One of my favorite weekends here in Japan was spent visiting Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go with two of my classmates. We left shortly after school on a Friday, and took a pleasant bus ride up to Kanazawa. Once we got there, we ate dinner and relaxed, because we knew we had a busy weekend ahead of us.

We woke up early on Saturday morning ready for a fun day! Our hostel provided bikes for us to explore with, which made the weekend all the more fun. First, we went to the historic samurai district called Nagamachi to see some traditional homes. This was especially exciting because most of the historic sites in Kyoto are from hundreds, if not a thousand, years ago. So, it was really cool to see so much history from a period we rarely get to explore in Kyoto!

After that, we made our way to Myoryu-ji, otherwise known as Ninja-dera. The temple is called that because it contains many secret passageways and hidden doors to prepare for an attack from the local lord’s enemies. We couldn’t take any photos, but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen in Japan.

Then, we went to the D.T. Suzuki Museum, which is centered around a famous Zen Buddhist writer and philosopher. What makes this temple unique is that rather than just educate visitors about its subject, it attempts to fully integrate his teachings into the museum experience. It was so serene and the architecture was absolutely beautiful.

We hadn’t had enough of museums, so we made our way to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. This place was so cool! It is mainly known for the swimming pool exhibit, where you can take photos that make it look like you’re underwater. Perfect for the #gram. There was also a lot of interesting art that invites you to explore the museum in a unique and fullyengaged way, and art pieces surrounding the outside grounds of the museum that are free to the public. F

or lunch, we stopped at the Omicho Market, which is known for its fresh seafood. We splurged on donbori and ice cream with real gold leaf. There was so much more food to try- the market is two stories (!!)- but sadly we didn’t have time. We were really eager to see Oyama Shrine, especially since my friends collect shrine and temple calligraphy/stamps called goshuiin.

We ended our afternoon with a visit to the biggest historical entertainment district in Kanazawa, Higashiyama Higashi Chaya District. The buildings were so atmospheric, and although it was a perfect day, there weren’t too many people, which made it even better. We decided to visit a tea house that had been turned into a museum, where we could see Edo-period Geisha entertainment rooms and living quarters. There was even a museum guide who allows you to play the shamisen, and demonstrates playing other instruments as well.

To end our day, we went to Kanazawa Castle Park and watched a beautiful light show accompanied by lovely traditional music. Although it sounds like a lot, we didn’t feel rushed at all. Everything was so much fun, and we had just enough time to experience it all!

We woke up very early Sunday morning and went to Kenroku-en, one of the largest and most famous gardens in Japan. Before 7 am, entrance is free, so we decided to take advantage of the deal and make the most of our time here. After a few hours of exploring, we left for Shirakawa-go, a famous area in central Japan known for their thatched style homes.

We spent the day enjoying the gorgeous rural atmosphere, toured one of the buildings, and went to an open air museum located just a few minutes away from the central area. I highly recommend it because, although the area is intended to look rural, there are still modern amenities like omiyage shops and convenience stores that take away from the atmosphere just slightly. And the museum has an incredible soba shop and zipline, so it’s totally worth it.

We took the shinkansen home and made it back by late evening, so there was enough time to rest up for school the next day. Spending the weekend in Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go was one of my favorite memories in Japan. If you can, this is definitely a trip that everyone should take.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018