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Kakunodate Samurai Town

Yesterday we made it to Kakunodate where there is a whole street of samurai houses and the festival is about to begin. Last night we again slept in the forest above the town and managed finally for 100 yen to get a piece of fabric which functions as a mosquito net to put over the windows, which made the van stiflingly hot but did the trick to avoid Japanese encephalitis (actually a disease of all South Asia which we never worried about in India where there was an epidemic as we passed through Gorakhapur). The only crisis was being awoken at 1 am by a policeman who demanded our passports, drivers licences and the papers for the van, which is not officially a rental vehicle, but who in the end took off without hitch.

The town is famous because it still retains a tree-lined section of samurai houses, large black traditional Japanese houses with mossy gardens set in Uchimachi to the north in a polarity to the merchant neighbourhood to the south. The town was founded as a castle town by the feudal warlord Ashina Oshikatsu in 1620 for the Satake clan and still retains an undiminished presence of 350 year old dark wooden samurai houses several of which have become museums. Two, the Kawarada-ke and Odano-ke residences can be viewed for free. There are also some charming museums such as Denshokan and Hirafuku Kinenbijutsukan which can be visited together on the one ticket, as well as some wonderful merchant houses one or two of which can be browsed through as part of a customers journey.

We made a bee-line to the library because we had to send Kashiwa who had lent us the van for a down payment as an informal gentleman's agreement a fax in Japanese to let him know we had no chance of being back in the three weeks we had discussed and would take at least five. No one in the library could speak English but in the absolutely obliging helpful way Japanese people always are, they asked a bank official to come and translate our message into Japanese. He profusely apologized for his miserable translation, but we were then duly able to send a fax of the message in English and Japanese from the local supermarket near the library to avoid finding we were being chased across Japan for having a stolen vehicle.

The weather is threatening a typhoon so we are parking up for a day at the beginning of a major festival here; Hikayama Matsuri full of colourful chariots being dragged through the streets and folk song and dancing.

Samurai house with interior views

Another samurai residence

A furnished interior

More residences in the samurai district.

A thatched derelict cottage beside the communal gardens

A wonderful merchant house with a fabulous interior, which is also a shop

The cultural museum complex and some of its exhibits

Street scenes in the merchant district

The park on the hill above the samurai district, where we stayed the nights amid bear warnings.

A very tiny frog

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