Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 2

It is 2:30 in the morning and I am writing at a table on the floor, cross legged, next to an open window. Kanazawa is a big city, but unlike the night sounds of other cities I know, it is quiet enough to hear the sounds of the river running through its streets and a few foot steps down its alley ways with the distant echoes of laughter. I told my dad over a dinner of sushi and Saporro tonight that I think of Japan as a utopian society and that I know I shouldn't do that as every place in the world has its obvious flaws... He just smiled and winked and said, "No, you can say that."

This past morning we woke up around 5:30 to the sound of the birds. We got ready at a leisurely pace and headed downstairs to walk the streets before breakfast. The night before we had arrived in the dark so stepping outside of the inn showed everything to be an entirely different world. He had told me before that this was the town that he would come to every summer as a child, and while I had always pictured it as "a beautiful place" I had no idea it could even come close to something like this.

Lush green everywhere. Tall forest of pines and Japanese maples, ferns, and everything covered in a carpet of moss. But more on this to come further on.

Breakfast was nothing short of a work of art. We were served an exquisite meal, such a spread already on the table and then to be served a full plate of fresh fruit-persimmons and their beautiful orange color, yogurt garnished with mint leaves, a hard boiled egg served on display, and a delicately sliced piece of Salmon on bread with some sort of cream cheese. What a feast! That and of course the strong coffee they serve set it all off just right.

Of course it was truly our host there that made us feel like such royalty. Always he smiled as he served and did everything with a certain exactitude that made it seem as though he had been preparing for our stay for years. A picture on the hallway wall of our same aged innkeeper as a young man affirms this. Of course I am not so ego-centric to think that he is this way only with us, but that is part of the sheer beauty of Japanese service. They make you feel as though you were the only person in front of them at that given moment and that you are a treasure. Their smiling eyes tell you so and just in case you forget, they bow.

After breakfast we stepped outside and saw our bikes. They were pah-fecto as I have learned to say. (That's two words now Grammy! ;) Powder blue and chrome with a giant basket in front and a little bell that sweetly chimed when you rang it. We were off.

It was a morning I will never forget. Riding through a sea of green, smelling the scent of pine while watching the sun cast it's shadows and light over rocks and ferns was simply ethereal. We road back streets for a while and then took the main strip up the steady slope to the language school that my dad and grandparents went to and the cabin they stayed at during the summers of his childhood.

There were neat moments of seeing things like the tennis courts that the Emporer met his wife on and hearing how my dad witnessed it as a sandy haired, blonde boy peeking over the tennis court fence. Or hearing how he would ride his bike and go flying down the dirt path in the middle of the camp and feel tree roots shake his tires. Or hear of how the one missionary neighbor made amazing sloppy joes, while another had built a giant swing. Stories of how they had seen a man cut off a chickens head in the yard over the hill and also how they had walked upstream in the river to catch small little crabs. These details were wonderful to hear and to imagine. But nothing came close to praying with my dad in the same church walls that my grandparents were in. Or seeing the building where my dad heard a missionary's story and biked home to ask my Grammy how he could come to know Jesus. It was a rich morning for me in this regard. The tears would surface often and still do even as I write. How faithfulness in that place has been so richly blessed and multiplied by our Heavenly Father is almost too much for words.

We shopped some that morning as well. Bought some Nashi and a bunch of 8 dollar grapes that were worth every penny. They were the size of apricots and when I bit down into it such an explosion of flavor! I am forever ruined of United States grapes.

We stopped at a coffee shop on our way back to the main strip. Here they serve you your coffee at a table. Next to us sat a lady smoking a cigarette with her dog in her lap. Their iced coffees were strong and sweet and was the perfect extra boost.

After packing up from the Inn and making sure we had some parting photographs with our host, he bade us well and sent us on our way off to the train station. We told him he would meet my middle sister next year and he smiled and bowed.

At the station we grabbed a bento box to take on the train as we had several connecting routes to take and wouldn't have time to stop for lunch. I spotted a lunch with "brown socks" as we affectionately called them as kids (sugared rice and vinegar in a fried tofu pocket? I may be wrong on the ingredients on this but my dad is sleeping so I cant confirm). On a bench in the sun while we waited for our train we played Rummy 500. I was losing per usual when the train pulled in and we began our journey once more.

I told my dad how glad I am for these train travels-not only for the obvious reasons like rest, or getting to see the country's many landscapes (we saw the Japan sea this afternoon from the train!) But mostly because it gives me time to think and reflect.

Our taxi from the train station in Kanazawa took us through the clean streets and tall buildings of the city. We turned the corner and parked next to a building with a small side entrance to our next hotel. Ducking through the fabric doorway and being ushered into our new home for the evening with night air, I was brought to yet another new surprise. Here we were to stay at a true Japanese hotel. Two mattresses on bamboo mats and a small table and seat cushions was all our room had to offer...and it was all that we needed. We dropped our backpacks and headed out for dinner, where we also sat on the floor and talked of the day and of things I am reading about and laughed over how I was trying to read the menu side to side instead of up and down.

To end the long day I went downstairs to take an Ofudo-or hot bath. (Again, spelling on this is going to be inaccurate, he's still sleeping). I will say this, the Japanese do not over exaggerate their words. A hot bath it was. And the experience is something I think I shall pass on writing about and just have as a laughable memory in my head.

After this scorcher of a water experience I all but hobbled up to our room for the night and tried to stay awake for another two hours. Sadly I was bested yet again by the international date line. Hence my ending this day two update at 3:45 in the morning.

As I close the days events and try to go back for a few hours more sleep, I can' help but play the days events over and over. All afternoon there was the obvious natural urge to try to take pictures of everything and write feverishly on napkins and train tickets about all we have seen. But I am learning that a large part of being here is just learning to let it all fill up in your lungs. Japan can permeate who you are if you let it, and I am breathing deep.

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