Saturday, March 7, 2009
A Day in the Country
Between my continued inability to concentrate on anything, and Kenny's connections and experience here in Japan, I haven't worried much about what we are doing, where we are going, or how we are going to get there. Kenny tells me when to meet him in the morning, and then the adventure begins.
Today, about all that had registered was this - we were going to a chicken restaurant with two of his friends, and then we might go to a pottery studio someplace.
It's going to be difficult to describe how distant the day was from that short set-up. Imagine lunch in Rivendell and a side trip to Shangri La and you might have a good start, but that still doesn't quite describe it.
On the way to the restaurant, we met up with Kenny's friend Shuji, and then at a later train stop, Mika, who had arranged for us to attend the house concert yesterday.
To get to the restaurant for lunch, we took the train out of Tokyo and then a shuttle bus to the restaurant, Ukai Toriyama. The picture on the web site does this place justice. It is like walking back into some dream of Japan. We had reservations, and were escorted to our own little dining building, on the edge of the stream that runs through the grounds.
Although my meal took a bit longer to prepare, we learned that they had cooked my rice separately (since the usual rice is cooked with barley) and had made me tempura with a cornstarch batter.
Dinner also included grilled chicken and vegetables, an amazing soup made with tofu custard (if I have my facts straight) and small grilled fish, like a grilled sardine, which I was told was best eaten whole, starting with the head. So I did, even though Kenny wouldn't. The head was crunchy and tasty, and the bones quite soft.
The chicken, green onions and potatoes were grilled over hot charcoal braziers in the center of our table.
But how to describe the setting? All green, with water falling everywhere. At one point, a gardener in hip-boots could be seen out in the stream attending to plants along the water. Water-wheels, bridges, moss, bamboo and very early spring flowers.
After dinner, we walked through the grounds, on a wood-plank path above water flowers just beginning to bud.
After lunch we headed back to the train station for our trip to Shuji's home in Fujino. At the train station, Shuji retrieved his car, and we set out on a ride of about ten minutes that seemed all uphill, or up-mountain.
The house he and his partner share is 150 years old, all wood and sliding screens, and tucked away against the hillside. Shuji made us green tea from leaves harvested nearby, and showed us some of his ceramics, and the looms and hand-dyed silk yarn his partner uses.
We visited for a while, played with Snoopy the dog, and I spent some time imagining how restful it would be to tuck myself away in the mountains like this, and just write for a while.
But there were trains to catch. On our ride back down to the train station, Shuji pointed out the tea "field" his partner farms. I don't know if you can call a nearly vertical piece of land a field, but that is how the tea is planted.
We said goodbye to Shuji at the Fujino train station. From Fujino, we traveled with many people, of all ages, who had backpacks and hiking poles, and had obviously been out on the mountain paths for the day. Mika left the train at an early stop in Tokyo, and Kenny departed near Shibuya for a show he is seeing tonight. I continued on to the Hiroo stop, the hotel, and the hot bath at the end of the day.