By Deborah Howell

Tottori. This is Yuki’s home town of 100,000 back when he was a young school boy. Later he went to high school here in the shadow of an ancient shogun castle. We ask where the statue of him is. What, no shrine to Yuki? He laughs hard. “Not yet.” On we go, without stopping to say hello to Yuki’s relatives.

PHOTOS: Kinosaki Kimonos In The Streets Tottori

Fishing boats are strung with huge clear lights to attract the squid and crab. 3 Jet skiers whiz by, careening between 8 or 10 small islands offshore Hawks swoop down from the mountains, catching the thermal currents. Just incredible. Blake does some street skateboarding while we watch the scene.

Kinosaki spa is the town where we’re staying tonight, in a gorgeous ryokan hotel. We’re shown to our tatami style rooms with the sliding panels we’ve become so accustomed to. The woman explaining the amenities asks each of us how tall we are, and then orders special kimonos in just the proper length, and recommends that I call for help to tie my ultra special dinner ceremonial kimono.

But first–a trip down to the lovely hot spa baths on the lower level of the hotel. They’re both indoors and out, and I get lucky on the women’s side and have them both to myself. I sit outside in the stone bath, gazing at the bamboo garden, listening to the cicadas, feeling as relaxed as I’ve ever felt in my life. And hope I can remember this feeling and these sounds for a long time to come.

Our dinner is served in a private room in the hotel. We bring our own sake from the sake museum we visited earlier in the day, and let me tell you, it’s smooooth as a Babyface slowjam.

After a million little tiny courses, we take a walk through town in our kimonos. Clip clop, clip clop go the wooden clogs the hotel gives us for walking outside the hotel. (They took our street shoes from us when we checked in.) It’s a funny thing to hear a whole town clopping around in wooden sandals and kimonos–it sounds like horses, actually, and it’s rather magical. A canal runs through the main street, with multiple bridges crossing over it, lit with Japanese lanterns. Dreamy!

It’s as if we’re in another time. And we’re definitely in another place.

Time to hit our sleeping mats. Tomorrow we head for Kyoto!

See more of my adventures through Japan here.


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