I enjoy the precise nature of Japan. There’s precision in the timing of the public transport and precision in making up a futon. There’s precision in the way you take your shoes off and turn them around for when you go back out. There’s precision in the movements of the traditional tea ceremony. There’s precision in eating Hatsumabushi (grilled eel on rice). Calmness and efficiency in what is a busy and very driven society.
Let’s talk about my favourite precision of all. Putting on a kimono.
First, (take your shoes off and turn them around of course) enter a tatami room where several older Japanese ladies are getting a little excited about helping you dress up. Next, strip to your underwear and put on a petticoat, or bloomers and a thin cotton ‘under kimono’ (I’m unsure what they’re called, can someone enlighten me?). Don’t forget to put on some socks too. And then, it’s time to be wrestled into a silk clad sausage shape by aforementioned excited Japanese ladies.
The ladies used several pieces of cloth to shorten the kimono so that I could walk in it, and also to secure it closed. The left side should be over the right side. Then they added padding, and wrapped around the obi, and somehow tied a bow in it. Finally they added a cord and tied pretty knots in it at the front. It was all quite tight by the time they had finished with me.
For the grand finale, we were allowed to walk around a beautiful park in Nagoya, where the autumn colours are fully on display.
And unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to wear my kimono home!
From Atami to Izukyu-Shimoda station. Japan.
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A couple dressed in black and holding a baby walked down the hill towards us. A few other people were milling about dressed in black. We tentatively approached them, feeling a little awkward, and asked them for directions. They helped us as best they could, and then went on their way to their car.
A minute or two later, a car hooted at us, and the window was wound down. They came back! Because of the baby they could only give 2 of us a lift at a time, but they really wanted to help us! So 2 of us hopped in the car with the wife, while the husband and the other 2 began walking in the same direction.
After she dropped us off, the lady drove back to collect the other 2 of our group, and the husband ended up walking the whole way..! Such incredible hospitality. So very sweet of them to help the slightly lost gaijins!
The street lights may block out the stars but the moon rabbit is forever peeking out at us.
Although next week there will be a lunar eclipse!
This photo is taken over the houses of my new neighbourhood in Nagoya, Japan. I’m getting settled in now, and I’m very excited to be exploring the area over the next few months.
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“Mmm, you’ve got to have confidence in your spray-skirt”, J agreed.
I took a sip of water. The hum of conversation continued around us. It was getting darker, and if I twisted around ever-so slightly behind me I could see the amber glow sinking at the mouth of the river. Someone had sketched on the palm trees in charcoal.
Cross legged on the floor we passed around the bill and managed to work out what each of us owed. We traded our table for a wooden boat, and as the dusk turned black we sped up the river. A breeze stirred the humid air. The twinkling lights from the fireflies reminded me faintly of Christmas.
Back at my hotel I considered S’s story. Held tight in her kayak, she had braved the waves, only to get tossed about and lose control under a vicious wave. To be honest, however big the wave had been, didn’t seem to matter to me. She couldn’t get out of her boat. She couldn’t roll well enough, and her spray-skirt was too tight. She panicked.
Several times that day I’d got flipped upside down while attempting to surf for the first time ever. It was fine, fun even, I pulled on the handle of my spray skirt and I could breathe air again. But once already, I’d gotten into my kayak and secured my spray-skirt only to have paddled for a little while and have someone point out that I’d gotten the handle stuck inside. I tried to open the seal from inside with my knee, but failed. “People drown that way.” Her panic seemed quite real to me.
We had three more full days at the symposium, and in that time S hoped to regain some of her confidence. I hoped to learn some more about kayaking and experience less than flat water. A few of the other people hoped to achieve their BCU 3 star qualification.
By the end of the week, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t done more sea-kayaking sooner. I got flipped out of my kayak an uncountable number of times, and the bruises on legs got bigger. I kept going back in. My nose and throat burned from the salt water, but I pulled my white Tiderace to shore, emptied it and fought through the waves again and again. And I started to actually brace properly. I managed not to get flipped over a few times. I started to win!
With the aid of our wonderfully qualified instructors, S managed to improve her rolling technique. She flipped herself over and back up again while A adjusted her paddle and gave a bit of a tug on the side of her kayak. While still not fully trusting her spray-skirt, her confidence was growing bit by bit.
This was my first ever ‘Sea Kayaking Symposium’. It was run by Kayak Chang in Koh Chang on the east coast of Thailand. They’re based at the Amari Emerald Cove Hotel at Khlong Prao beach, which is a beautiful hotel (though I stayed elsewhere).
I would highly recommend Kayak Chang as a company for some serious kayaking trips and journeys around beautiful islands. The company is very professional, with well looked after, good quality and practically new equipment. The guides have been kayaking for years and know what they are talking about.
These aren’t sit on top tours that you can do in a bikini though – note. You pay more for a reason. For me it was worth every single penny.
I really hope next year I will be able to kayak again with Kayak Chang. The symposium was brilliant – my love for Koh Chang has increased, and I know I need more kayaking in my life.
Please note – this is completely my own genuine opinion!
“Now then, Pooh,” said Christopher Robin, “where’s your boat?”
“I ought to say,” explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, “that it isn’t just an ordinary sort of boat. Sometimes it’s a boat, and sometimes it’s more of an accident. It all depends…”
“Depends on what?”
“On whether I’m on top of it or underneath it.”
Boats are containers that can take us to so very many places. Or not, as pooh rightly points out.
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