Spirited Away (By Caffeine)


Whoa things are moving super fast right now! Since we’re out in about 4 days, we’ve been closing up shop in our apartment – trying to ship stuff home, throwing away a lot of things, and trying to use up all our tea bags and kitchen spices. As a pack rat, it’s definitely been hard to let go of the stuff we’ve accumulated and the memories associated with the items. And along with trying to wrap up our stuff, our blog still needs a lot of catch up! Eek! Let’s get to it! (Update: Since the last draft, we’ve been officially out of our apartment for three days.)

So we went back to Kanazawa again after Zach came back from Georgia. As a refresher, Kanazawa is a small city known for gold leaf production and nummy green tea things! While we went on an overnight bus last time, we just shinkansen-ed it out over there to make it easy. Last time we didn’t get to go to Higashi Tea District area so we made that happen. The neighborhood was made up of a lot of old wooden style buildings and a lot of fancy souvenir stores and tea houses that weren’t quite open yet. There was one jewelry store that was advertising saying “Come in! See the room covered in gold!!”. Was I impressed with a room covered in gold? Eh.

Once we were done walking around the shops we decided to get some desserts for breakfast at a place called Chayu. Best breakfast ever! We had a curry bread and a “dorayaki burger”, so basically an ice cream sandwich. Both things we ordered were really delicious! I think some curry-based food can be a hit or miss but this curry bread was really good. We took a crunch of the bread and inside was a creamy, almost meaty flavored curry. It made us want to eat a bowl of curry rice after eating it. The dorayaki ice cream was great too, especially since it had a slice of mochi inside and we got to choose the ice cream flavor, salt mascarpone! 10/10 would eat sweets and curry for breakfast again.

After our breakfast snack, we went to Kenrokuen Garden which is supposedly one of the three best gardens in Japan. We dropped in briefly on our last trip but this time we got to walk around the gardens more thoroughly. Inside the garden is a very old style house  where rich people used to hang out. While we couldn’t take pictures inside, there were really pretty details about the building, such as little animals panted on the bottom of the paper wall screens, little compartments, and a sweet zen garden where you could hear the birds chirp.

After the garden, we had kind of a fast lunch in the fish market district of the city known for its sashimi donburi. We then had to make a train to our ryokan, which was maybe an hour away from Kanazawa. The place we chose called Hoshi, is kind of famous. Originally it was thought to be the oldest running hotel in the world, but I guess it only got 2nd oldest. The hotel has been run by the same family for 46 generations! We arrived at our hotel and we’re invited into a room to have the customary tea time and sweet. Except this room was like no other…


Continuing Libby’s story, when you first arrive at most Japanese style inns, the receptionists will greet you and ask you to wait in a special room while they prepare details about your stay (usually just getting your luggage, dinner options, and key settled).  This reception room is, as one might expect, usually pretty nice in terms of decor and seating so as heighten your sense of stepping into a fantastical alternate world, setting apart from your normal life.  To add to this, you are usually served a warm tea and a small local desert to add to this feeling of “entering your relaxation realm”.  well, as you can tell from the pictures above, this inn’s waiting room was simply exquisite.  We’re seated on a small cushion, sipping warm green tea and snacking on sweets, all while overlooking a gorgeous garden just beyond the porch.  This, mind you, was just the waiting reception upon having entered a hotel.  I really think this element of “fantasy” is part of why I like Japanese inns so much.  I think if Walt Disney had ever a chance to a visit one, he would have also been impressed by the sense of “story-telling” that occurs by the way you treated by staff, how almost anything can seem possible with a good amount of magic in presentation.

The room itself was rather large, actually.  We had 3 divided sections, including a windowed balcony and two comfortable living spaces.  We hung out mostly near the coach and TV though lol.  However, it was very obvious that the place was old, very old.  The furniture, fixtures, and apolstry suggested the place had not been renovated since at least the 70s.  But I should say that this was not a result of the place being dirty, moldy, or any particular piece being broken or neglected; quite the opposite, it was quite clean and the state of it suggested an intense amount of care for an extended period of time.  But still, the gone age of the aesthetic and clear from use was there, and added to a certain “creepy” element that existed over the entire place.  As I said before, the inn had a powerful sense of wonder and magic that arouse from its grandeur and presentation, but in this particular sense it also felt haunted by a ghost of better times, not helped by what seemed to be a very large distance between rooms that seemed actively occupied (admittingly this was off season).  You never want the “fantasy” of a hotel to lean towards the “Shining” in its particular feel of scale and emptiness.

(Libby: Actually I had a bit of trouble sleeping in the room. Part of the problem is that before bed, I drank a bit too much tea. Usually this ends badly. Well I was shutting down the place, closing wooden doors, shutting lights, and I tucked into bed. I was browsing my phone a bit (yeah, bad habit), but I hear a wooden creaking sound and it sounds like it’s in the room. Just one wooden creaky noise and I am on alert. I try to ignore it and keep going intertnet-ing. I hear it again, even with air conditioning on blast. And then again. After a couple of times I am freaking out! This is it! The movie, Ju-On: The Grudge, is finally happening! I am going to get pulled into the large wooden closet or find something hovering over me! And I have to go to the bathroom! I end up having to wake up Zach and tell him about the creaky noises, and I need an escort to the bathroom. Am I embarrassed? Meh. Do I like not being taken away by ghosts? Yeah. The next morning I figured out that maybe it wasn’t a ghost, but the tree branches outside hitting the window. But maybe it was a ghoooostttt, who knows.)

The hangout room by our window.

Still, we really enjoyed the stay.  The garden we had seen before in the reception room ended up being much larger than we even realized.  We explored most of it as night set in, following the many lanterns and lights lit along the paths.  The baths seemed, above everything else in the hotel, to have received the most recent renovation attention, and in this case a bit of quiet emptiness was welcome.  The kaiseki dinner and breakfast was of course, top notch.

On our return trip from the stay, we stopped by a Katsu-Curry spot in Kanazawa that had been recommended to us by Captain.  The spot was a densely pack dinner, with snappy staff and a menu that started in 3 basic patterns and a dizzing amount of customization after.  You could add mayonnaise, egg, sausage, cheese, etc.  We kept it simple, but the flavor was plenty rich as it was.

It’s curry for lunch.

On the train home, Libby also made an additional important food discovery:  Harajuku “Yakishokora”, or basically chocolate cupcakes.  The funny thing is that we bought them as kind of a joke, with the lady staff almost frustrated to have to make change for us, but they ended up being far more delicious than we expected.  The chocolate was rich, and the texture had a tiny bit of satisfying crunch built in.  Libby could probably say more, since she ended up buying 2 more boxes before our stay was through lol. (Libby: Umm these are the best little chocolate cakes. Not too sweet, just the right size. Great texture, like eating the crunchy bits around a cupcake and then some.)

Ok, that’s all we have for now.  We’re a bit busy still, as Libby mentioned, finishing our move out.  We’ll likely make another final post soon enough covering our last adventures.  Until then!