“They say Japan was made by a sword. They say the old gods dipped a coral blade into the ocean, and when they pulled it out, four perfect drops fell back into the sea, and those drops became the islands of Japan. I say Japan was made by a handful of brave men…warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word….HONOR.” - The Last Samurai
Whatever Japan was made of, I, for one, love being caught up in the history and customs there. Everything is done so meticulously; from their arts and crafts, to the presentation of their food. After scrambling to get my passport up to date, off we went. This time, we wanted to see if we could make it all by ourselves for a while, without the help of our great friends, the Kimotos.
First stop, Tokyo, then on to Shibuya Square. There is always someone willing to help when you have that confused look on your face. That must have been our case, as a very nice policeman walked us from the train station to our hotel. The mounting excitement of seeing where one of my favorite movies, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, was filmed gave me such an adrenaline rush that I forgot I hadn’t slept in over 20 hours. Next stop….Fujisawa, and to the home of our friends, Shigeru, Machiko, Kaori, Reiko, and Hiromi Kimoto. Over the years, I have seen pictures of my “sisters” going through their Coming of Age Ceremony. In conversation one evening, I mentioned that when I turn 20, I, too, want to don their kimono and do a Coming of Age Ceremony. Reiko went into action, as she so often does, and the next thing I knew, I was scheduled at a salon to have hair, make-up, and kimono done for my very own ceremony. Since I was only 16 at the time, we decided to call it my “Sweet 16” ceremony. Little did I know at the time, what a sacred event this really is. Sobo Michiko was on the train from Yokohama to help with the kimono, as was Mrs. Kimoto’s sister. Let me tell you, I have a new respect for all Japanese women. After being in the salon all day, I emerged… Japanese Solara. I am sure it is unusual to see a blonde haired, blue eyed girl in full Japanese garb walking down the street, but I met with so many people who stopped to compliment me and give me their sign of approval. After parading around the streets of Fujisawa, it was on to the photographer. I never wanted that night to end. I felt like a princess. Thank you to everyone who helped me that wonderful day.
The next morning, I awoke to a familiar sound..the sound of karate coming from a dojo. It had me so intrigued, that I had to investigate. Reiko, my mom, and I decided to walk the family dog, Sedy up the hill until we discovered where the dojo was. We happened upon an all boys’ school, with the students in their traditional Japanese uniforms doing a tea ceremony. They had arisen early to do their karate workout, then it was on to another tradition. How the three of us ended up at an all boys’ school in the middle of a tea ceremony I will never know, but it was so much fun. Even though I missed seeing their karate workout, the tea ceremony was a very beautiful tradition to be a part of. After seeing many wonderful sights, and spending quality time with close friends, it is a teary sayonara, and off to our other friends, Osamu and Michiko Ohmori in beautiful Matsuyama. I’ll be back for my real Coming of Age Ceremony in 3 more years!