Friday, October 4, 2013
Just in front of the train station in downtown Kanazawa is a statue of the city topography and two life sized children playing on top of it, signifying their home as their playground. "This is truly the best way to describe my time here", my dad says. His childhood allotted for a palace to be his park and a world famous garden to be his backyard. Today's events fell nowhere short of a taste of that great adventure, even if it was all packed into the hours between 7 and 2.
We awoke from what was a restless night of sleep for both of us and walked down the steep and narrow steps from our room to the traditional Japanese breakfast prepared for us. It was a truly a new cultural experience for me as I looked at the spread and saw an array of items including miso soup, salad with miso dressing, roasted salmon, seaweed and jelly, dikon and eggs, and of course the ever present staples of rice and green tea. Although I have not yet quite become acclimated to the smell of fish in the morning, I will say that I was grateful for a hot meal and did eat just about everything...accept for the jellied seaweed.
My dad had a full days events planned for us and so we set out right away into the streets. Not moments outside the door we were met with the sight of students in uniforms on their way to school, all riding their bikes in the small roads between each house. A typical week day in Kanazawa had begun. We were off and running.
The city streets were clean but crowded with pedestrians. Men in business suits headed to work and children in navy blue shorts, white polos and bright yellow hats were all on their way to school. We hiked through this bustling scene on our way up the steep hill to Konroku, one of Japan's most famous and breathtaking gardens. We knew we were getting close to its entrance when my dad pointed out the workers with their straw coned hats and work boots-the diligent care takers of this centuries old landscape.
As we strolled the grounds my dad made note of the importance of making sure you looked closely at the trees and the way things are kept. Nothing is by accident in that place and it is really quite remarkable to think of this royal garden surviving all these hundreds of years. At some point it seems to have turned into a type of royalty itself in a way. It is doted on hand and foot. Men in the brook with brooms made of sticks and wooden handles ushered down any fallen leaves to be scooped up by another worker down the way. Women with rakes, gently brushed over the grounds' surface, searching for fallen pine needles. It was easy to see why this place is one visited from around the world. It was a mastery to behold.
I bought a few items at the gift store. One tea set in particular reminded me so well of all the colors and hughes of green I have seen during my stay here. Toting our gifts and chewing on the last few grapes from the day before, we walked back down the street and headed towards my Dad's old gradeschool.
Neither one of us were quite sure what to picture that morning or how things would turn out. Quite frankly I thought for sure no one would be around to let us in. But sure enough, the principle herself unlocked the door. Once my father explained his story we were immediately ushered inside. I sat in a large office at a conference table beneath the photographed faces of the leaders of the past. Not one minute after we had sat down were we then presented with cold tea in blue and white frosted glasses. The window by the principle's desk was open and the morning breezes swept in our room as she and my dad both poured over photographs and memories. He presented her with the children's book he had written and as he signed it some of the youngest children stood giggling in the open doorway and waved. Their jet black hair was in pig tails and their faces shone. We then followed the headmaster through the schools hallways, past children practicing the art of Haiku, past hanging Calligraphy paintings, and past colorful storage bins lined top to bottom with shoes.
She took us into the second grade classroom and immediately my dad was a hit. He spoke with them in Japanese and in turn they practiced English with us. The one picture above I managed to get with the children circling around him is actually quite wonderful. It turned out to be so similar to one he had just showed me earlier that morning of Grandad, surrounded by the neighborhood children as he shared the gospel with anyone that would listen.
The rest of the morning was full of events like these. For example, after having left the school we crossed the street and stopped in on the barber who used to cut my dad's hair. Not only was he still in business at age 77 but he stopped in the middle of a cut on a client and raced upstairs to get his wife. The two of them marveled in awe that Jensensan was back, and that he brought with him his daughter this time. We asked the customer in the chair if it was alright to stop and to take a picture. He smiled and nodded enthusiastically. The wife quickly untied her apron, embarrassed of course, and the barber stood in the mirror with a comb as he brushed back his own slicked hair to ensure a good photo. More laughter and then we left just as quickly as we went in.
Pictures come to my mind so much clearer today. Things like the wall across the street from where my dad's old house was, the hill they used to ride on and the sandy ground of the school yard. We visited new places he had not yet been as well such as the old Geisha district and a Ninjadore built with secret passageways, escape routes, and trap doors. The fish market could take up a full page of reflection just on it's own. The colors, sights, and sounds of that arena was overwhelming-so vivid and alive. There are quite literally hundreds of different seafood items and vegetables. The King Crabs were so fresh that their claws still moved in the plastic wrap and oyster shells were bigger than the size of your palm.
It was a whirlwind of a morning, but I am doing my best to not forget the small things in between along the way. The subtleties of this country are to me the true glimpses of beauty. One of these shining moments occurred as we left our hotel to catch the train. Just out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the hotel owner was still outside to see us off. I gazed behind my backpack and watched him in secret. And without any idea that anyone was watching, he bowed to us as we drove away.
In that moment it was as if Kanazawa itself had knelt goodbye and bid us come back again to play.
Posted by Jekisa Jean at 9:00 AM