Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chrysanthemums unplucked

In the wide awake club early on. And got up at seven to write my blog. Lorraine and I joined Toby and Romy for breakfast in our own private room. We opted for western style this morning, and this was excellent with coffee, orange juice, pastries and scrambled eggs and bacon.

Off at 11, and the owner of the Ryokan personally drove us to visit a highly-accomplished local potter, Fujisawa Segeo, in his studio at his house. We passed through short tunnels in steep hills, and turned up a residential road with a gushing stream on the side and woods on the other, convincing me that this was an utterly beautiful area. The combination of trees and hills, characterful but modest buildings and an abundance of running water and snow. We browsed among his shelves in his workshop and we all loved his work. His wife brought us some tea as we looked.

From there we were driven to a renowned wood turner called Satake Yasuhiro who makes exquisite lacquered items. We went into his workshop and saw the raw wood, how it was allowed naturally to dry for some time, then smoked and dried again. The wood of one in a hundred persimmon trees has a natural black grain, which make them highly prized.

Then turned and lacquered repeatedly over time. The whole process taking many months. We saw the stages of the process, and Satake opened the door of the smoke room to allow smoke to guff out comedically. Then across the way from the workshop to his home where we were given tea and sat around a square fireplace filled with sand and using charcoal  to give off heat. Here we were shown many of the finished products, including wine glasses made of thin lacquered wood, bowls, plates and so on, all in a variety of woods. We were also given tea and the first of the celebratory new year rice cakes and bought some small bits there.

Jiro the Ryokan's owner then took us to an Italian restaurant, which was almost empty. The chef had spent some time in Italy, and the food was amazing. I had a perfect Diavolo pizza and was well pleased.  A vaguely postmodern feel to eating a perfect Diavolo pizza cooked by a Japanese man in a little town.

We walked then back to the hotel for 30 minutes, in which my camera malfunctioned and I was unable to take any snaps. Back to Kayotei and then after a warming cup of mint tea, sloped off to our incredible rooms. Soon after I made off to the onsen again wearing my kimono and trying to stride manfully despite it being a bit tight, and in danger of gaping in an appalling way. The outside onsen was earmarked for ladies only today, the male one was empty and I enjoyed basking in the hot water looking through the windows at the wooded hill.

In the seventeenth century the poet Basho said of this area:

Bathed in such comfort
in the balmy springs of Yamanaka,
I can do without plucking
life preserving chrysanthemums.

Not sure why chrysanthemums are life preserving, but I kind of know what he means.

In the evening another lovely feast. This time in a big and very warm room. Lobster and the best crab soup I have ever tasted. Also tasty meat to be found on the head of a red snapper which was a lovely dish, despite its cat like teeth gleaming up at you.

At the end of the meal a surprise to everyone. Lorraine had mentioned to Jiro that we were just married, and we had a surprise cake brought to us, a kind of swiss roll, with a message: Happy honeymoon to Mr and Mrs Kenny in chocolate.

Below another peek through the window early this morning; my blog spot; the potter Fujisawa Segeo with his work; and our party with him and his wife; the wood turner Satake Yasuhiro; natural black persimmon wood; his assistant a fine art student come to work under him for two years; a hairdresser that caught Lorraine's eye on the way back to the Ryokan.













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