Only a very few days, at a certain time of the year, in a certain kind of place, at a certain time of day, qualify for exalted Zip-a-dee-doo-dah status. Yesterday was one of “those” days.
Leaving the city of Kyoto for a break in the Let’s Play House routine, we drove (make that we were driven) on a single lane road, through small villages, one and a half hours north of the city, into the mountains and back in time. I’d made a reservation for an overnight stay at the highly recommended ryokan, Miyamasou. It is situated along a winding stream, a short distance from a 900 year old temple. When built, it housed Buddhist monks.
When guests arrive at a ryokan, they surrender themselves to the impeccable and attentive care of the staff. The only decisions required concern the time to eat and the time to bathe.
Miyamasou is renowned for its mountain based cuisine. This is not faddish, but a path that’s been followed in the mountains for millennia. They’ve just made high art out of the presentation and preparation of the ingredients. We were up to the task of eating and appreciating the exquisite food put before us.
I really did break into song in the morning of the first day in May. The day and the setting were perfection. Daffodils huddled together on the banks of the stream. The earth seemed to explode with the urgency of new life. Violets, ferns and mosses vied for space at the edge of the pathways, birdsong filled the clear mountain air, and the rushing stream provided constant background music to our ears.
Inspired by the loveliness of the day, and by books I’d been reading about courageous people deciding to walk ancient Japanese pilgrim routes , I took, what to most hikers would be, a “baby step.”
Before we paid the fee at entrance to the temple grounds, the wisened temple caretaker looked doubtful that my husband and I could do it. She tried to tell us several times how steep the climb was. Before we set off, she shouted, “Gambatte!” which means good luck. Walking sticks in hand, we slowly climbed up 430 vertiginous stone steps to the ancient wooden temple. We descended with aching thighs and weak knees, but otherwise intact!
Sorry, no photos are allowed of the temple. It’s a simple wooden structure on stilts, poised near the top of the mountain we’d climbed. Needless to say, my husband and I both felt quite pleased with ourselves once we’d made it intact to the bottom.
Returning to our ryokan, there was only time to say goodbye to our gracious hosts, before our taxi wound its way back to the city to resume life in our newly adopted city.