Bamboo Lantern Road in Hagi (竹灯路 – October 7th – 9th, 15th – 16th, 22nd – 23rd )
An absolutely magical and criminally under-visited lantern event in Hagi. More than 4,000 individual bamboo lanterns are lit with real candles, lining the streets of the castle town area. The first time I saw this, I was struck by the beauty of the glowing lanterns stretching down the narrow streets into the night, and also by how few people were there to see it.
The lanterns are lit to coincide with Kimono Week in Hagi. As such, many people come to see the lights wearing kimono, which adds another dimension to the enchanting, historic atmosphere of the castle town at night. Most of the candles are real, although some of the less noticeable areas also have surreptitious electronic candles. The whole atmosphere is somehow ghostly, with the lights stretching out into the darkness. The lack of people also makes for a somewhat lonely feeling, but I think this adds to the charm and fits the melancholic time of year which is autumn. A must-see, if you find yourself in Hagi during October.
Kimono Week in Hagi (着物ウイーク- October 1st – 23rd 2016)
Hagi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, is an historical city situated on a delta facing the Sea of Japan. It is remarkable for having a well preserved Edo period castle town at its heart. Every year in October, Kimono Week is held in Hagi. This is one of the loveliest festivals that I have had the good fortune to enjoy here. It is possible to rent a kimono and walk the Edo period market town dressed in period costume.
A Kimono Week Passport (着物ウイークin萩パスポート) can be picked up from Hagi City Hall Tourism Department (萩市役所観光課). With this, you can enter many establishments at a reduction if you enter wearing a kimono. There are also details of Japanese cultural classes where you can try your hand at making hair pieces or perfume, maps and cafes listed.
One place to rent kimono:
Kimono Style Café, Hagi City, Gofuku-cho 2-39 (着物スタイルカフェ・萩市呉服町2－39)
Situated centrally in the castle town area, Kimono Style Café includes a Japanese-style café and a small gift shop. Wearing kimono is complicated. Although the staff can guide you through everything with gestures, it would be best to go with a friend who is confident in their Japanese.
A note about body image:
Wearing kimono obviously involves taking off your clothes, down to bra and knickers
(preferably wear a light vest). Every time I have worn kimono, the ladies who dressed me have invariably made comments about my body or the bodies of my friends. These comments are not meant to offensive, but can be hurtful. Having aspects of yourself noticed and commented upon by another person can be upsetting, but that is not the intention. The kimono fitters see a lot of naked bodies and are accustomed to casual chit-chat. These comments are also definately not aimed at foreign-looking people exclusively, as the Japanese friend I went with also got her fair share. I have found that Japanese people, especially older women, tend to be very open in regards to talking about physical characteristics, age, weight and so on. If this happens, just look upon it as a cultural difference and brush it off. If the staff make you uncomfortable, say so, or politely decline to answer. Remember that Kimono Week is supposed to be fun, interesting and a chance to try something out of the ordinary.