Japan: Kanazawa and Wagashi Making Class

This morning saw me waking up a little cranky as the shoji screen windows let in enough light to wake me up at 5:30am.  I managed to fall back to sleep but I was glad for our later start this morning as we had breakfast at 8:30am.

Breakfast was very interesting and filling at this new ryokan being mackerel, scrambled eggs, bamboo shoots, butterbur and a very cute miso soup.

After breakfast we headed to the Omicho market to have a browse around. Before long, we needed to have a coffee break.

Coffee at Curio Espresso was a fun experience and we took Marg and Peter with us.  We ordered a cinnamon latte each and Marg and Peter let us try their citrus almond tart.  As the name suggests, it was a tart made of almond meal but it had candied orange peel on top.  It was very tasty!  The coffee shop itself was also really lovely and glamorous with vintage paraphernalia such as sewing machines, old radio clocks and extremely vintage books in the shop front.  

After our coffees, we enjoyed perusing the market a little more and Rika had purchased a new type of strawberry for all of us to try.  There were a couple of different varieties, one was snow-white and the other was a very pale pink.  They were both very sweet varieties despite looking like they were completely unripe.

After this tasting, we headed on to Kanazawa Castle.  According to Rika, the castle has seen many uses in the past years.  Historically, it was a home for the emperor during the Edo period and during the war, it was used as an army base. In more recent years. It was a university ground though finally now, it has been opened to the public as a park. We took some great photos here.

We stopped for a brief lunch with the group.  Nick had Jibuni, a local specialty which was a thick soup into which you added chicken, mushrooms and greens and you let these cook together.  Once done, you dip soba noodles into the hot broth and eat.  I had simple cold soba noodles with a umboshi (pickled plum) and really enjoyed the sharpness the pickled item brought to the otherwise slightly sweet dish.

After this, it was on to the wagashi making class.  Wagashi is a type of Japanese sweet to be eaten as part of the tea ceremony.  The class we were part of showed us how to make three of these sweets.  All the wagashi we made had the same materials – an azuki (sweet red bean paste) centre, with a sweet, almost fondant like outer shell.  The difference was that each of the three sweets was constructed to look like three different flowers.  

The shapes we made were plum, fig and some kind of fluffy flower – it kind of looked like a pink pompom.

These were actually very easy to make and I might take some of the principles I learned home to employ in my cake decorating.

By group vote, I made the best plum, Nick made the best fig and our pompom flowers were too similar to call.  Overall, I think we managed to make them look pretty similar to the finished products. I was very pleased with this and it was a lot of fun!

After the class, we headed into the shop that is adjoined to the sweet making class.  Here we found some Shibafune, a type of ginger biscuit and prawn rice crackers which we purchased with the vouchers we recieved from the cooking class.  

We are a little worried if these will survive our travels but if they make it we hope to be able to share these with our family at home.

We had free time for the rest of the day and so Nick and I borrowed a couple of bikes from the ryokan and headed off towards the coast.  

We had to navigate though the busy part of town which was a bit challenging, but once we were on the Sagawa Cycling road along the Sai River we had a very easy time of it.  

Stupidly, cause it was a hot day I elected to wear a skirt.  I think I flashed half of Kanazawa my underwear ha ha.

The ride was very cruisy but along the way we had a bit of a scare as a very, very large snake was across the bike path.  No joke, this fella was so big that if I lay down on the ground next to him he’d still have a little on me.

We were both a little rattled or we would have turned back and taken a picture from a safe distance.  Nick was pretty sure the snake was dead but we decided to go on (he was not there when we went back though, so not sure if he was dead and someone moved him or if he was alive and wriggled on while we were gone).

We reached our end destination when we hit the filthiest beach in Japan. Honestly, it was strewn with rubbish and the overcast day made it look even grimmer. Another cool thing we found here was a leisure park filled with water slides but it was completely abandoned.  Our thinking is that it only opens in high Summer and so there was no one there.  Still, it was like a scene out of a Stephen King novel.  Very creepy!

Nick snuck in and took a few pictures (though it was just open, he didn’t have to jump a fence or anything, he just walked in and started taking photos).  

Once we had explored this area we began the trek back to the Ryokan. The guy at the reception desk was impressed we had made it there and back so quickly (and we had even stopped to take photos along the way!).  All up, it was about an 18km ride so nothing we couldn’t handle.  

Dinner that night consisted of a cheap and cheerful 7-11 dinner. Cup noodles, a salad to share and Nick had a cheeky Kirin beer and an egg custard dessert. I tried our little wagashi for dessert but found them quite sweet.  We ate Nick’s creations, but ended up throwing mine away.  

After dinner, we had a soak in the onsen.  Since this was a private onsen, couples or groups could claim the onsen for themselves for a while so we decided to go ahead and do that.  Though our legs weren’t fatigued from the cycling it’s still been a long few days walking so the soak probably did us good!

After this, we turned in for bed, ready for the 7am start the next day.

Tomorrow, we check out of the Ryokan and leave Kanazawa for Osaka.  Stay tuned for more exciting updates!


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