The Japanese Tea Ceremony follows a strict protocol. Between the warm smiles & welcoming gestures of our tea master, a lady who I deem to be only a little older than myself, I can sense and appreciate the grandeur of this ancient Japanese tradition. “Even the Samurai have once laid down their arms in respect for peace upon entering a tea house”, Kentaro, my local tour guide in Kanazawa explains, smiling benevolently at my stunned expression. Everything around here IS truly stunning after all – at least for someone visiting Japan for the first time and entering such a special place as a traditional Japanese tea house. Climbing through a small, quadrangle door about one meter off the ground, that is. Right here in Kanazawa, a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts that likes to engage visitors in an authentic feel for its local culture.
Let’s talk “creative travel” in a cultural context such as Japan. Kanazawa, about three hours north of Kyoto & Osaka, is a city of open doors – and hearts.
“I really enjoy coming out here from Tokyo”, Professor Masao Mizuno tells me over a morning walk through Kanazawa’s historic old town district. “With a population of ‘only’ 250.000 people, Kanazawa is a small town by Japanese standards – and surprisingly quiet, especially during weekends. Some ten years ago, we started developing the city in the light of creativity, adding cultural attractions and interactive tours for visitors so as to meet ‘the real Kanazawa locals & artists‘.” I smile, thinking back at my Kanazawa Creative Tour with his friend & colleague Kentaro the day before. Both him and Professor Mizuno are involved in a city programme called ‘Kanazawa Creative Tourism‘, understood to foster intercultural exchange, access and visibility of the local arts scene.
Learning by doing and actually engaging with the local people is just so much more interesting, I believe. Especially where a most foreign context, such as Japanese culture & history, is concerned.
Art & architecture are next, having turned Kanazawa into the exciting metropolis it is today – a fusion of 21st century, contemporary art that takes its inspiration from the multi-faceted history and cultural traditions of Japan.
“Revisiting Rimpa“, is what Nakamura Takuo, Kanazawa’s great ceramic artist, likes to say. The design-oriented “Rimpa” tradition dates back over 300 years and deals with deliberate reduction in the artistic expression for the benefit of improved aesthetics. Much in the way of creative travel, Nakamura is quoted for saying that “… the true completion of any (artistic) vessel is derived through the creative implementation on the part of the user.”
This takes me back to the original thoughts about “co-creation” in creative tourism experiences: Any such experience is only complete by having both the visitor as well as the instructor, guide or tutor participate actively in the creation of the experience. While visiting Nakamura’s house & exhibition as well as (naturally) being invited to a cup of tea in his private tea house (every traditional house around Japan seems to have at least a room, if not a proper little house, for the pleasure & protocol of the Japanese tea ceremony!), I marvel at the local art & architecture. Focusing on details in my sense of photography, I watch Nakamura being pleased with my detecting little points of difference – the way the bamboo sticks are pointed, the type of materials used or the way art is displayed. Kentaro next to me happily translates between English and Japanese, though art & appreciation have a language of their own anyway: Politeness really goes a long way in Japan!
Last but not least, let me tell you where to sleep & stay in style, if creative art & city travel with a genuine sense of hospitality is what you are after here in Kanazawa!
If by now you are not feeling totally familiar thanks to the sweet support & welcoming nature of the local artists & creative city hosts of Kanazawa, then Shiro Guest House is there to top it all off once more. A small, family-run guest house run by wonderful hosts located only two streets away from Kanazawa’s historic market as well as the city’s old town. Lots more artists and small crafts shops / factories are to be found nearby, including a visit to a local miso factory! Check this out.
For the complete (big) picture of all things foodie & creative travel in Kanazawa City, enjoy a peaceful “Zen” moment of watching my Flickr Photo Gallery embedded here: