Linking a number of tourist attractions like Tai Kwun, PMQ and Man Mo Temple, Hollywood Road is always popular for tourists in Hong Kong. While tourists come for the historical attractions, many locals, on the other hand, come to Hollywood Road for food and drinks. South of Hollywood Road, the narrow Staunton Street (士丹頓街) was once home to wet market vendors, trading offices, family-run stores and small Buddhist convents (庵堂). In fact, Staunton Street was once nicknamed the Street of Buddhist Nuns (師姑街). After the Central – Mid Levels Escalators opened to the public in 1993 and brought an influx of pedestrians from the business district downhill, Staunton Street and the adjacent Elgin Street(伊利近街) have quietly undergone a dramatic transformation. Expatriates started to move into the area. Old shops and Buddhist convents were gradually replaced by bars, pubs, restaurants, comedy clubs, cafes, and wine shops. In 1996, Thomas Goetz, a restaurant owner from Elgin Street, came up with the acronym “SoHo” (蘇豪) for this new entertainment and dining area of Central, referring to the location “South of Hollywood Road”. From then on, the Staunton Street that I used to go as a child to get fresh grocery and pay ritualistic respect to my grandfather at a small Buddhist convent has silently disappeared. Today, SoHo would remain sleepy most of the day, and then bursts into life after sunset. The yell of market vendors and pungent incense smoke have been replaced by causal giggles and laughter, and the smell of beer.
Further away from the Central – Mid Levels Escalators and less than 150m northwest of the buzzing SoHo, Gough Street (歌賦街), Kau U Fong (九如坊) and Aberdeen Street (鴨巴甸街) offer a much more laid-back and tranquil ambience. Once home to family run shops and small printing presses, these sleepy back streets have become a hipper cousin of the nearby SoHo. Known as NoHo for “North of Hollywood Road”, this area is particular attractive to locals who come for the foodie scene: Chinese cuisine, dai pai dong dishes, beef brisket noodles, Japanese ramen, sushi, Western fine dining, unadon, Vietnamese pho, hand-drip cafes, bubble tea, chocolate, etc. Despite its abundance of dining options, the shops here remain small and peaceful. Compared to its noisier neighbour, NoHo is much more low key, as if deliberately staying away from the public limelight. Here visitors would enjoy a sense of discovery and intimacy that is hard to find anywhere else in Central.
DAY 7 (5/7): LIGHTHOUSE, CHOCOLATE & SAMURAI HOMES, Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31
Branded as Little Kyoto, Kanazawa is famed for its century old neighborhoods and buildings. With only a fraction of Kyoto’s tourists, Kanazawa is a great place to appreciate the machiya, or the old Japanese timber townhouses from the Edo Period, and neighborhoods of geisha and samurai. Close to the castle hill, Nagamachi (長町) is the most famous samurai neighborhood in the city with well preserved samurai residences. From Kenroku-en and Kanazawa castle park, It is about 15-20 minutes of walk to Nagamachi. On our way, we made a detour to Oyama Shrine (尾山神社). Moved to its present location in 1872, the shrine is the most prominent shrine complex in Kanazawa, especially the iconic west facing gate structure standing proudly with a mixed style of Japanese, European and Chinese influences. As soon as we stepped in the shrine complex, we saw groups of people setting up art installations in the temple garden. Perhaps the artworks were set up for the upcoming Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり). We strolled around the complex and finally came to the unique front gate. Designed by a Dutch architect, the gate is consisted of three levels. The first level presents design features from Japanese and Chinese influences, and the upper levels are inspired by European styles, including the famous stained glass window at the top tier which was once served as a lighthouse.
Exited Oyama Shrine from its front gate, we continued to walk west into the Nagamachi (長町), the tranquil neighborhood famous for its samurai residences. Sitting just a stone throw away from Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi had a high concentration of samurai residences in the Edo Period. Today, the water canals, narrow lanes, earthen walls, old trees, and traditional gateways still exist. Some houses are still occupied by families of former samurai. Before visiting one of the former samurai residence, the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we couldn’t resist the temptation and stopped by a chocolate patisserie shop called Saint Nicolas.
The Oyama Shrine is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the Kaga Domain.
While we were there, local communities were busy setting up art installations in the temple ground.
Some of the art installations were made of materials that we could hardly imagine. This piece set up laser disks (LD) in an arrangement that resembled a lily pond.
A glassy pavilion seemed like a brand new addition to the shrine complex. It might well become an information centre soon.
We exited the Oyama Shrine through its main gate. Once served as a lighthouse, the top level of the gate features a colourful stained glass window.
During daytime, it is difficult to see the real colours of the stained glass window.
Outside of the gate, a small procession route led us west towards Nagamachi, the neighborhood famous for its samurai residences.
Before going into the lanes of samurai residences, we reached a small street flanked by a small water channel and stopped by Saint Nicolas, a delightful patisserie and chocolate shop.
Saint Nicolas offers a wide range of chocolate, ice-cream and patisserie.
We decided to sit down for a tea break before ending our day with a visit of the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家).
Finding our way to Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we wandered around the small lanes of Nagamachi.
Unlike the historical districts in Kyoto, Nagamachi of Kanazawa to us was much more peaceful and saw far less tourists.
For 280 years, many top and middle class samurais lived in Nagamachi near the Kanazawa Castle. Although most mud walls were reconstructed in modern days, the charm of the old samurai era remained.
The Onosho Canal is the oldest waterway in Kanazawa. In the old days, it was a means to carry goods from the harbour to the castle town.
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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE
Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)
Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)
Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)
Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)
Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)
Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)
In Hong Kong, redevelopment of an old neighborhood is often a controversial matter, especially when it involves eviction of existing occupants, or replacing an old neighborhood with new residential towers and shopping malls. In recent years there has been public concerns regarding the anticipated relocation of the vendors at Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar in Sham Shui Po.
Opening its doors since the 1970s at the intersection of Yen Chow Street and Lai Chi Kok Road, the specialized textile bazaar has been a popular destination for fabric seekers from fashion design students to amateur seamstress throughout the city. The bazaar stalls are laid out in a grid pattern, under patches of roof covering consisted of corrugated metal and nylon sheets. A visit to the bazaar is like a treasure hunt that involves meandering through narrow aisles and flipping through piles of colourful fabrics, bags of buttons and rolls of ribbons at each 3m x 3m vendor stall. The bazaar is chaotic, cramped, dark, and can be stuffy in humid summer days. Despite its resemblance to a shanty town , the bazaar does not deter anyone who determines to hunt for prizable fabrics and accessories in affordable prices, and to enjoy a disappearing shopping culture that emphasizes human interactions. It is the type of old school shopping experience in which friendly and long-lasting relationship between returned customers and vendors can be built up over time.
The unique atmosphere, unpretentious setting, and sense of community of the Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar belong to a disappearing Hong Kong. In a city shaped mostly by retail franchises and real estate developers, and where retail streets and shopping centres are looking more repetitive as ever, small independent businesses and grassroots communities are becoming more vulnerable and helpless in the rapid process of urban development.
From outside, Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar looks like a shabby village built at a city park.
Once inside, the chaotic bazaar is a treasure trove for many.
Fabrics and accessories are piled up high along both sides of narrow aisles.
Some vendors own multiple stalls. In many occasions, customers would need to call the owner over from another corner of the bazaar.
After forty years, a number of the existing trees have become permanent features in the bazaar.
Each stall has its unique arrangement and textile selection.
Some stalls even offer sewing service.
One may wonder how the vendor can keep track of his or her merchandises from the piles of items at the stall.
Apart from fabrics, ribbons are also popular.
And so as buttons of different colours and styles.
Encouraging messages written by customers and supporters for the bazaar vendors are pinned up at a stall.
Big banner urging for establishing an official textile market at the current location is hung at the bazaar entrance.
A supporting banner made of fabric strips is also hung at the exterior fence along Lai Chi Kok Road.
Photos showing the vendor community expressing their unity and determination to fight for their own survival at the current site, in protest to the government’s relocation proposal of the bazaar.
We almost forgot Hong Kong still has a considerable amount of arable land suitable for farming until we visited Ma Po Po (馬寶寶), the community farm at Ma Shi Po Village (馬屎埔) in Fanling (粉嶺). In recent months, the government’s proposal to develop rural areas and farming villages into high dense residential communities in Northeast North Territories has became a controversial topic in the city.
Hanging on the metal gate of Ma Po Po Community Farmer’s Market is a handmade signage. Ma Po Po literally means “Baby Horse”. The founders of the farmer’s market hope that everyone would treat the gradually disappearing farmland with care and love as if their baby.
Developing the north region of New Territories is a controversial topic in recent months. Many farmers, including the villagers at Ma Po Po, are facing a real risk of eviction. The Hong Kong government favors urban development over agriculture, and doesn’t seem to bother finding a balanced solution that encourages the coexistence of farming and urban development.
Wall mural depicting the snacks that once sold at this village’s grocery store. The elderly shop owner is still living in this house, but his tiny shop couldn’t stand the contest with the chain supermarkets outside the village.
Simple wall murals are common in Ma Shi Po depicting original farming scenes. Since the residential towers were built across the street from the village, sunlight exposure to certain farmlands is greatly affected. Some owners switch to growing fruit trees instead.
Raising poultry was once part of the village life. However, we were told that in recent years the government has imposed heavy restrictions on raising poultry. Today, free range chickens and ducks can only be seen on wall murals captured by the young artists.
The guide presented a bucket of soy pulp collected from a tofu shops nearby. Many types of organic waste are being collected from restaurants and markets in nearby neighborhoods to support organic farming. Ma Po Po aims to demonstrate a perfect cycle of co-existence among organic farmers, restaurants and the local communities. Not only does their collection/compost/farming cycle create some of the best produce in the city, it also indicates a strategy that partially alleviates the burden of organic waste.
The last part of the tour was to demonstrate about how the collected organic waste is turned into organic fertilizer. Removing the plastic wrap, our guide showed us a compost mount, in which dry leaves and branches were mixed with small amount of organic waste such as fish bones.
Many original farmlands and houses have been vacant or sold to large developers. Large developers then come and fence off the properties under their control. After months of neglect these lands would soon turn into overgrown wastelands. Some people have proposed to rent the abandoned farmlands from the developers while the land was left idling. Their proposals were rejected by the developers.
While exiting Ma Shi Po, we could clearly see the overwhelming residential development just across the street. Without character, memories, and living traditions, these highrise developments are efficient machines to house a population made up mainly with people from elsewhere in the city.
We brought back lots of fresh vegetables from Ma Po Po. They were definitely the sweetest vegetables we’ve ever had in recent months. Now, a visit to Ma Po Po Farmer’s Market has become our weekly ritual. People who live in the Fanling area are lucky to live so close to this terrific organic farm. We believe in balanced development. The coexistence of Ma Po Po and the surrounding neighborhoods shows us a good example of what a sustainable future may look like for generations to come.