Our trip on from Takayama is faster than our arrival, we collect a little Shinkansen train for our journey to Kanazawa: but it still needs to give way on the track through the mountains, since there are places where there is only one rail. A change of driver is due, and our new pilot waits on the platform for the train to arrive: snow falling all around him as we shelter under the cover of the roofed area. He must be freezing in just his suit, his pilot’s cap accumulating snow. I lean out to see if I can get a photo of the train arriving, and a sharp whistle alerts me to the fact that I have transgressed by not staying behind the broad yellow line on the platform. Sorry, sorry.
We’re in the front carriage, and on this train there is only a glass divider between the seats and the driver, so there is a panoramic view of the journey. The steep slopes on either side are still covered in snow, and it continues to fall as we travel along beside an emerald green river. Taking photos is made easier by the fact that I can see tunnels approaching through the front of the train, so I can time my shots accordingly.
We arrive in kanazawa station, which we’ve been told is one of the most beautiful in the world. I wonder about that at first, because it’s still just a steel and glass construction, but as we leave the station I see what they are talking about: right outside there is a concourse with an enormous wooden structure that resembles a tori gate, which gives the whole station the appearance of the shrine: to the Shikansen God, perhaps?
A short but expensive cab to our lodgings, in a nondescript suburb; the precise location is not obvious, and our driver double checks his navigator: it’s hidden behind a wooden gate set into a wall, and the only clue is a small sign hanging outside saying ‘guest house’.
We enter, and of course take our shoes off. The place is freezing cold, but we are warmly greeted by our young hostess, Kana. Ushered into a warm communal room, we dispense with the formalities of checking in, but we have to wait till 4 pm to be able to use the room. We wander off to find somewhere to eat, a very lovely noodle place just across an iron bridge. When we explore the main street a little further, we seem to be surrounded by karaoke bars and nightclubs, with the occasional 7/11 thrown in for good measure. But it’s given us a chance to familiarise ourselves with getting there and back.
When we return to Guest House Kanazawa Inoichi, we are taken to our tatami mat room, which is also freezing. We have an air conditioner in the room, but it is still cold ½ an hour later, and we supplement the A/C with a hot lamp – it takes a while with both of them, the A/C on 30 degrees, but eventually we warm up.
The building is a restored original house, with a central courtyard enclosing a small but, as always, elegant garden. The tatami mats won’t withstand rolling suitcases, so we have to wrestle the cases in to our room. We also have a shared bathroom and toilet, and the prospect of negotiating the cold corridor outside to get to a bathroom is daunting, and makes me reach for my tripadvisor to see if we could find a hotel instead. My knees might also prefer it – rising from the floor is not as elegant as it used to be for me, and usually consists of a phase of being on all fours before I can lever myself upright. The low coffee table looks good for sitting to get my socks on!
But we decide to suck it up and stay; and are invited to a party the following night. I’m worried that we will be surrounded by locals and not able to understand a word, the token caucasians in a room full of Japanese, but I am assured that the people coming love to meet foreigners and practice their English.
After a small rest it’s time for dinner – goodness, I’m glad my fitbit is registering the thousands of steps I’m taking; it gives me a sense of reassurance that I’m working off the meals we seem to lurch between. If I put on weight I doubt I would find clothes to fit me here…..