Monday, September 22, 2008

taiko drums in a temple

We arrived in Kanazawa at about 6:30am. Thats not to say that we awoke at 6:30am though. We were woken by a loud Japanese voice over the loudspeaker directly above our heads, followed by a little song at about 5:30am. The sound jolted me out of bed and I began to rush around like a madwoman putting all of my stuff back into wherever it had fallen out of the night before. I threw my bedroom (could you even call it a bedroom?) door open and started to rush out when I looked up and realized that it was still really, really dark outside. You can imagine my surprise and anyone that knows me can imagine my aggravation at realizing that I was woken up a full hour before we had arrived. I was exhausted, but every time I laid my head on the pillow I was woken up again by that damn Japanese voice!
Finally we arrived at the Kanazawa train station. To say it was beautiful is a bit of an understatement -it was gorgeous. It was really open and light and airy. You felt like you were inside and outside at the same time. We sat at the train station for about a half hour or so until we grabbed some taxis and headed to the International Exchange Salon where Nagae-san and Mr. Tomioko were waiting for us. They greeted us warmly and grabbed our stuff and welcomed us into this beautiful house. They both wore huge smiles on their faces and we all kept greeting each other with 'ohayo gozaimus' and 'domo arigato' and smiles since that was all that we really knew how to say. They sat us at this beautiful table full of delicious treats and coffee and tea. They had only just met us and were showing us such kindness and warmth - welcoming us and providing us breakfast and a place to stay until we could head to our hotel.
Tsuyoshi had arranged for us to go there with our luggage and originally assumed that we would head out and explore Kanazawa until we could check in, but it was raining pretty hard outside and everyone was tired. So instead we spent the morning at the Salon, photographing and relaxing. It was definitely one of the nicest moments of Kanazawa. It was a much needed breath of quiet and rest. The Salon had a beautiful and elaborate Japanese garden and mixed with the rain, the garden became almost magical. It was intoxicating and refreshing and we were all affected.
We photographed for hours, hung out, drank tea, read, wrote and rested. It was exactly what we needed after our long trip. Tsuyoshi managed to always give us exactly what we were needing or what we were missing on this trip, even when it wasn't intentional, and this morning was another one of those times. We met an artist whose paintings were being shown in the Salon gallery. She gave Jeri 6 copies of a set of postcards of her paintings - one for each of us. She hadn't even seen all of us, let alone met us, but here she was giving us these beautiful cards. I am amazed at the kindness of the people here.
A little after 1pm we headed to the hotel to check in. After we got everything settled - Jeri, Cindy & I headed out to explore Kanazawa. We happened upon a temple, found me some deodorant, found an owl shop (and the owl man!), and headed to the gold leaf shop.
At the gold leaf shop we were led to the back where the people were actually making the gold leaf. We sat through a rough and short demostration and actually ate gold! The man explaining the gold leaf process only spoke Japanese. It was then that Cindy and I realized that Jeri was not only very good with directions, but also great at interpreting bits of Japanese language paired with wild hand gestures. After the demonstration, we were led out and back to the gold leaf shop where we were served tea with bits of gold leaf in it. Can you stand it? (Cindy!!)
The 3 of us explored the area for the rest of the afternoon. We wandered up an alleyway or street, I couldn't tell, and happened upon a handful of temples. While walking we heard the sound of taiko drums. We walked towards the sound and entered the temple doors.
I cannot explain this experience in a way that would do it justice. It was absolutely fantastic. The sound of the drums paired with the excitement of being in a new and spiritual place was something that I won't ever be able to put into words. It felt like something secret, something private - it was a strange mixture of fear and excitement. I can only say that if there were one moment that I could return to in Kanazawa, it would be that moment.
It started to rain and we had to be back, so we left the temple and made our way back to the hotel to meet for dinner. Dinner was pretty uneventful since we were all exhausted from the long day and not so long night of sleep. We headed back to the hotel and headed to bed since we knew we had to be up and on time for our meeting with Mr. Tomioko.

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