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!)
6 hours ago