It comes as a reappearing mild shock each time the toilet dings at me when I’m within its range. It lifts its lid invitingly. It will sing as well, playing recorded tunes such as In the Mood when a person with the need sits herself down on its seat.
When we first tried our new toilet, it played lite classical. Now, the musical selections have been adjusted to rotate through Satie, classical, and classic pop. Once in every 6 or 7 visits, I get bird song , my personal favorite. The “music” continues until you complete your mission. It is usually an amusing and surprising distraction, but can quickly turn into an irritant if your stay is extended. Ironically, while masking sounds emanating from the body, it also announces to anyone within earshot, that the toilet is definitely in use!
My remarkable single appliance washing/drying machine, as if to reward me, plays a jolly tune after I’ve loaded it and managed to push the correct buttons to set it in motion. Its sweet 5 second jingle always requires a brief improvisational dance.
Where else on the face of this dear earth are you encouraged to sing and dance while performing the daily routine of personal and household maintenance?
Renge-ji temple is a small out- of -the- way Buddhist temple in Kyoto that has resonated in my memory for several years.
In typical Japanese fashion, the garden doesn’t appear to the viewer immediately. The simple unassuming entrance reveals nothing until you turn and enter into the quintessential “room with a view.” Here is a garden that asks nothing more of the viewer than to sit down and open your pores to the scene before you.
For me, viewing this garden is similar to the feeling I’d get as a child when looking into a snow scene in a glass ball , or peeping inside the magic world hidden inside a fanciful sugar Easter egg.
It was raining on my first visit here. The sight and sounds of the rain falling on the pond were mesmerizing. I could feel the earth breathing with me.
On my second visit, it was autumn, under a crystal blue sky. The Japanese maples set the vista aflame with color, reflected brilliantly in the pond water.
On my most recent visit, nature was not showing off, at least not at first glimpse. Now, the young maple leaves spread a chartreuse green swath across the garden.
Although beautiful, the garden didn’t have the same punch for me as it had on earlier visits. I felt mildly disappointed. Then, I was disappointed that I was disappointed. I sat with that disappointment and allowed myself to take in the garden as it was NOW. I watched my disappointment gradually dissipate.
When I lit a stick of incense within the temple, a profound sense of calm had replaced my earlier unease.
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.
You know the overwhelmed feeling you can get when you have to master a new technological device? All of that paled on move in day in Kyoto when we were confronted with the latest array of Japanese home technology.
We screwed up royally and instantly as soon as someone rang our doorbell. Not knowing which button to push to allow someone in, Dan made a wrong guess and set off a very loud alarm that we could not cancel. Within minutes, a worried building superintendent was at our door probably prepared to put out a fire. I controlled my impulse to take his picture.
The person who had rung our bell delivered the first of several unexpected impressive gifts from the people who had done our renovation. Gift giving is taken seriously in this country.
Our new oven is truly a master of everything. If and when we are capable of differentiating the myriad of choices it allows, we will be able to use it as a microwave, steam oven, standard oven, baking oven with choice of which direction the heat shall come from, broiler, and last but not least, rising bread. Until that day arrives, we’ll probably be eating most meals out!
After several hours of instruction by our architect, our architect’s assistant, the carpenter, the contractor, and the contractor’s boss, it seems it was decided that we’d gone as far they could take us.
We all sat down in our new dining room and made small talk, exchanged gifts and drank tea together. In spite of the fact that we have less understanding than a toddler for the technology that surrounds us, we were thrilled with the quality of work done. All in just two months time. And all within budget!