Day 9 started out on the drizzly side. After waking up and saying goodbye to Ricardo and Brady, I headed out to teamLab Borderless in Odaiba. SMS and I had seen an exhibit in Palo Alto and thought it was pretty cool. I had slight regrets in pre-purchasing my tickets since I now thought I’d rather get to Kanazawa earlier but the money was spent and off I went.
When I got there, there were hundreds of tomodachis already in line. There was an employee holding a multilingual “End of the line” sign far from the entrance, which was simultaneously helpful and depressing. Eventually, I got into the exhibit which was really crowded. This is in contrast to the fake! news! website which features solo visitors only! Of course, I wasn’t really expecting to be on my own. It’s popular and very cool. I do think that once you’ve seen one exhibit, that’s kind of enough since essentially, a large part of the exhibit consists of fancy light projector effects.
Part of my meh reaction to the exhibit is that I really had not allowed myself enough time since I had picked the time I wanted to leave for Kanazawa. I wanted to arrive mid-afternoon so I could see a sight or two before closing. I took a crazy tight schedule of two subways to Tokyo station and just made the shinkansen. Running was involved, which always makes me feel like a crazed tourist godzilla but it’s an acceptable trade-off at times.
Kanazawa was overcast and beautiful. I saw one of the few sakura trees still in bloom, since the area is cooler than the East Coast around Tokyo. I bought a bus pass and headed over to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. When searching #kanazawa, I had seen pictures on Instagram of Leandro Erlich’s “The Swimming Pool” and I had to see it!
It’s a really neat installation of a limestone pool with a glass bottom over a room painted aquamarine. It’s a very playful way of tweaking assumptions of what we think we see in common objects and what they actually may be.
The whole museum was quite cool. There are only a few exhibits but that allowed me to focus on them rather than have many go by in a blur. There was a love exhibit that consisted of paintings that looked all the world like neon signs.
An added museum bonus goes to lockers that, while mandatory for larger bags, have a refundable Y100 charge. Travel tip for people with hand luggage in Japan- lockers are everywhere and are awesome to avoid lugging bags around. Even light bags can be heavy! Just have several Y100 coins in your change purse!
After the museum closed, I walked back to the bus stop and headed towards my capsule hotel. I had made an online reservation, which I feel is the way to go! Especially since capsule hotels for women are not as common.
The capsule was clean and, since this was only my second time staying in one, a really unique experience! I was given a goodie bag of towels and pajamas for my stay.
Now, it was time to plan for dinner. Kanazawa is known for being a foodie town, so I wanted to have something delicious. I found an amazing sushi place online, but the it was small and I felt it was unlikely I’d get a seat. Then I found Iwashigumi, a restaurant specializing in sardines. This sounded so niche and quintessentially Japanese (focusing on one thing and doing it really well), that I decided I was in even though my familiarity with sardines is limited to Caesar salad dressing and occasional forays into trying to up my Omega-3 intake by queasily eating small fillets.
I walked down the 157 towards the river. The restaurant had the type of wooden slated door, which always seems like such a commitment when I enter that I almost chickened out. But I went in, sat down, and ended up having the most incredible dining experience!
There were two main people I interacted with, an older man and older woman who worked there. They didn’t speak English and I hardly speak Japanese so there wasn’t a lot of verbal conversation, but we still communicated with each other throughout the night. It was an atmosphere of such warm hospitality that I felt at ease and at home. I loved it!
There was an English menu, which was very helpful. I decided to go all in and get the extended tasting menu. I was hungry and I felt that I was in for a singular experience. I wasn’t wrong!
The first three courses were a sardine salad with assorted sashimi, followed by a sardine croquette. Next was a larger sardine served whole. Given the size, there was a good amount of fish to eat. I did not eat the whole thing- the head stayed!
After that was a sardine chawanmushi, which was delicious! It’s one of my favorite dishes. Sardines in wonton-like wrappers were next, with a sardine “meatball” tofu soup to follow. Finally, the savory dishes ended with assorted sushi.
The last dish was a little ice cream sandwich. I do not think it had sardines in it but, given the theme, who knows!? It did taste like fairly straight-forward vanilla. During the dinner, I had sake served in a small pitcher shaped like a fugu. It was very cute.
Afterwards, the chef gave me a little goodie bag with a box of sardine prep mix to cook at home. I have instructions and I’m saving it to cook for SMS. I’m not sure if it’s curry, soup, etc at this point but one of these nights, we’ll find out! I also filled out my address and several weeks later, I received a postcard. It was such a wonderful experience and I would recommend the restaurant to anyone (other than vegetarians!). It was such a warm, kind-hearted vibe that I absolutely loved the place!
On my walk home, I walked past Mariya, a shop my Dad had told me about. The temari balls were beautiful and I resolved to go the next day when the shop was open.