walls of the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall that houses a traditional medicine store called Nakaya Pharmacy, built after the 1579 store was donated to the City of Kanazawa by the descendents of the Kakaya family in 1987

The exterior walls of the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall that houses a traditional medicine store called Nakaya Pharmacy, built after the 1579 store was donated to the City of Kanazawa by the descendents of the Kakaya family in 1987; Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The Nakaya Pharmacy in the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall is a two-story wooden structure spanning 427.21 square meters (xx square feet).  The first floor consists of a mise-no-ma (storefront), an oe-no-ma (lounge), a tea ceremony room, a guest room, a study, and a drawing room.  Note that only the samurai and upper-class merchants could afford to build homes this large with space to accommodate a tea ceremony room.  On the second floor are exhibition rooms with displays on traditional townspeople’s culture [see the following photographs].

 

Beautiful colored Kaga Temari “handballs” suspended vertically to illustrate the skills of local women in designing and creating the traditional girls’ handballs; Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Beautiful colored Kaga Temari “handballs” suspended vertically to illustrate the skills of local women in designing and creating the traditional girls’ handballs; Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The story of the Kaga Temari handballs as noted in the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan:  “Once upon a time, girls made their own handballs to play with.  In the Muromachi Period (~1336-1573), Temari handballs with expensive silk threads were popular, but only for girls of noble rank.  During the Edo Period (1603-1868), it finally spread to the masses with the progress of the cotton industry.  Girls must have competed with one another in trying to make new and beautiful designs.  In Kanazawa we have an old custom that a mother sends a handmade Temari to her daughter as an amulet for her upcoming nuptials.  Kaga Temari is now well known for its fine work and breathtaking design.

 

Large Kaga Temari “handballs” woven with silk threads on display at the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Large Kaga Temari “handballs” woven with silk threads on display at the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

One room on the second floor in the exhibition space of Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, contained a large display of packages wrapped with “ceremonial paper cords”

One room on the second floor in the exhibition space of Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, contained a large display of packages wrapped with “ceremonial paper cords”, known in Japanese as mizuhiki-orikata

 

The story of “ceremonial paper cords”, known in Japanese as mizuhiki-orikata, as noted in the Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan:  “We are in the habit of tying beautiful cords on gifts, mizuhiki, when we send engagement gifts.  In Japan, mizuhiki is a sign of happiness.  In Kanazawa, mizuhiki became a traditional craft.  Special designs of Kaga-mizuhiki are ume blossom, pine tree, crane, tortoise, and more from colorful cords.  Kaga-mizuhiki has become a valued traditional craft in Japan.”  The mizuhiki-orikata on display in the museum were created by a Kanazawa-based company, Tsuda-Mizuhiki-Orikata, over 100 years old, following the style established by the founder Soukichi Tsuda.  The company is now run by fourth and fifth generation family members in Kanazawa.

 

Close up #1 of “ceremonial paper cords”, known in Japanese as mizuhiki-orikata, in the exhibition space of Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Close up #1 of “ceremonial paper cords”, known in Japanese as mizuhiki-orikata, in the exhibition space of Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Close up #2 of “ceremonial paper cords”, known in Japanese as mizuhiki-orikata, in the exhibition space of Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Close up #2 of “ceremonial paper cords”, known in Japanese as mizuhiki-orikata, in the exhibition space of Kanazawa Shinise Memorial Hall, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After our museum visit, we walked through the Naga-michi neighborhood with samurai residences from the 1600s (Edo period) that still evoke the lifestyle of the feudal period; Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

After our museum visit, we walked through the Naga-michi neighborhood with samurai residences from the 1600s (Edo period) that still evoke the lifestyle of the feudal period; Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan – the narrow alleys, earthen walls, and Nagaya-mon Gate all retain the appearance of ancient times

 

We came across three young women in traditional kimonos that were taking turns photographing each other on a bridge over a canal in the the Naga-michi neighborhood with samurai residences; Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

We came across three young women in traditional kimonos that were taking turns photographing each other on a bridge over a canal in the the Naga-michi neighborhood with samurai residences; Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

In keeping with the historical neighborhood, the city of Kanazawa did a terrific job building this washroom (WC, or bathroom-toilet) public facility to blend in with the samurai residences in the middle of the Naga-michi neighborhood; Kanazawa
In keeping with the historical neighborhood, the city of Kanazawa did a terrific job building this washroom (WC, or bathroom/toilet) public facility to blend in with the samurai residences in the middle of the Naga-michi neighborhood; Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan
Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Local faces: Ulukhaktok (Holman), Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #1) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada – in traditional local Inuit costumes

Inuit (local face #1) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada – in traditional local Inuit costumes

 

Our visit to the small Inuvialuit hamlet of Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island in the Canadian High Arctic in the Northwest Territories was our last shore landing in our Northwest Passage expedition.  (From Ulukhaktok we sailed four days to the west through the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea and the Bering Strait into the Pacific Ocean and on to Nome Alaska.)

 

We had such an enjoyable time in Ulukhaktok and with the 30 Inuit drummers and dancers (out of a town population of only 450!) who performed on board our ship just before we sailed out of the bay that we thought we should share some of the great smiles and warm personalities of the Inuit townspeople, hosts and performers.

 

Inuit (local face #2) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #2) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #3) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #3) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #4) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #4 from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #5) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #5) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #6) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #6) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #7) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #7) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #8) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #8) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #9) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

PHOTO OF Inuit (local face #9) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

Inuit (local face #10) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

Inuit (local face #10) from Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada

 

A beautiful sunset after we sailed out of Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, on the way west to complete the Northwest Passage expedition – our final photograph in our Northwest Expedition blog posts

A beautiful sunset after we sailed out of Ulukhaktok, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, on the way west to complete the Northwest Passage expedition – our final photograph in our Northwest Expedition blog posts

 

From Ulukhaktok our ship passed through a sometimes narrow band of open water between the coast and the pack ice to the north. Here, the coastline has no offshore islands protecting it from the Arctic elements.  Some years, this area can be ice-free; other years it is choked with pack ice.  These shallow waters off the North Slope have abundant food that attract sea birds and marine mammals.

 

We sailed past Point Barrow, Alaska, the northern-most city (and geographic point) of the United States.  This community is primarily composed of Inupiat Inuit who call this area Ukpeagvik (place where snowy owls are hunted).  Unsheltered and battered by the cold winds and sea ice flowing directly from the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Basin, Barrow is one of the coldest places on earth with over 325 days per year below freezing.  A place of extremes, Barrow is situated in a desert with less than 5 inches / 13 cm of precipitation per year.

 

Our ship then passed through the Bering Strait which separates the mighty continents of North America and Asia.  With Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska to the east and Cape Dezhnev, Siberia (Russia) 51 miles / 82 km away to the west, it marks the geographical end of the Northwest Passage.  Originally above sea level, the strait was once a dry-land bridge connecting the two continental landmasses and allowing prehistoric animals to migrate freely.  The migration of man to North America via this bridge forever changed the landscape of the Americas.  Located in the middle of the Bering Strait, the Diomede Islands fall on either side of the border between Russia and the United States.  Big Diomede Island (Russia) lies just 2.5 miles / 4 km from Little Diomede Island (U.S.).  These islands are often referred to as Tomorrow Island and Yesterday Island because they also fall on either side of the International Date Line, giving them a 20-hour time difference.

 

Our 2019 Northwest Passage Expedition concludes tomorrow at Nome, Alaska.  With the discovery of gold in 1898, this boomtown’s population swelled to nearly 20,000 miners, furiously panning along the beaches that fringe Norton Sound.  Today’s town of under 4,000 offers a peaceful contrast to the lively legacy reflected in the colorful local saloons and museum displays.  Nome hosts the finish of the Iditarod dog sled race each March, and the tundra outside the town provides good opportunities to spot musk ox.  From Nome, our ship will continue to Petropavlovsk, Russia and onward to Japan.

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.