If I had to identify an ultimate favourite city or part of this trip I’d have to say that it was Kanazawa. The whole fortnight spent in Japan was amazing (and of course, I fervently urge you to visit Japan at some point in your life!) for numerous reasons. The varied sights and experiences of the country have found comfortable seats in my memory and I hope to be telling tales of my travels for many years to come. Our last day in Kanazawa was not special because of any particular occurrence, but I’ll fill you in on how it went anyway.
A sign in front of this room clearly stated “No Entry”, but when the elderly attendant checked to see that no-one was watching, she ushered Dad in for a quick, cheeky photo op! We may never be allowed entry into Japan again for this…
On our final day in Kanazawa, Dad and I did some more general wandering. Japan is famous for many things – its castles being one of those. All major cities in Japan (and many many smaller ones) have a castle that a visiting tourist can enjoy and after a good morning of exploration (which included some rule-breaking at a tea house in the Old Town), we decided that we would make our way to Kanazawa Castle. The clear weather decided to turn on us as we were walking, however I made the regrettable decision not to buy an umbrella as we passed numerous stores along the way to our destination.
Dad on the other hand had the common sense to procure an umbrella that not only kept the rain off, but also drew both inconspicuous and blatant attention for the rest of our holiday. We paid our fee and meandered through the gates to the tourist information booth at the castle, pausing to chat with a friendly English speaking information officer about the castle’s history and sights. The rain had lessened enough that Dad had sheathed his umbrella and after a smile and a thank you to our kind informant we stopped under nearby cover so that Dad could arrange his backpack.
At this point, he asked me to hold his umbrella for a moment so that he could more easily manage his bag and belongings. Of course I obliged him and stood waiting patiently, holding his umbrella until he had finished sorting his bag out. Looking around, I noticed that an older lady was paying us careful attention. I figured that it was simply due to our being Gaijin (foreigners), however as I passed the umbrella back to my father, her eyes met mine and she was emboldened enough to approach us.
Warily, she took a step closer. She spoke little English, but pointed at the umbrella and uttered a single word in question – “Katana?”
A barking laugh almost escaped my lips as I made sense of her question. “Iie (No),” I said with a smile. “Umbrella.”
She looked quizzically at us, either unsure of what I had said or that I was actually telling the truth. I looked to my Dad, and he grinned as well. “It’s an umbrella,” he offered with a smile and moved to unsheathe the “blade” to show her that it was simply a tool for keeping the rain off; not a weapon intended for combat.
The lady recoiled slightly as the umbrella left its nylon scabbard, but laughed as the canopy popped open and we were soon on our way again. The umbrella itself had been bought from a souvenir store close by and its handle had been fashioned to resemble the hilt of a katana. It proved to be something of an icebreaker if one was ever needed for the remainder of our trip.
The castle was quite a sight and after exploring the grounds we returned to our hotel room to begin preparations for leaving the wondrous city. On our last night in Kanzawa, Dad took me to the bar he had found the night before and introduced me to Akiko, a lovely young bartender who was incredibly keen to practice her English. She was tending bar while studying at university and played Rugby Union on the local school team. Aki (as she liked to be known) coached the younger kids and my Dad was sure that she should be my wife.
Did I mention that we also met a famous Korean movie star that night? I can’t remember her name, but she was fantastic when the karaoke hour struck!