Noboribetsu, Hokkaido: Day Five

An enormous, but unseen raven caws, and it’s just past six A.M. so who knows what else is going to happen today?  An auspicious beginning, a portent.

Yesterday the weather cleared and we walked through a forest of bamboo grass and deciduous trees to a natural hot spring where visitors can sit on a low embankment and put their feet into water.  Aluminum mats are provided so that, heaven forbid, one’s clothing doesn’t get dirty.

Prior to the walk, it was soba at Fukuan–the one soba joint in the village.  It’s delicious at this place, and the counter seats are good.  In fact, everything is good about Fukuan.  Well, almost everything.  Guys?  Turn off the T.V. at the end of the counter.

Late afternoon the rains began in earnest and luckily we were back at Takinoya, our ryokan home for the past five days.  Quiet, lovely, a good place to do nothing.  “A return to nothingness,” is the idea behind ryokans, and I reckon these places have a link to a monastic past only this time around we’re talking festival level food and no spoken prayers.  Unheard like the unseen raven.

So the result?  Soseki’s astonishing novel, “The Gate,” naps, more hot baths, and a kaiseki dinner of small plates.  I was given a generous gift of a wonderful local white wine by the establishment: Did we drink it all?  Down to the dregs.



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