Washi Paper, Magnolia Leaves and Thatch Roofs

Japan's flag
Asia » Japan » Fukuoka » Fukuoka
October 6th 2014
Published: October 6th 2014
Edit Blog Post

Washi Paper, Magnolia Leaves and Thatch Roofs

What a bonus that we did not go to Tokyo! Although I’m sure Tokyo would have been amazing, we traded it for a very special treat about an hour and half into the mountains outside of Kanazawa, Japan. Our day started at 8:30am with a trip into the misty mountains east of Kanazawa. It was raining when we left the ship but slowly became a light to heavy mist as we made our way on the modern toll ways and eventually on a mountain road toward Gokayama, Japan where amazingly beautiful papers have been made by hand for the last 1200 years. The paper is made from Mulberry bark and Hollyhock and goes through a long process of steaming the bark then stripping it, snow bleaching it by hanging the bark on racks in the snow. Next comes boiling, purifying, beating and dying. All by hand. There are hundreds of light to heavy papers and they are used for things such as wrapping paper, coasters, envelopes, notepads, and parchment walls for traditional Japanese panels. We watched a video of the entire process and then a gentleman demonstrated the final phases of turning the “gel” from the bark into actual paper.

In the parking lot there was a farmers market going on and I bought a Coke from some fun teen age girls. I asked (in sign language ;-) for one of them to take my picture with one of the girls and they thought this was the funniest thing ever but did it and then they all wanted a picture so whipped out their cells phones and we had a laughing picture fest…. LOL.

Just down the way, a gentleman in a booth was making something that smelled wonderful so I went up to his wife and once again after bowing and saying, “Konnichi wa”, meaning good day, and with a lot of pointing and smiling she took my 150 yen and gave me a little envelope with the good smelling thing her husband was making on an open BBQ. WOW! I bit in and it was two little oval shaped hot pancakes with vanilla custard in the middle. It was delicious. So I gestured that I wanted her picture and she was excited and happy and we laughed as Cope took our picture. Great fun.

Time to head through the green, green sharp peaked mountains toward lunch at the Lucky 7 Restaurant along the river. When we got to the restaurant each individual place was set with a little mini hibachi (one for each person) and on top, just beginning to cook were 5 little pieces of beef in a sauce on a Magnolia Leaf. We also had miso soup, radishes, some type of Japanese cole slaw and peeled apples for desert. This was an amazingly tasty meal. We could do this everyday ;-) After lunch a little walk a few hundred yards on the road to a “grocery, hardware, liquor, everything general store”, to buy some scissors. For 100Y, about $1, I got a pair of Hello Kitty scissors ;-) The proprietor spoke zero English and of course we speak only 3 words of Japanese but it worked.

Back on the bus we were praised by Keiko, our tour guide, that we were the most prompt group she had had in a long time, LOL. The owner of the Lucky 7 Restaurant came out to wave us good-bye and we were off.

Next Stop a beautiful mountain valley was the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go. From the parking lot you must cross a long swinging bridge over river to the actual town. Shirakawa-go considered unique because of their gassho-style houses built 100-400 years ago. The village looks like something out of a storybook with 60 degree pitched roofs forming a nearly equilateral triangle. This allows the 6’-8’ of snow they get each year to slide off the roof easily. No nails are used in building the roofs as they are lashed together with rope and twisted hazel boughs. They are about 2’ thick. The roofs are re-thatched every 15-20 years and the entire community comes together to repair the roofs of their neighbors. Once in town we were able to tour a home where, a century ago, the attic was used for growing silk worms and the basement was used for making nitrates for gunpowder. The smoke and soot from a wood burning stove in the middle of the house helps seal the roof from cold and snow. We also visited some of the shops ;-) Lots of trinkets for sale as well as toys and candy.

Sayonara from Kanazawa, Japan, as we continue to dodge the typhoon now hitting Tokyo!

Next Stop: Fukuoka, Japan


8th October 2014

Sounds like a nice detour!
I wish that I could see the pictures! For some reason my Firefox browser doesn't support the file type. Bummer.
8th October 2014

We can see it in explorer...can you switch to chrome?

Tot: 0.063s; Tpl: 0.009s; cc: 11; qc: 24; dbt: 0.0399s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1mb