Day 10: Kanazawa also known as the marsh of gold

19th October 2007:

Well yesterday had been a very enlightening day. Today I would finally achieve my final goal in Japan, to visit the city of Kanazawa as well as the last of 3 famous landscape gardens in Japan namely Kenroku-en.

I’m sucker for beautiful landscapes. Anyway had before I set out early to increase my chance of meeting as few people as possible as well as to spend as much time as I can at today’s location.

Tragic struck when I stepped of the Ryokan I was staying at,

It was raining.

The worse possible weather for landscape shooting after snowstorms and typhoons or even hurricanes. It was bloody raining. I had hope it was not raining at my intended destination.

Anyway, quickly made my way to the train station to catch the earliest train to Kanazawa

Soon I was on my way to Kanazawa.

As always the traditional food shots!

Though this time I also packed some snacks along the way for Kanazawa

Salami sticks!

and melonpan! made famous among anime fans by a certain Tsundere by the name Shana who is also known as “Flame-Haired Blazing-Eyed Hunter”. Personally I don’t see what is there much to like about melonpan. It was rather tasteless.

Not wanting to waste, I immediately set off the minute I had arrived at Kanazawa and to my worse fears, it was raining……making any attempts at landscape photography a very hard task.

Though I decided to press and make the best of a bad situation. I decided to walk from the really weird looking Kanazawa station and check out the time. After it supposedly supplies most of Japan it’s gold product supply. I came to one of the many gold shops in there mentioned by one the guides and decided to enter.

They had tour of how they coat items with Gold leafs, the art of coating items with gold dates back to 1593 in era known as Bunroku when gold leafs were first made but I was early so I decided to look through the many photos on the wall describing how gold leaf are made. The english describing the process is little bit rough but I think smooth it out

The gold mineral is first mixed with a small quantity of silver and copper which are then heated to 1300 Celsius  and then poured into ingot mould to form the usual gold bars you see.

Next the gold ingot are the feed into a metal pressing rolling machine repeated until they are at 1/100mm thick.

Next each piece of uwa-zumi measuring about 20cm each are then cut into 12 part with each piece measuring about 6cm called koma or koppe (the guides I kept all these years say koppe while the photo here says koma).

Each koma is then place in between pages in a stack of 1800 “leaf beating papers”

Where is it then beaten for 3 minutes by a beating machine to flatten it even further. After which it is left for 15 minutes to cool. This process is actually repeated until the gold leaf are , get this……1/10000mm thick!

This is what it looks like after the process from a 6cm piece to what you see. From here the gold leaf is carefully transfer from the stack to a hiromono-chou or extended container (I can’t think of what they meant) using bamboo chopsticks.

Each piece is then cut to a standard size with any of the left overs to be add into the start of another iteration of the whole process. The completed gold leafs are then placed between papers in a stack of hundreds, tied up with string and sold off.

Here are the left over pieces or discards piece from coating work which will be added back to the gold leaf making process……

You may have noticed why does everyone of my photos here seems rather yellowish? Well the simple reason is that there are so many gold products on display in that shop that all the interior light is golden colored! This is not a white balance problem! This is for real shit gold color!

Here are some products they have coated with the gold leafs.

Yes folks, they even have lotion with GOLD FLAKES! For what purpose, apparently gold to thought to have properties to promote youth looking skin. @_@ I don’t know whether that is true or not….

So how to they coat these items? Well I had the fortunate luck of watching a session that was being given to a small group of school children. Surprisingly, they didn’t mind me taking photos. Anyway first you pick one of these gold leaf foils.

Then carefully place the gold leaf onto the item you wish to coat using bamboo chopsticks

Then gently brush the gold leaf onto the item over an opened box to collect the fallen bits as the gold leaf is rather fragile but sticks to anything! I’m told that the brushes cannot be just any regular brushes, I think they were squirrel hair brushes which doesn’t cause the gold to stick to the brush? Can’t be sure as my Japanese is not very good.

Keep brushing until ….

Until you have it the way you want it! This demonstration was being done by one of the masters there. Now it was children’s turn.

Their efforts were…..

Were expected to be not as expected….

Soon the master stepped to how the how its done.

He showed them first how to pick it up using the item to be coated it if was possible as it would make it easier. Then proceeded to show them how to brush the gold leaf into place.

A smile worth more than gold ^_^

Anyway, after that demo session I sat down and straight away they served me a cup of tea without even me asking for one @_@ now that is service! Upon closer of the tea, I noticed gold flakes…!? What the ?! WOW! I was speechless, anyway I drank it all!

You can buy those gold flakes for tea as well!

I bought some of those gold flakes for my family and was soon on my way.  Hoping for the weather to improve further I continued looking around Kanazawa before going to Kenroku-en. I soon found myself at the Higashi Geisha District.

There I found a shop selling shortcakes coated with……gold?! @_@ Midas’ bakery?!

As you could see, it was still raining and there was no sign in sight that it would let up soon. How dreadful. I stumbled into this traditional edo period house and decided to go in for a look see.

Though it did not present much opportunity due to the poor lighting in there. So I quickly moved on.

I then decided to take the Kenroku-en. It was no use putting it off any further as the weather was going to be wet all day and this was the only day I was going to visit this location.

The bus dropped me off a short distance from my intended target so I walked the rest of the way..

I had finally arrived.

Even though it was raining but there was one advantage, there weren’t many people something that I enjoyed, being alone. I have admit while the rain did play havok with my intended landscape photo expediation,  I had found myself thinking of ideas on how to make the whether work for me. To see aspects of this place not usually seen when the sun was shining with clear blue skies.

After that, I soon found myself drenched, tired and hungry as well as incredibly bored. This rain had really ruin my final day of sightseeing. Pity, I then decided to go back to Kyoto so I could prepare for my return to Tokyo tomorrow since there was no way I could be able to salvage today.

Today had not turned out as I would  have hope for but then you can’t win them all. So tomorrow is back to Tokyo before my return trip to Malaysia.

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