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Day 1: Kanazawa Pilgrimage

Continuing from last post, I got to my hostel in Tokyo around midnight and decided to scout Comiket 83 instead of sleeping. This worked out in the end since we left at around 6am for the train station.


For the next few days, the plan is for us to go to Kanazawa and then Yuwaku Onsen and then back to Kanazawa. Afterwards, we’ll return to Tokyo. The onsen town of Yuwaku might actually be better known as Yunosagi from Hanasaku Iroha. This is my first otaku pilgrimage, but to be honest, I haven’t even seen Hanasaku Iroha. Oh well, I’ve always wanted to go to an onsen anyway.


Tokyo Gransta

Tokyo Gransta


The plan was to get to Tokyo Grand Station and catch the 7:33am Hikari Shinkansen so we could get to Kanazawa before noon. Unfortunately, it turned out that I still needed to exchange my JR Pass Exchange purchase for the actual Exchange Pass. Here’s the fun part: the office at Tokyo Gransta that did the actual exchange wasn’t open until 7:30am. Needless to say, we missed the 7:33am train and had to wait an hour to catch the 8:33am train.

Since we suddenly had an hour to kill, we decided to get some food at the food court in the station.

Hot dogs for breakfast.

Hot dogs for breakfast? Madness!

Sharp-eyed readers might notice the receipt: “Gransta Dining”. On first pass, it still looks like “Gangsta Dining” to me. Had a “Bacon and Scramble Dog” from 東京DOG. It’s exactly what it sounds (and looks) like. One of my companions had a fried chicken dog. Others had this:

Dessert dogs from Tokyo DOG

Dessert dogs? Madness!


Dessert dogs. Exactly what they look like. Instead of meat, there’s custard and banana. Craziness.


We finally caught the Hikari Shinkansen and rode to Maibara in order to change trains and direction en route to Kanazawa.


Maibara Station

Maibara Station


There’s something  about the Shinkansen that’s hard to appreciate when you’re actually riding it. It’s really, really smooth for its passengers despite how fast it actually goes. While we were at Maibara transferring trains, one of the Shinkansen trains passed right by the station and created a huge burst of wind, causing all of us to stop and brace ourselves for a few seconds. Those things go really damn fast.


We switched to the Shirasagi line at Maibara and headed towards Kanazawa proper. Kanazawa is more or less in the middle of nowhere in Japan, and one that’s readily apparent on the 4hr or so train ride from Tokyo to Kanazawa is how the scenery rapidly transitions from metropolitan to rural. Especially when we got on the Shirasagi line, there weren’t any cities really to speak of, with the exception of Fukui (where they apparently all they do is play Karuta).

Rural Japan from the train

Rural Japan


We finally made it to Kanazawa around 1pm. We had one problem though: all of us were carrying our suitcases and couldn’t check in until 3pm.

Kanazawa station

Kanazawa Station


What to do? Clearly, the solution is to find a family restaurant with a drink bar and hang out there for hours. And that’s what we did.

Cafe Gust

Cafe Gust


Of course, with all the choices available drink-wise, we had a responsibility to find optimized combinations of different drinks. Personally, I found oolong tea and coke pretty drinkable, kinda like a mild coke. One of my companions tried a combination of grape soda, melon soda, and Calpis. It actually had a layered effect, like a hoity-toity cocktail. PROTIP: Don’t combine iced coffee, Calpis, and orange juice. PROTIP 2: Japanese people understand the word “futanari” (if you don’t, stay pure). Refrain from yelling it out, even if trying to prove a point.


At around 3pm, bladders full of questionable drinks, we finally made it to our lodgings at Guest House Pongyi. The people who run the place are incredibly nice and welcoming, which was a big change from our experience in our hostel in Tokyo. Apparently, Pongyi was an old kimono shop that was converted into a guest house. So lots of paper, wood, and tatami.

Guest House Pongyi

Guest House Pongyi

Bedrooms at Pongyi

Bedrooms at Pongyi

We got put into a Japanese-style room, complete with tatami mats and futon and everything. The guest house also has a more conventional dormitory with bunk beds.


We had a long conversation about Kanazawa and the interesting things to see with one of the staff members. As it was hella cold and windy, we ended up just going to eat at the “B-Gourmet” curry rice place Gold Curry which is in the basement of a local department store.

Gold Curry

Gold Curry

I had Bacon Mille-feuille Tonkatsu Curry rice, which is essentially layered tonkatsu wrapped in bacon and battered and put over curry rice. Bacon. Tonkatsu. Curry. Fried. Of course, it’s amazing.

Gold Curry also has a bunch of Challenges, the ultimate one being where you eat 10kgs worth of curry rice in an hour and if successful, you get 1,000,000 JPY.

We got back to Pongyi after dinner and suddenly, one of the staff members invites us to a tea party. There will be cake. All of the current guests, which included 2 JET program English teachers from Scotland and USA, 3 Japanese girls, a soft-spoken Korean man, both staff members, and our group, gathered around tables in the main area and drank tea and chatted intermittently in Japanese and English. Then, one of the staff member’s friends came in. With cake. Christmas Cake.

(PROTIP 3: They don’t have Christmas Cakes anywhere else in the world besides Japan. )

Despite having watched all of K-On! (Twice.) I’ve never actually been to a tea party. It was quite fun, got to talk to interesting people, practice my Japanese, drink tea, and eat delicious cake. Would do again. Afterwards, origami paper was brought out and the assembled party helped the staff members fold origami cranes for the sake of hitting 1000 before the end of the year. The twist was to write a message for Peace on the underside of the paper and on the wings, our country and the flag.

I’ve stayed at guest houses and bed and breakfasts before, but I’ve never quite stayed at a place that holds events like this. In two days (12/25) there also will be a nabe (hotpot) dinner that we’ll be taking part in. Expect pics.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Yunosagi Yuwaku and meeting up with one of our RIP members (hopefully).

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