After a swift run as guests at the Hyatt in Kyoto, a sumptuous breakfast that included the apt named, “crispy bacon,” we were whisked to the train station by a kind man in a white shirt, pressed black slacks, a tie, and a cap, and placed on the Hikari to Tokyo.
What was the train picnic? Well you might ask. Wait, I’m getting there.
As I read the lovely, evocative, “The Old Capital,” by Kawabata, racing through Shizuoka and the pale green rice fields, the Pacific within reach, we waited.
It wasn’t until changing trains in Tokyo to Karuizawa that we broken out the grilled chicken, baby tomatoes, and cold Asahi.
Minutes before arriving, tall pines appeared in clouds. The train stopped. We got out. It continued on to Nagano.
Our little ryokan, Tsuruya, is a small, 25-room inn that resembles an English hotel in the north except it’s spotless, serene, super quiet, and has hot natural baths you dip into constantly. That’s the thing to do here: Take many hot baths, nap, try to be quiet, and eat beautiful food.
Beautiful food served in a broad tatami room. We’re talking fugu, tofu, ikuru, meguru, sea bream, pork shabu shabu. I had my doubts prior; I’d been to small inns in Japan where ambition trumped skill, but this was all oiishi!
Then it was back to the room for mugi shochu–clear as water, the low kick barley alcohol drink–and “The Old Capital.” Ten o’ clock: Lights out.