Breakfast of Champions
It was nice to be able to finally sleep in a little today. We decided to eat our Osaka specialties we fought very hard to acquire yesterday (the 551 Horai nikuman and the Uncle Rikuro cheesecake) for breakfast. It was unbelievable!
We headed over to the train station to drop off our luggage using the coin lockers. It appears the main storage area where we had “reserved” our locker was full; however, we were able to locate another area of the station with plenty of empty lockers to use. It turns out we did not need to “reserve” our locker after all. With our hands-free from luggages, we began our journey to explore Kanazawa. First we stopped by Curio Espresso for some coffee to start the day. I tried their iced cinnamon latte here and it was very nice. I prefer it over the typical pumpkin spiced latte.
After we got some caffeine in our systems, we walked over to the Omicho Market. As with any other markets in Japan, it was completely crowded with people. The line-ups were also impressive, most of them for kaisen don (seafood rice bowl) restaurants. We decided to join a line for a fresh seafood stall serving raw oysters, uni and scallops each 700 yen. The vendors here are so honest. They opened up our oyster and felt it was too small so they gave us extra oyster! Like at Tsukiji market, you can just eat by the stall. I particularly enjoyed the scallop as it was so fresh and sweet. Pair that with a bit of lemon juice, ponzu and wasabi and it was perfect!
Gold Leaf Splurge
We strolled around the market some more before continuing our journey over to the Higashi Chaya Area to check out the lovely traditional architecture as well as have the famous gold leaf ice-cream. Here, they dressed your ice-cream with a thin blanket of gold right in front of your eyes. Even without the gold leaf gimmick, the ice-cream itself was very creamy and rich.
We continue our walk over to the garden that Kanazawa is known for: Kenroku-en. The entrance fee of 310 yen was quite reasonable for such a lovely garden, full of nicely trimmed and shaped trees with thoughtful and intricate tying and scaffolding. Here, you can once again appreciate some Japanese maples with its beautiful colours of red, orange and yellow. There is a central pond as well as a tea house to relax in.
(Not) Kanazawa Curry
We were getting hungry, so we headed over to Kanazawa Nanahoshi Curry for lunch. For a lunch set with a choice of 2 types of curry, 2 toppings, a mini soup, pickles in yuzu vinegar and a tiny dessert, it only costs 1000 yen. I had the chicken and special curry (with pumpkin, mushroom and bacon), topped with 1/4 of an onsen egg, a slab of mozzerella cheese. Aaron had the beef and special curry, onsen egg, fried onions as well as double the spice level. I prefer Aaron’s beef curry much more and enjoyed it with the fried onions. The slab of cheese was kind of random and did not melt very well in the curry. After some research, I was disappointed to discover that the curry served here was actually not the typical “Kanazawa curry”, which should be more of a thicker brown sauce usually served with shredded cabbage and tonkatsu (I guess similar to the curry served at Gyugyuya in Toronto). I guess we’ll have to return to Kanazawa again to try this!
Brief Visit to the Museum
After lunch, we walked around the very modern 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art incapsulated in a circular, glass architecture. It was mostly free to browse, except for the pool exhibit where you get to walk under a pool.
Beware of Long Bus
Time flies, as it was time to head back to the train station to catch our train to Tokyo. We waited at the bus station hoping to catch the JR bus, so we can use our JR passes. Unfortunately, it did not come. So we just hopped on any bus that went to the Kanazawa Station (almost all of them). Unfortunately, the bus we took had a few more stops than we expected and we got there with only around 10 minutes to spare in order to collect our bags from the lockers and to rush to the platform. We made it onto the ever punctual train and it was a smooth 2.5 hour to Tokyo. I managed to get plenty of blogging done; at the same time, the train was going so quickly that I was distracted with my ears popping. We also got our plan of attack on which stop to get off, which subway line to take and how to get to the Airbnb while worrying about getting squished because it turns out we need to take Yamanote line – one of the busiest lines on the Tokyo subway system. Lucky for us, it’s a Saturday so it wasn’t as busy as usual. Although this is all relative; it was still quite busy.
Pro Tip: JR Pass
The JR Pass has been a very good deal for this trip. We used it on all our long-distance trains as well as several local subways. Bear Woman had purchased all the passes online and picked up their passes in Vancouver (since they had an office there), while we just picked ours up at Tokyo station in person. The pass itself lasts 7 days and we paid around $330 per person for it. I would highly recommend getting this if you’ll be travelling around a lot throughout Japan.
We arrived at our Airbnb in Shinjuku, dropped off our bags, then headed to the famous “Yakitori Alley”. Aaron met up with some friends to have a few drinks and skewers at one of the cozy restaurants with counter seating in the alley.
The rest of the us decided to go to Torikizoku – a chain yakitori restaurant. The first location we found had a 20-minute wait and the next location is only a few minutes away, so we decided to try our luck there instead. Unfortunately, it seems that the next location was even more busy, with a 50-minute wait. We braved the crowds through the never ending food stalls, as there was a shrine festival going on and made it to their third location within walking distance.
Finally, we found one with a reasonable wait. We were seated in a booth seat, with the scent of chicken and cigarette smoke throughout the restaurant. Still getting used to the fact that it is permitted for patrons to smoke in restaurants in Asia. Regardless, I was too distracted by their tablet ordering system to care at this point. The options were plenty and soon we ordered a table full of various yakitori plates. But first, we needed to get our veggies in, so we ordered some cabbage. I wasn’t expecting much but surprisingly, the cabbage was delicious, with a really nice dressing. Apparently this was popular as it sold out during our time there! After cleansing our palates with some cabbage, our deep fried chicken knees came, which crunchy and delicious. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea but if you like cartilage, you gotta try this. We also had these cute little sausages which were really tasty, along with ketchup and mustard to dip. Next, we had the mochi encased in cheese and nori. I generally do not like mochi (too doughy and sweet for me), but I really enjoyed this savoury version. Next, the stars of the night arrived – the chicken skewers (AKA yakitori). We had some seasoned with just salt and some others with the sauce alternating with. I preferred the simple salt-covered one. We also had the pork slices, which was very fatty and well-seasoned. Next, we the chicken covered with cheese, which you really can’t go wrong with. Next, we moved on to the organs – some good old chicken heart as well as a mysterious one that we had ordered because it was recommended as one of the most popular dishes. We later found out it was gizzard. Not bad! We ended with some carbs, the kamameshi or pot rice. It takes around 20 minutes to cook so remember to order it at the beginning of your meal if you want it.
It was getting late and we were very tired by now, so we headed home and called it a day.