Sunday, April 06, 2008

Japan Trip April 6th (Day 6): Perfect Day of Sakura, Kimiono’s, Geisha and Samurai Districts

Prenote: Due to perfect weather and an oncoming cold/rain front I pushed myself to the LIMIT today and fell into a 4 hour nap this evenng, which woke me up just in time to post a FEW pictures from today (we took about 300 – these are the best of an amazing day, when the best pictures came to US).

It was a perfect day, felt like an early summer day and we headed out a bit late to see the famous garden of Kanazawa: Kenrokuen. What we did not know is that today had been declared the start of Sakura, the regions’ cherry blossom’s festival. We were lucky enough to get there quickly before the entire city became standstill traffic as EVERYONE tried to go to Sakura. We saw the famous gate of the garden as we walked/pushed through the gravel paths which become more and more crowded. The blossoms WERE open and beautiful as just this one behind Linda shows.
Sakura is like THE national holiday, it is Xmas and New Years rolled into one as stands are put up for food and gifts and everyone comes in from the countryside. It is a big festival for children, who are considered a ‘national treasure’ in Japan. People were vying to get spots under the huge Cherry Trees which topped and surrounded the Kanazawa Castle which stood opposite the gardens (the Gardens were free today – it’s Sakura!). Even I got into the spirit as Linda took a shot of me with the lanterns and trees of Sakura opening behind me.
There were already a few women, children in kimono’s at Sakura but today also seemed to be either graduation or a “coming of age day” (or just a “hey it is Sakura!” day) as we saw several women of different ages wearing the different kimono styles.

With the garden and castle packed we headed to the historic geisha district which starts with this red house, an original Geisha house in the preserved historic district. Everyone gets their picture taken under the tree. This one young woman in her coming of age kimono had come to get her picture taken under the tree. The entire tree, house and street is like a set out of a movie except it is REAL, this was a real historic geisha district in the “little Kyoto” of the North. And after the “no picture” policy and rush of Tokyo we found Kanazawa a friendly town. I took a picture of a graduation class as I wandered, often alone on these historic and beautiful geisha streets and area.
At the end of the street was a shop selling traditional arts of the Edo period including Yuzen Chiyagami, a particular type of paper for Origami that we bought as a gift for, er, someone. The owner not only wore a traditional male kimono but agreed to be photographed and stamped Linda’s book (you buy a special stamp book when you arrive and get it stamped at shines, old traditional stores, historic sites and hotels (like Nikko Kanaya, which it turns out is one of the top three hotels in all of Japan)).
At this point a traditional Japanese wedding walked the length of this street in the Geisha district, the couple are under the umbrella with the bride in her bridal kimono while you can see the mother in law (son’s mother) following behind in her kimono as well (her traditional marching place).
We wandered a street over to find a woman who was having photos taken, she was dressed more in a geisha style and was wearing a furisode kimono which have the long sleeves and are beautiful but as I soon found out in my kimono shopping are for unmarried women and cost about $450,000 (made out of silk). She agreed to do a pose for us.
After seeing all these kimonos it JUST happened that the kimono shop recommended by Shigura-san (my disability Japan expert), the Furisode Gallery Mai, as an “accessible wheelchair kimono shopping store” was on the way back to the hotel. We found it and when I came in and saw THIS kimono on the wall I knew two things, a) I WANTED a kimono from this shop and b) I probably couldn’t afford one!

The woman, Yasuko, who talked to me then disappeared for a LONG time to reappear with many Yukata, a type of summer kimono. After talking to disability Japan we (really THEY) decided that the summer kimono was the only kimono that I could tolerate with my heat intolerance and the time it takes to put on (you have to stand, however assisted). The other kimonos start at 4 layers and go up to 16 layers. I needed an Obi as well, the belt which wraps around and is tied off into a bow in the back. After looking at many styles we narrowed it to three which I insisted on trying on along with the obi’s. I ended up with this one which is black with purple, summer fans and dragonflies. I really like it and here I am wearing it, both in the front and back. Some may be surprised to see me standing. With my condition, I can stand for a short period assisted and a shorter period unassisted, it is just there is a strong cost for me; in this case, almost immediately slurring, loss of hand-eye coordination and a slight dropsy in my ride side of the face after sitting. But you only buy a kimono once right?!

The owner Yasuko gave me a 10% discount after she found out Linda and I were married (actually she gave a happy shriek and then ran into the back room for some time – THEN gave a discount). She also threw in a decorative flower in blue which matches the obi to wear either in the hair or clip to the obi. Linda called it “playing the ‘crip card’ on an international level” – The whole outfit cost less than $100, even with the sinking dollar against the yen. So I am pretty happy.

After a short rest at the hotel, we found out it was going to rain tomorrow and so decided to head to the historic Samurai district to take photos on such an amazing day. The area is full not just of the samurai houses but also the high tiled walls that show the area is of high ranking samurai. We ran into another girl out in her kimono (or rather she ran into our picture). The district was great and full of walls, gates, cherry trees and traditional black tiling.

In the new interest of Japanese toilets I have to display the BEST toilet (including wheelchair accessible) facilities seen so far. This is the public washroom in the samurai district which comes with cherry tree and traditional garden where one can contemplate…..going to the bathroom?
We wandered home back through the Samurai district as the sun dropped and the wind made it feel like spring again as the cold front moved in. We followed the river and back streets to get pictures of little restaurants and gave greetings to many couples, some older Japanese who were out taking a stroll on this “holiday” – Sakura day! It was like the difference between New York and Port Townsend. As I said to Linda, “I think many of these people may recognize me tomorrow, but will I recognize them?”

So, we did almost two days of visiting in one day with just the historic Ninja district to see tomorrow as well as laundry (oh the life of glamour!) and some shopping in the department stores, now that we are out of high pressure Tokyo. Sorry, I haven’t had time to catch up on comments or give a full account of today, including our visit to the gold plating factory but I hope tomorrow to have the time to do that. I came home at the right time, it is just I slept for 4 hours+ instead of my 90 minute nap. I guess I really did push myself today! So tomorrow is taking it a bit easy and catching up. I just wanted to share this amazing day and hopefully show another day some of other 300+ photos we took today. I mean, we were standing there and the traditional Japanese wedding walks to US, while people follow applauding, talk about a photo op!

Cheers and hope you have a happy Sakura! (Our second, our first was in Tokyo, but this is the first and most festive day!)


kathz said...

Wow! Wonderful. No comment to make because you've conveyed how lovely the day was - and the kimono is great. Enjoy the more restful day tomorrow.

Katrin said...

Lovely kimono!!! I've been enjoying the posts! Sounds like you're having a nice time. Wonderful photos too!

Donimo said...

Now this was a very solid memory-building day. You got your kimono! That's so fabulous. And getting a discount because you're married adds to your International Dyke cred. You are racking up the points, my friend!

I hope you two start a Flickr page when you get back so we can see more photos! The ones you posted were beautiful.

Have a good rest!

cheryl g said...

What a wonderful day! The pictures are beautiful! I love the different styles of kimonos and the one you got is gorgeous.

Yuzen chiyagami - you totally rock Sis!

Maggie said...

Sounds like a wonderful day! Glad things are going well. I like the purple--goes well with your attitude! I finally got caught up with the rest of the travels. I don't think you can use me as an excuse for putting ice on your vagina...give someone medical advice and it goes so wrong!

Victor Kellar said...

Samurai districts .. ninja districts ... my wife said my eyes were rolling up into my head as I read this. Going to screen both Yojimbo and Sanjuro tonight.

Great to read you having some positive experiences. Seems like once you get off the trains you are having a great trip. Too bad there is so much institutionalized ignorance and apathy that is causes so much grief.

Hope you can concentrate on these amazing experiences; you are building memories and impressions that you will be able to carry with you into whatever journeys lay ahead.

Interesting some of the "gender peference" reactions you are getting. My nephew came out in Japan when he lived there and has yet to do it "officially" to his family here, and its been two year

Neil said...

Konnichiwa our time, Konbanwa(your time) Beth and Linda:

You're both looking wonderful. Beth, the kimono is gorgeous on you! It appears to be a great trip for both of you.

But Beth, the photo of you on the train with your concentrator made me wonder: how on Earth do you fit *anywhere* there? The train shot looked like you had lots of leg room.

At 6'3", aren't you tall enough that you stand out somewhat?

Sarah said...

it is so beautiful there and i am so happy for you. the kimono is just stunning. WOW.

Tammy said...

What a beautiful kimono!!! I am SO living vicariously through you and Linda right now.

cheryl g said...

Hey Sis,

If you need to mail stuff to PA for me to mule through customs go for it. I'm becoming a fairly adept smuggler...

Oh and I've been meaning to point out that technically the groin is where your leg bends. It is approximately the area where the femoral artery runs. Not the vagina but if you want to put ice there go for it...

yanub said...

So much neat happening for you! So many comments to make, but I will be brief.

1. I gave you an Excellence in Blogging tag. However, I think that, in light of present circumstances, you are off the hook on following up the tagging for a while.

2. Yay! You so deserved a perfect day after the hell of Tokyo. I know I will not be the only person eager to see the rest of your photos.

3. That kimono? Looks fab! Totally worth risking passing out for.

4. My ex-husband would have loved the meditation/restroom thing. I think I have now said all that ever need be said about him.

Raccoon said...

Yes, children are a national treasure in Japan. Apparently, if I remember correctly, Japan's population is aging faster than, say, the United States. Which means that their version of Social Security & Medicare is going to crash hard in a few years, without enough working age people to put money into it.

Wait, you were wandering around without your keeper? Shame on you!

The woman in the geisha kimono/furisode kimono is lovely! $450,000? American or Canadian? That is an absolutely outfit.

Why, after buying the kimono, are you back in Western clothes? And who says that you buy a kimono only once?

Now, this is the type of day that you should be having all the time: naughty JR people!


I thought there were eight thermostatic spots on the human body: two ankles, two wrists, two armpits, the crotch, and the back of the neck?

SharonMV said...

Thank you again for sharing your trip and especially this beautiful day! The gardens, the paper shop - two of my favorite things. The last artwork I did before becoming too ill I made with yuzen chiyagami paper that my sister & I ordered from Japan. I also do embroidery (am a big textile fan & thread addict) so seeing the kimonas was wonderful. So glad you got one. the one you chose is lovely.


Elizabeth McClung said...

Kathz: I would have been dancing if I could - I GOT my kimono!

A. J. Luxton said...

Beautiful! -- you and your pictures both.

Dawn Allenbach said...

What a fantastic day! And you got your pretty kimono! ::happy dance:: How beautiful are all those women?

I really need to send your blog to a couple of my friends who are also interested in Japanese culture.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Sorry about stopping after one comment, I was using the computer in the lobby and it thought it funny to change to Kanji after a few minutes.

I was kinda bummed this morning going, "No one was excited about my Kimono...." Then reread the comments and had to amend that to no one was AS excited.

Katrin: Thanks, I love the kimono, I try to keep the post up to date for all the reader. I also try to get those "perfect shots" or at least "Decent shots"

Donimo: Yeah, I got the Kimono, I saw lots of different ones and historic sites, a very "japanese" day. Felt like a ride that was going to end, but didn't. Yeah, discount for being married - I think you get rewarded for being different and at 6'3", wheelchair, married lesbian that is pretty different (With red hair).

Okay, I think we will, we haven't had the time to go through all the pictures ourselves yet but I burned them all to DVD as backup.

Cheryl: Yeah, so now you can see the traditional guy who ran the shop where we got your Yuzen chiyagami (I told you I was averaging about one every 2 days!). Haha, I have my Kimono - lets go play badminton in it! (PS - you wear nothing underneath except underwear and bra!)

Maggie: So glad you are back to comment and reading. Yeah, it seemed very me - FIRE...I mean fireflies and the black and purple was me while the pink with little blue flowers was um...not. Hey, I just follow the medical advice as I hear it. Anything else I need to expose in heat situations, like freeing up my bra?

Victor: Yes, it was the real deal, so much more than the Tom Cruise attempt. To be standing in the history of it with people actually HAVING a traditional wedding using kimono's that date back, well, it was pretty magical.

As for coming out, we came out in B-lily and they were okay with it, and there actually is encourages a lot of female on female interaction - like the photo booths where we take pictures, they have you do poses, with two girls (As it is usually two girls doing them) - which is cheek to cheek, one kissing the others hand, arms around each other looking into eyes, etc. What in the west would be male/female romantic pictures.

Neil: Konbanwa for here (midnight!), thanks for the compliment on the kimono. AS for the train we got the Green Ticket which is 1/2 of one care of SUPER first class which has TONS of extra leg room (ergo, just enough for me!)

Sarah: Thanks, can I still keep my lesbian cred and be happy I have a kimono? Lalala! I have a kimono!

Tammy: thanks for reading, I am glad that our pictures and write up are helping. I am thankful to all the people who have helped me emotionally and other ways to get over here and I hope the wheelchair and I make it to the end of the trip (but still, what a ride!)

Cheryl: Hey, we sent all our special Japanese confectionary to PA so I guess we will take you up on that offer? Have you checked this week for Manga - there are still 2 shipments coming in - feel free to read!

Yanub: I don't forget the tags, so thanks for letting me know but I will be busy for a week or two.

Yeah, it was SUCH an amazing day, I pushed myself to the limit becuase I knew (and it did) that it would rain the next day. Also, to just WANDER into the first day of the Sakura festival! And the Wedding!

I needed to KNOW it was the right Kimono plus Linda needed to take a movie of her tying the obi so we can do it again at home (but I got a picture just in case we can't).

Meditation restroom? Err..kay

Raccoon: Plus Japan has the lowest per capita children than any first world nation - but seeing the festival you wouldn't know that. Seeing a girl in a little spring kimono with a flower in her hair...oh so CUTE (missed the picture...curses!).

I think american or Canadian is about the same, saw two of them today and you could pick up a "bargain" one, just the kimono, not the obi or Geta for $250,000, while the designed ones go for over $500,000.

Yes, I should have changed, but this chair would crush my obi so I have a low back chair at home I am going to use to wheel around in my kimono (Already plotting and planning!). Buy more...well there is a shop in Kyoto that has USED ones very reasonable....

As for the medical stuff, I leave that to Maggie and Cheryl to explain.

Sharon MV: Thanks for reading and commenting, it really is fun to do things but also to be able to share them with others.

I am glad I got an expert opinion on the kimono, it turns out the bag she gave us to carry it away in is hand made Washi (Japanese paper) so Linda can't bear to throw it away. I love finding these real, shops selling stuff that I had never heard of until someone asked me for Origami paper and I said, "What is the best kind possible" and they wrote it down for me. It is quite something, I should get a photo of it.

A.J. Luxton: Thanks, and thank you for reading and commenting, it is a great trip (well today!) and I hope to build lots of memories for the times that aren't QUITE so fun.

Gaina said...

The Kimono is beautiful! Did I hear correctly that the blossom was a bit late this year?

cheryl g said...

Raccoon - you're right that there are 8 thermostatic spots. With Elizabeth's condition the ankles and wrists aren't very effective to use.

Beth - I checked the mailbox and picked up DVD's and Manga from Amazon. I'll be watching for more shipments.

saraarts said...

Oh, how lovely! Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

I love the idea of having a national holiday devoted to the blossoming of a tree. All our national holidays either commemorate dead people or seem to be about war.

Devi said...

Thanks for sharing those lovely photos (including the kimono ones)!

Amanda said...

I *love* your kimono! My favorite color is purple, and would steal it from you in a heartbeat *winks* I think it looks absolutely fabulous on you!

I am also happy to hear that one day went without too much incident, and you both enjoyed it so much. The wedding precession! That is a once in a lifetime thing to just happen upon! That is so exciting! And all the different authentic kimonos and geisha...overwhelmingly wonderful experiences!

I have been reading every day to catch up on your trip, because I will most likely never see Japan myself, so I'm visiting through you and Linda. I had been so bummed out for you that you were having so many problems and struggling with the trains and unhelpful people, but getting to the places and seeing what you want seems to make up for the extreme hassles.

Your pictures are beautiful, and I agree, we want to see more when you get back! *grins*

Hope you continue to enjoy your trip, jerk-face, unhelpful people and all! :oD


sarah said...

elizabeth-- you said, "can i keep my lesbian cred?"-- YEAH! you have super femme cred in my books! god.

Neil said...

Beth, thank you SO much for sharing your vacation with us. That much dedication to blogging shows your true spirit; you're wonderful.

BTW, I'm 6'5", so I thoroughly understand the "just enough legroom" comment.

cheryl: I read once that race drivers sometimes put ice packs in the elbows to help cool off. That may be because the coveralls make the armpit too difficult to access. And most guys have a problem with ice down the crotch...

Beth/Linda: All the best from my wife and me to both of you.

KateJ said...

I just love your kimono! Hope you get plenty of chances to wear it when you get back to Canada. All in all, sounds like a wonderful day.
I do hope that Linda got a kimono too...

Elizabeth McClung said...

Saraarts: That is a great point and Linda and I agree - a national holiday for blossoms is better than dead guys.

Devi: My pleasure, I am really in love with the kimono! And the pics are so amazing in Geisha area.

Amanda: Thanks, I am really happy with the kimono except it must now be packed away (As Kimono's and lots of travel are hard to get together - and I thought goth dressing was bad!).

I hope the rest of the trip is a real good time, no bad hotels or officials, I have had enough of them, from now on, I just want lovely things. Hey I can dream right!

Sarah: Whew! I was afraid all this non butchy buying would lose me all my points and end up in exile in Victoria....hey wait, I AM in exile in Victoria!

Neil: Thanks - and Linda and I say all the best to you too as well (and look for that postcard, I did 9 today!).

Kate J: Even if Linda doesn't get a kimono, I hope she will get a picture dressed as a Geisha when we go to Kyoto - she needs to let her inner femme come out to play once in a while.

Malaysian Fabric Heritage said...

What a lovely complement finding your article through Sphere. I was doing an article on Kimono for my blog and read your experience in Japan with great enthusiasm.

The Kimono surely looks great on you. Cheerio!