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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Creative Travel in Kanazawa, Japan

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.

Travelling to Kanazawa, Japan, we start our creative visit by meeting this 10th generation ceramic artist, specialized in the production of fine tea utensils.

Travelling to Kanazawa, Japan, we start our creative visit by meeting this 10th generation ceramic artist, Chozaemon Toshiro Ohi specialized in the production of fine tea utensils.

 

His place, the Ohi Museum of Fine Ceramic Arts, is known all over Japan and boasts incredible works of art.

His place, the Ohi Museum of Fine Ceramic Arts, is known all over Japan for its incredible works of art.

 

Almost too mundane, considering using them for their original purpose - to have a cup of tea!

Almost too mundane, considering using them for their original purpose – having cup of Japanese green tea, that is!

 

This lady, too, welcomes me into her Kanazawa house a little later, introducing me to the protocol and ceremony of the Japanese tea culture.

This lady, too, welcomes me into her Kanazawa house, introducing me to the protocol and ceremony of the Japanese teahouse culture.

 

Having tea is just not the same as having tea in Japan: A treasure, and truly celebrated protocol.

Having tea elsewhere is just not the same as having tea in Japan: A treasure, and truly celebrated protocol.

 

Love the entire atmosphere of the house, too: Just beautiful if you ask me!

Love the entire atmosphere of the house, too: Just beautiful if you ask me!

 

Tea houses, as it is, are never far in Japan - or at least here in Kanazawa: During a stroll through Kenrokuen Gardens, Kentaro and I stop for a cup of a hot tea on a cold winter's day.

Tea houses are never far in Japan – or at least here in Kanazawa: During a stroll through Kenrokuen Gardens, Kentaro and I stop for a cup of hot tea on a cold winter’s day.

 

Dear Kentaro knows the way: Thank you for your expert guidance around all things culture & creative travel in Kanazawa!

Dear Kentaro knows the way: Thank you for your expert guidance around all things culture & creative travel in Kanazawa!

 

And would you believe that some tea houses, such as this very traditional one, have to be entered through this little door off the ground - without shoes, of course?!

And would you believe that some tea houses, such as this very traditional one, have to be entered through this little door off the ground – after having taken your shoes off, of course?!

 

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!

Welcome at Nakamura Takuo's tea house in Kanazawa ...

Welcome at Nakamura Takuo’s tea house in Kanazawa …

 

... a place to learn and interact ...

… a place to learn and interact …

 

... appreciating the work of one of Japan's greatest ceramic artists.

… appreciating the work of one of Japan’s greatest ceramic artists, whose works have been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.

 

Food, too, is never far in the genuine sense of Japanese hospitality!

Food, too, is never far in the genuine sense of Japanese hospitality! Fancy a cookie with your cup of tea? Here we go – the Japanese way!

 

These gentlemen have come specifically to interview me for a feature of their local Kanazawa city magazine, investigating the interest from an international traveller coming to Kanazawa for creative tourism!

These gentlemen have come specifically to interview me for a feature of their local Kanazawa newspaper “Hokkoku Shimbun”, investigating the interest from an international traveller coming to Kanazawa for creative tourism!

 

Definitely will have to learn some Japanese now in order for me to understand ... !

Definitely will have to learn some Japanese now in order for me to understand … !

 

Besides, I recommend you to visit the local 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa ...

Besides, I recommend you to visit the local 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa …

 

... a true delight for all the senses really!

… a true delight for all the senses really!

 

For a more contemplative idea of Japanese Buddhist, or "zen" culture called Shintoism, I recommend you visit the

For a more contemplative idea of Japanese Buddhist, or “zen” culture called Shintoism, I recommend you visit the museum by the great zen master D.T. Suzuki.

 

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.

Welcome to Shiro Guest House in Kanazawa City! Love the way the entrance is set here.!

Welcome to Shiro Guest House in Kanazawa City! Love the way the entrance is set here, with the actual door right behind those “textile flags” ..!

 

Comfortable space in the living room ...

Comfortable space in the living room …

 

... and a rather traditional Japanese bedroom, where sleeping on the floor is the norm ..!

… and a rather traditional Japanese bedroom, where sleeping on the floor is the norm ..!

 

Typical - and normal to me, by now - is taking your shoes off at every house, be it a tea shop, a book store or a local guest house.

Typical – and rather normal to me, by now – is taking your shoes off at every house, be it a tea shop, a book store – or a local guest house.!

 

Gut, dass diese nie weit weg ist: Die Japaner sind weit über das Klischee hinaus höflich und bemüht, ich liebe die Freundlichkeit vor allem der Menschen hier in Kanazawa!

Gotta love the Japanese, really: Check out even more foodie travel tales from Kanazawa here! You can also find a more detailed storytelling account on the art & mystery of the Japanese Geisha culture here.

 

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:

 

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
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