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November 15, 2011

Sleeping in temple houses & exploring Imari



Our friend lives in a temple in Imari- a fact that I found completely amazing when she told me. The temple and house have been in her Dad's family for hundreds of years, and her parents and elder sister take care of the temple & associated Buddhist duties. Extremely luckily for us, Yoh invited us to stay at her place after the Karatsu Kunchi festival, because we all had the following day off work to spend together.


I didn't want to invade the privacy too much, so I didn't take many photos of the inside of their place, but it was without a doubt one of the most beautiful living spaces I've ever seen (much cooler than even the expensive traditional ryokan we stayed at in Hakone earlier this year).

I will, however introduce you to Yoh's pet turtle, Charlie...



Such a cute fella, Charlie has been Yoh's pet for around 14 years (if memory serves me) and is very charming. Even when his face is covered in flower petals.


Charlie lives in his own special garden...






Kamil and I had such a comfortable sleeping arrangement (the thickest doonas, the softest futons, plus the complete silence and peace of the countryside) that we slept in 'til 11am- way later than usual. So we got ready really quickly, and after a tour of the house and temple from Yoh's lovely Mum, we set off for the day. Once again, we were very lucky to have Yoh driving us around in her car for the day- a rare treat for two people who generally ride our bikes everywhere in the city.



First of all, Yoh took us to see a festival that her town was having that weekend- the Imari Yakimono Festival.


The town is really famous throughout Japan for it's special type of Yakimono (ceramic ware), and people come from all over the country to purchase ceramics from the sellers at this festival. Leading to the festival, we got our first look at Imari's yakimono where it was displayed in mosaic style on the side of a bridge...



We spent some time wandering through the winding streets of the town (which is surrounded by beautiful mountains), admiring the different types of ceramic wares, as well as the town itself.





We then met up with Yoh's parents, who showed us their favourite yakimono vendor, and then took us upstairs for a special appetiser and ginger ale combo. They are really, really nice people and it was actually the first time that I've enjoyed ginger ale!




We also got a quick peep at the inside of one of the workshops...


And we met a very friendly beagle...


We then drove to a nearby restaurant and had an amazing lunch of cold soba & Imari beef, with Yoh and both her parents. On the way out of the restaurant, we realised that Kam and Yoh's Mum were wearing the same outfit!


Next up on our little guided tour of Imari, Yoh took us to a famous liquor store in the town. What makes the store so unique is that it doubles as a museum/collection of Kappa related items, ever since the owners supposedly found the mummified corpse of a Kappa in the rafters of the store. For those who don't know, a Kappa is a creature of Japanese folklore- a mischievous reptile-like 'river child' (see below for a common depiction)...



The warehouse-like store is home to a ridiculous/impressive (depending on how you look at it!) amount of Kappa memorabilia...


And the centrepiece of the store is of course the Kappa mummy corpse...



 Whether or not the corpse is real is hard to say, although it is hard not to be just a touch skeptical that it isn't an elaborate marketing ploy to popularise the liquor store (hey, even Kam and I bought a nice bottle of Umeshu on our way out!)

And that bought to an end the first part of our daytrip in Saga with Yoh. From Imari, we took a drive back to explore Karatsu a little more in the daylight, which I will be posting about soon.

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