Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Kaga Story

The heading was partly inspired by the what happened while I was in Kaga where I stayed for a few days and also because I'd be heading off to Tokyo right afterwards so the title just seemed to fit – well I think so anyway.

So after three days in Kyoto, it was an easy two hour train trip to Kaga (sidenote: it is no joke about the efficiency of the Japanese train system and the Japan Rail Pass? The most valuable item a traveller can have when exploring Japan!). Kaga is a mountain region in central Japan and while there I had the priviledge and pleasure of staying at the amazing Kayotei Ryokan, an Inn with only ten guest rooms (I didn't know that at the time but when I found out I knew this was going to be an exclusive occasion). That wasn't the best part. The best part was actually being attended to by a Geisha girl, or woman I should say, while there. A truly memorable experience.

Now I must say something about Giyoki san; my attendant (please see the picture of her above); Geisha extraordinaire and just an all around amazing woman. She took care of all service details: dinner; breakfast; room setup; turning down the bed for when it's time for you to sleep; wake up calls, aspirin if you have a headache, drinks when you need a drink. She sounds like a maid doesn't she but I can assure that is not what it is. And it's not THAT either. It is about providing men AND women with all the comforts they need to make their stay in the Ryokan as enjoyable as possible. It is performed discretely, quietly and so professional. She was so amazing, gracious, kind, really concerned about my slight headache (brought on by too much sake but I didn't tell her that lol) and she made me smile. Honestly an experience I will never forget because I know this level or type of service does not exist in Canada or anywhere else on the planet which made the experience that much more special.

At the Inn there is a hot springs pool. It's a ritual for many Japanese to have a hot bath to cleanse themselves before they eat (another word of note: the pools for men and women are separate because, well, you're naked so if you're going come to Japan and go to the pool, be forwarned – oh and you won't be alone depending on the time you go – 7-8am and 5-6pm are the busy times). So a Japanese guy who was in the pool with me told me (he apologized for his lack of English but I understood him well enough – it's ME who should apologize because I didn't speak a word of Japanese other than Hai, or Kinishiwa, or Arigato over and over again) that I was staying at the best Inn in all of Kaga and I couldn't agree more. It wasn't odd shooting the shit with a total stranger while you just happened to be naked in the pool. What was weird was really being the only gaijin (foregner) in the area and no one seemed to care. Actually it wasn't weird it was nice. I liked not seeing anyone who reminded me of home. This was complete and utter Japanese society. I ve said many times on this blog that whenever I ve stayed somewhere that was a little (or in this case a LOT) beyond the norm, it was worth every penny and then some. The Kayotei was/is worth it, so it is highly recommended for a real taste of Japan go there!!

Next up: The food.

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