“Take a deep breath,” she instructed and as I did, wrapped the belt around my waist. “And again,” so I did and the belt was looped around again, even tighter.
Getting fitted for a kimono is literally breathtaking. It’s also a bit of fun and given I was able to choose the colours, allowed me to celebrate Auckland’s Mitre 10 Cup victory with a blue and white ensemble.
But when they told me I was wearing the kit to the samurai village, I did a double take. Heads turned as this tall Kiwi wandered around dressed in traditional Japanese garb and it was a relief when I could change back into my usual street clothes. But it was fascinating visiting the samurai house in Kanazawa and even from the safety of outside the glass cabinets they were stored in, the swords looked lethal.
Two days in Kanazawa was never going to be enough to truly explore this compact and interesting city that doesn’t have any World Cup games but is worth a visit during the down time between matches. Three hours by train from Tokyo, it has a mix of the ancient and the new, like in the old geisha districts that now feature restaurants and shops. Aucklanders familiar with the “four seasons in one day” weather will appreciate Kanazawa’s popular advice that you should “never forget your umbrella, even if you forget your lunch”. But the rain on day two of our trip wasn’t an issue. We visited the Omi-Cho market in the morning where seafood, flowers, vegetables and fruit - including Kiwi fruit - are sold to the city’s families.
Kenroku-en Garden / Geisha District
There was green tea in a Geisha house and then a superb teppanyaki lunch with a view over the city that allowed us to see the sun burn through the clouds. With the weather now warm and dry we walked the meal off at the city’s expansive public garden - ranked in the top three of Japan’s many gardens. It’s worth a visit and a reminder that for the runners who visit Japan this city offers some good routes. We also stopped in at the Zen museum which was lovely and took a quick tour of the Modern Museum which has a pool you can stand under. Yes, it sounds wrong but visit and you’ll understand.
Kanazawa is famous for its gold leaf and you can get gold flecks or paper in and almost anything from ice cream to coffee. It’s used decoratively too and we were lucky enough to try our hand at a bit of gold inspired art work. Mine wasn’t a raging success but will suffice as a present for one of my daughters! Kanazawa’s water is rated among the best in the world so it’s good to drink but also superb for making sake - Japan’s rice-based wine. With three old geisha districts to explore, the ancient art of entertainment forms a big part of any tour to the city and delivered one of the best bits of advice.
“Men who visit the geisha aren’t allowed to drink sake for more than 90 minutes,” our guide revealed. “After that a man will not behave like a gentleman.”