Monday, July 02, 2007

Introducing Nakatsu

I spend an intriguing day yesterday acting as a guide introducing the town of Nakatsu for a website. Of course, they had already decided where and what I would be introducing, and they asked most of the questions. Basically, I was just the photographic model! The page is not up yet, but here is an example of some previous 'guided' tours. O-net


First I rocked up to the station where a team of festival helpers were constructing a festival float inside the station. Every July Nakatsu hold the Gion Matsuri. I go every year in some capacity, including helping pull the floats on Wada-sensei's team for three years running before I had a baby to cart about with me. Other years I have worn a yukata (summer kimono) to the Friday night fireworks, or just gone to the main street on Saturday evening to watch the dancing and the floats, or just waited at home - our house is in the ancient part of town, on the festival floats' route, and they come past every hour or so on the Sunday, stop at our intersection and dance on the back of the float.

So this was a good choice of theirs for me to introduce, and I learned some new things - I had thought they stored the floats in a garage every year, but they actually dismantle the whole thing and re-assemble it every year. I had always wondered how they got it in the station concourse! Next we visited the castle where another float was being constructed. Here, as at the station, I kept meeting people I know, or friends of Kanji. My 'guides' were surprised at first, but got used to fact after a while that I can't go anywhere in this town without meeting someone I know!

We took a few photos at the castle, at the red-wall temple where I took Jo and Bec and at Yukichi Fukuzaka's old house, then went for lunch.

We went to Chikushitei. Click on the third link from the left along the bottom to see the room we dined in. This is a beautiful traditional Japanese restaurant, in a 120-year old wooden building that seemed to go on forever with corridors and rooms and inner gardens stretching back from the entrance. Click around the site for our hostess, who was a fount of information - she knew every little detail of the history of the house and area, and filled us in with all the theories of Japanese dining. In fact, she talked for three hours straight and we were late for the next appointment!

The cuisine was eel - Nakatsu is famous for it's 'hamo' eel. We ate it in several different ways - in soup, as sashimi and as sushi, as tempura (lightly battered and fried) and lightly boiled in a broth and dipped in a sauce with ginger and spring onion. They took photos of me holding, dipping and eating it - can't wait to see those photos!

Our last appointment was to learn about Kitabaru puppets. This is a traditional form of Japanese puppetry, with large dolls operated by one, two or three people. The more famous Bunraku always has three people operating the puppet - in Kitabaru, as the puppeteers get more skillful, the puppet can be operated by two people, and masters can operate the puppet all by themelves, using both feet and hands, with different fingers operating the facial expressions, and even using the mouth to pull some of the strings. I saw it performed a few years ago, when Kanji was hanging out with an old friend of his who does Kitabaru as a hobby.

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