Traveling to Kanazawa on the Hokuriku Shinkansen: An Encounter with the Spirit of “wa”, Japanese culture [PR]

Traveling to Kanazawa on the convenient and comfortable Hokuriku Shinkansen

The Hokuriku region faces the Sea of Japan, and Kanazawa city at its center is directly accessible within 2 to 3 hours from the major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka. The Hokuriku Shinkansen began service from Tokyo in March 2015, offering a comfortable way to travel equipped with the latest facilities. It also permits use of the Japan Rail Pass (excluding the highest grade “Gran Class”).

Design and restroom facilities of the Hokuriku Shinkansen

The theme colors of the Hokuriku Shinkansen’s cars are sky blue and copper (top), while its deluxe-class “Green” cars present a soothing atmosphere with a deep ultramarine blue hue (lower left). The restrooms in the train are fully equipped with “washlet” for cleansing rear end with warm water. They are high-tech toilets made by TOTO, one of Japan’s most prominent manufacturers of water fixtures (lower right). These color schemes and facilities actually already reflect the “hospitality” given to those visiting Kanazawa.

Kanazawa is a region that was ruled by the Maeda family for nearly 300 years beginning from the end of the 16th century. It is a jokamachi (a town that developed in the area surrounding a castle) which rose and grew around Kanazawa Castle, occupied by the ruling lord. The Maeda family was one of the most powerful ruling families of the time, owning land in present-day Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures and making great efforts to develop the culture of Kanazawa. Partly because Kanazawa was spared from war-related damage, the buildings, townscapes, crafts, and performing arts of the times still survive and are being passed down even today. Among its historic places is the well-known sightseeing location Kenrokuen, which was created to be a garden for the Maeda family.

The blue sky of Kenrokuen
Kenrokuen contains scenic elements including ponds, streams, and a huge variety of trees. It is a place where visitors can see the practice of yukitsuri, in which ropes are suspended from trees in winter to prevent them from breaking under the weight of accumulated snow. It is said that the idea for the theme color of the Hokuriku Shinkansen’s cars came from the magnificent blue sky in the Hokuriku region.

Seisonkaku, which neighbors Kenrokuen, is another place that undeniably deserves a visit. It is a residence built by the 13th-generation head of the Maeda family for his mother, and presents an exquisite space adorned with various materials, colors, and works of art. The “Gunjo no Ma” (Ultramarine Room) on the second floor, whose ceiling is colored with a rich ultramarine blue, is particularly impressive. This deep blue shade tinged with purple was an inspiration for the design of the Hokuriku Shinkansen’s Green class cars. The contrast between the brilliant blue color and the elegant luster of the wooden structural members is echoed by the sky blue and copper hues of the train car bodies as well.

Seisonkaku's Gunjo no Ma
The “Gunjo no Ma” has a ceiling colored with ultramarine blue and walls finished in scarlet. The ceiling color was used as the image color for the Green class cars of the shinkansen.

The lovely seasons of Kanazawa and their appreciation in traditional culture

In Kanazawa, wondrous scenery distinctive of Japan can be seen in each of the four seasons.

The four seasons of Kanazawa
Spectacular blooming cherry blossoms at Kanazawa Castle Park in spring (upper left). The Higashi Chaya district with rows of historic buildings and luxuriant willow trees that grow thickly in summer (upper right). Colorful foliage at Kenrokuen in autumn (lower left). The fantastical scenery of Kenrokuen in winter, with snow piled up on yukitsuri ropes (lower right).

Japanese people in ancient times cherished the changes occurring throughout the year, expressing the marvelous scenery of each season in the colors and shapes of kimono patterns and sweets. A traditional art known as “Kaga-Yuzen” for creating patterns on kimono material is being inherited and passed down in Kanazawa to the present day. With this technique, outlines of patterns based on elements of nature or traditional designs are finely traced on fabric with paste, to prevent those portions from absorbing color. Dye is then applied to the areas of fabric other than the outlines, and the paste is washed away to produce patterned works that are vividly-colored yet delicate in form.

Delicate Kaga-Yuzen work performed by hand
Dye is applied by hand, stroke by stroke, as though painting a work of art. These methods of production can be observed at the Kaga-Yuzen Kimono Center.
The beauty of Kanazawa, depicted by Kaga-Yuzen
A beautiful kimono like a painting to be worn (left). Patterns are drawn while envisioning the finished state of the kimono after sewing (right).

The Japanese people’s love of the four seasons can be seen in wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) as well. The art of the tea ceremony thrived and flourished in Kanazawa, and so wagashi has been held dear there from times long ago. These sweets, created with the imagery of seasonal plants and scenery, are full of the sense of beauty and desire to welcome guests that is distinctive of Kanazawa. Workshops are available for visitors to try their hand at confection-making, offering an excellent chance to experience the history and seasonal spirit of the city.

The seasons of Japan expressed in Kanazawa's wagashi sweets
Colorful sweets representing the seasons of Japan
Participants in the confection-making workshop come from all over the world
Clear, friendly instructions are given so anyone can make charming sweets easily
Participants more than pleased with their first confection-making experience
2 types of confections (2 pieces each) can be made in roughly 40 minutes. The classroom is truly international, with visitors from countries around the world.

Kanazawa Station, filled with the spirit of welcome

As can be seen by its tea ceremonies and confections, the culture of welcoming guests is deeply rooted in Kanazawa, and is truly symbolized by Kanazawa Station. The huge “Welcome Dome” made of glass and aluminum alloys which spreads out into view after exiting the station was designed in the image of a giant umbrella that shelters travelers visiting Kanazawa from the rain and snow that are so frequent there. Beyond the dome, the spirit of welcome is also represented by the “Tsuzumi-Mon” gate. This structure is built in the likeness of a tsuzumi, a hand drum instrument used in the traditional art of Noh (a type of ancient Japanese stage performance).

Tsuzumi-Mon gate at the Station which Welcomes Guests with Traditional Crafts
Entrance to Kanazawa Station, said to be one of the most beautiful station buildings in the world
The “Tsuzumi-Mon” gate offers a striking spectacle with its wooden columns built up in spiraling forms and its latticed roof.

The interior of the station, designed with the theme of a “station which welcomes guests with traditional crafts”, is like a gallery of exhibits displaying the widely-varied crafts passed down through generations in Ishikawa Prefecture, and has been praised as being one of the most beautiful station buildings in the world. The walls of the shinkansen waiting room are decorated with 236 pieces of 30 types of arts and crafts, for visitors to enjoy while waiting for their trains.

The Room of 100 Crafts shinkansen waiting room
The shinkansen waiting room, named the “Room of 100 Crafts”

Even the restroom facilities in the shinkansen ticketed area welcome guests disembarking the shinkansen at Kanazawa with craft exhibits. Glorious works created by master Kaga-Yuzen crafters stand out strikingly on a large wall panel at the restroom entrance. The seasonal changes of Kanazawa are represented by artworks depicting the natural beauty of Kenrokuen in the men’s restroom and akebia flowers in the women’s restroom.

The restrooms in the shinkansen ticketed area, welcoming visitors with Kaga-Yuzen
The natural beauty of Kenrokuen in the men's restroom, and akebia flowers in the women's restroom
In front of the restrooms in the shinkansen ticketed area, works produced by two master Kaga-Yuzen crafters are displayed in laminated glass. This splendid show of rivalry is sure to capture the attention of travelers passing by for the first time.

The spirit of hospitality is even reflected by the toilet facilities themselves. All of the toilets in individual stalls are furnished with “washlet” warm water cleansing seats. These washlets embody the wish to provide the greatest degree of comfort while using these facilities.

Furthermore, meticulous considerations have been made for the toilet fixtures so that anyone, from children to the elderly, to wheelchair users or ostomates, can use them easily. Multi-functional toilets are located in close proximity to the entrance, and are equipped with multi-purpose support sheets, baby chairs, toilet packs for ostomates, and other equipment. There are two multi-functional toilets whose fixtures are placed symmetrically on both sides, to accommodate those who may have difficulties with movement on either side of their body. There is also one simple multi-functional toilet each available in the men’s and women’s spaces.

TOTO's multi-functional toilets allow anyone to use them comfortably
Multi-functional toilets located immediately near the entrance
Functions and designs with great consideration for users
Men’s restroom (upper left); women’s restroom stalls (upper right); children’s area (lower left); powder area (lower right).

With high attention to cleanliness, Hydrocera floor coverings are located around the areas of one’s feet in the men’s restroom, to reduce odors and stains, and have been designed with finely-considered detail. Handrails and baby chairs are provided in all stalls in both the men’s and women’s restrooms as well. The women’s restroom also includes a children’s area equipped with children’s toilets and hand sinks. The powder area is equipped with partitions so that women can adjust their makeup without being conscious of others.

We highly recommend those considering a trip to Kanazawa to experience the comfort of these washlet facilities, packed full of Japan’s outstanding technology and careful attentiveness, in the restrooms of the Hokuriku Shinkansen and the shinkansen ticketed area of Kanazawa Station.

Even Japan’s restroom facilities focus on the spirit of hospitality

The toilet fixtures in the Hokuriku Shinkansen and Kanazawa Station were created by TOTO, developer of the first warm-water cleansing toilet seat in Japan. It is an equipment manufacturer whose products are used in restrooms and other water-using areas in many types of facilities and residences in Japan. The spirit of hospitality extends to every corner of TOTO’s product development, with its restroom fixtures equipped with a huge range of innovative and comfort-enhancing functions. Visiting TOTO’s website will give you a clear idea of why the Japanese people are so particular about clean and functional toilets, so please give it a look.

Aside from “washlets”, which provide comfortable cleansing with warm water, TOTO has implemented a wide variety of functions using the latest technology. These include toilet seats that open automatically when people approach, heated seats that warm up for comfort when using them, deodorizing functions to eliminate odors, and a function known as “Otohime” which plays the noise of rushing water to mask other sounds.

Toilets in Japan bow to greet their users?!

TOTO has recently developed a toilet with a “sanitizing water” function which electrolyzes chloride ions contained in tap water to produce water that includes sterilizing components. This sanitizing water is sprayed in the interior of the toilet automatically, and is also used to clean the washlet nozzle, giving the toilet the ability to eliminate invisible bacteria.

TOTO: Ever and always clean
“Benza Kirei” (“Clean Seat”) sprays a sanitizing water mist in the interior of the toilet after use (left). “Nozzle Kirei” (“Clean Nozzle”) cleans the interior and exterior of the nozzle (center). “Nioi Kirei” (“Clean Smell”) collects unpleasant odors in a sanitizing water filter and eliminates them (right).

Since long ago, the entire country of Japan, and especially Kanazawa city, have placed great importance on giving meticulous attention to guests. This concept is one driving force for the manufacturing industry in Japan today, drawing out a sense of passion and enthusiasm toward development. One could say that the outstanding technology of modern Japan has been built on the foundation of its unique spirit of hospitality.