Walking Around Samurai Village In Kimono


1508659_10153753747194577_1166255902325171702_nTazawa Lake
Coming from Morioka,
We decided to pass by and check out the famous Tazawa Lake.
This gorgeous lake in Akita is Japan deepest lake, and the 17th deepest lake in the world. The entire area is shrouded in mystery and there are a lot of myths about how the lake was created. Tazawa lake has a surface elevation of 249 meters, and its deepest point is more than 174 meters below sea level. Wow, that’s amazing! Truly a bottomless pit! Tazawa lake is located in one of the most scenic areas of Japan, and the entire region is full of natural hot springs (onsens) The acidic onsen-water makes it impossible for most life to survive in the lake, but one resilient trout-species is still thriving in its waters.

Arriving in autumn, we gaze out through the car windscreen admiring the beautiful colours of autumn leaves on a gorgeous blue sunny day. It was certainly the prefect weather to come to this lake.

And indeed it was. At last we arrived at the point of viewing the famous golden statue and the shrine in remembrance of the love story of Tatsuko and Prince Hachirotaro.DSC06288Erected in 1968, this golden statue stands on the shores of Lake Tazawa, the deepest lake in the entire Japanese archipelago. Now there are various versions of stories and myths about Tatsuko and how the lake was created and this is one of them:IMG_20151104_120626Tatsuko was one of a kind because of her natural beauty. She lived in a village nearby Lake Tazawa. Tatsuko was a very beautiful girl and she went to the shrine pray to God for eternal young beauty. After 100 days of praying God said “There is a fountain deep in the mountains, go there and drink the water. Then, your wish will come true.” She went deep into the mountains and found the fountain. She drank the water from it. However, she kept getting thirsty so she continued drinking the spring water from the fountain. She realized something strange was happening inside of her body. She cautiously peered into the fountain and was surprised to see a dragon. Suddenly, the earth caved in, and a huge lake appeared. It soon came to be Lake Tazawa as we know it today. She went into the deep centre of the lake and decided to live there.DSC06296According to the myths, the love of Tatsuko and Prince Hachirotaro was so deep that their love warms up the lake. This is the reason why the lake never freezes during winter. We too find this place beautiful and romantic as well.DSC06301
But oh well, there wasn’t any beauty spring fountain around here for me to drink to have eternal beauty. DSC06307IMG_20151104_121330This scenic view of the golden statue with the calm lake and colourful mountain view was just enough to make me feel contented to be here in Akita and see such beauty of mother nature.IMG_20151104_120714Not far from Tazawa lake, we passed by Gazanoishi Shrine, and had to stop to take a closer look. The Striking red torii gate facing the lake caught our attention. What was more entertaining was that two ladies were singing a beautiful song by the torii gate.DSC06315DSC06324Walking close to the shore, we see how clear and deep this lake is. It was quite worrying as we would not want to fall into this deep lake. Time past so fast that we then had to proceed our next exciting activity : Getting dressed in traditional Japanese wear around a Samurai Village.

My first time wearing Kimono in Japan
“Autumn is like a second spring whereby every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus

Upon our arrival in Kakunodate after Lake Tazawa, our hearts were racing as we were super excited in getting dressed in a Kimono. It had always been a dream for me to get dressed in such noble traditional outfit as I admire the elegance and beauty of it.1508659_10153753747194577_1166255902325171702_nThe premises surprised us as it turned out to be also a souvenir shop and a museum as well.DSC06348DSC06349There we were as we arrived in a traditional Japanese room where we were given the choice to choose the colour and patterns of our desired kimono outfit.DSC06352Beforehand, we had to style our hair first to suit up the Kimono look.DSC06356Whereas the men would just need to get dressed up without styling needed. I must say He looked quite charming in the white underpants and wear. It was quite hilarious when the lady placed in 3 sets of folded towels into his belly area. We then later knew the reason for it as the rich would only wear Kimono and having a big belly means you eat well and are rich.DSC06365
It took only few minutes and Christian was all dressed up and admiring himself in the mirror while I was still styling my hair.DSC06376Then, he left to check out the store decorations and surroundings.DSC06377 DSC06378 DSC06380On the other hand, I had at last done with my hair do and it was time for me to get dressed.
The first inner layers for kimono were light cotton cloth as I believe it was autumn and not that cold. Their recommendations helped me in picking out the kimono colour that suits me best. It was extremely interesting to get dressed up as I realized she also placed several towels on my tummy part as well. Well, this probably would differ from the men as it would work like a magic to make a women look slimmer instead. She also tied on layers of strings to support the kimono to stay in shape. Lastly, a touch of Obi belt which totally match my kimono made my day. I was so glad that they were able to find a colour that matches my desired kimono. Before that, I always had an imagination on how painful it is to wear a kimono as some says it’s kind of like a corset. However, to me, it wasn’t. The lady sure tied the kimono well and it didn’t cause any discomfort at all. I was confident that I can even run in it. It sure does feel like an upper class when you get two people dressing you up.
I could imagine myself living in those days in the upper class society with servants dressing me up every day. Flicking out of my dream world, I then realized it was all done and I was ready to meet Christian at last. I found him relaxing in their garden and he was sure indeed glad to see how different I look like.IMG_20151104_135019And they sure did.DSC06478Sometimes, what we have seen on the media and heard of might be totally different when we have such experience personally. I am so glad and honoured to say that I have or had tried on a Kimono in Japan and sure felt good. As for Christian, he had some issues wearing those high heel men slippers but sure had lots of fun feeling bigger in size. Well, he now won’t feel bad having a bigger tummy in future as it would mean he’s rich and well fed then.

Walking around Samurai village in Kimono
Not far from Akita City there is a famous Samurai Village called Kakunodate.  About 400 years ago several samurai families moved to Kakunodate and decided to build a castle and a town there due to the natural defences in the area (the town is surrounded by two rivers and several mountains). The traditional buildings in Kakunodate are beautifully preserved and the natural beauty of the area is striking.

After getting dressed up in traditional Japanese Kimono, we walked gracefully in those wooden Japanese slippers along these Samurai houses embracing the beauty of their olden houses and garden.

Well, we sure came at the right time where we had the perfect weather in autumn.

Samurai homes were typically modest dwellings but with the significant distinction that only samurai houses were allowed to have walls and gates. The background of traditional samurai houses and the colourful autumn leaves was surely the perfect picturesque place for those whom would love to have a memorable picture together.DSC06390
After several generations, there are only six samurai houses in this area which are open to public and visitors to see how middle class and wealthy samurai families lived in the past. Among these houses, there are two famous known ones for their size and quality : The Aoyagi and Ishiguro House. The other four open houses are free to enter but there are limited levels of accessibility. They are smaller than the other two famous ones and are mostly examples of middle class Samurai residences.DSC06393My utmost favourite samurai house was the Kawarada Samurai House. This house has such a lovely garden and what was unique is that the door by the owner’s house to enter the garden was smaller than the other entrance. We were informed that the owner would have such tiny door as this would be a personal door for the owner to bow and pass through in respect of his guests. However, short people like me would not need to bow at all.

Whereas, Christian needed to kneel or bow in order to get through this door.
We sure had some fun time teasing about our huge size difference.DSC06456The Japanese garden in different houses differs in many ways. Yet, all were beautiful in their peak autumn colours and nicely shaped bonsai trees. Their effort in creating the zen feel in these garden sure pays off as it brings so much calmness towards every visitors that steps into their premises.DSC06494Other than traditional houses, along the roadsides were some souvenir shops selling local delicacies. It was sure interesting to stopover and have a taste of their local made products.

As we stroll around admiring these traditional samurai houses,
we also had some time to just sit down relax and just enjoy the beautiful autumn colours surroundings.DSC06471DSC06478We sure never expected the day to be so short and as time flies, night fall arrived.DSC06608It was such an unforgettable experience to blend into the Japanese culture a day.
If you asked me will I do it again, I would say Yes.

Making Sakura Art Craft in Kakunodate, Japan
Kakunodate is also famous for a Japanese traditional craftsmanship using the bark of cherry blossom trees called the sakura kabazaiku. It’s a sophiscated artcraft and we were informed that we were going to make it ourselves in Kakunodate.
PS: This class is only available through a special booking.

Our first introduction was to choose a pattern design.IMG_20151104_150422And there were some tree barks looking as if they were cardboards placed on the table.
The back of these barks were brushed with layers of dried glue beforehand.IMG_20151104_150952It all started off quite easy as we were told to trace the pattern and then using a carbon paper, we trace it on the sakura bark.DSC06523The carbon paper leaves a mark on the sakura bark and we will then follow the pattern and cut it out.DSC06528IMG_20151104_152753It was quite interesting as I was extremely curious with the tools and things around us such as the glue. We were told that this glue was made out of a cow. It was sure amazing to see that how Japanese are able to create an art just from using natural things even the glue itself.IMG_20151104_152702Right after cutting out the design, We were instructed to use these ancient irons which gets heated up by the fire. Our teacher was very kind and thoughtful as he advice several times on how hot this iron can be and we have to be extremely careful with it. However, we were astonished to see that he was so strong and was able to touch this hot iron with his bare hands. We sure had a very perfectionist teacher that would always be there to help us and touch up the best of our art piece. He even took the effort to do some extra carvings on my bamboo designs and Christian’s leaves.DSC06541IMG_20151104_153816The experience was sure one of a kind! We totally would not have expected to learn so much from such a unique art craft, What more, we get to go back with a lovely souvenir in remembrance of this place.DSC06544Thanks to all that made this possible!

Written by Feliciazoe.
More stories of Feliciazoe.