Springtime in the Heart of Japan
Well, we had cherry blossom in spades. And experiences vivid enough
to produce haiku of outstanding quality:
The toilet hot seat
I think I'll steal it
A haiku commenting on a common social problem? Not at all. This
is a poem written by a talented individual moved to compose a line
or two during or after a visit to a one of the very widely installed
Japanese toilets with a heated seat and a control panel to set the
type and temperature of spray you require. It captures the humour,
and the nature of the insights, brought to this tour by the Irish
and Scottish members who made up the group. More haiku written during
this tour can be found by clicking here .
As on all the tours, we were treated to delicious Japanese food.
Occasionally, however, I request a more familiar breakfast, since
Japanese ryokan breakfasts on top of Japanese dinners can get a
bit much. We were treated to a sensational ‘full western breakfast'
on the day we started our hike along the Nakaheji. It was great
to see a traditional ryokan responding so warmly to a request for
a breakfast with brilliantly prepared fresh fruit, cereal, eggs,
toast, yoghurt, juice, coffee, and tea. There was twice as much
we could eat. The table was groaning with delicious things.
As usual, the stamps collected at each of the wayside shrines and
resting places (oji) were a hit. Perfect stamps in our booklets
became a prime objective, and curiously motivating. At least the
members now have proof, in addition to photos (and possibly a loo
seat?), of having walked part of a mountain route which has been
used over the centuries to connect Kyoto to the Three Great Kumano
The weather in mid-April improved for this second spring tour.
The big question was whether we would catch the cherry blossom at
its best. Our timing couldn't have been better. We seemed to float
on a cloud of blossom from Takejiri Oji all the way to Kyoto via
fabled Yoshinoyama. Securing accommodation in Yoshino, at such a
fine ryokan, was a triumph. We had our own private, brand new, outdoor
cypress wood tub and rooms which would normally sleep three or four
times as many people on futon.
Getting out of Yoshino was almost as miraculous as getting in.
The narrow road up to the village was packed both ways. I am always
amazed at how composed Japanese are, living in a country so crowded
with vehicles. We normally move with hold-ups through the mountains,
but Yoshino in spring is an exception. But it was worth it. The
mountain was covered in blossom which, I am happy to say, the clattering
helicopter flying overhead filming the scene failed to scatter.
Our haiku competition was fun, with Mieko running proceedings in
the pub with her usual grace, and coming up with a brilliant translation
of the winning haiku.
Like the cherry blossom, the tour passed too quickly, however,
with the group leaving Kyoto on a bullet-train bound for the bright
lights of Tokyo .
Click to read haiku poems
from this tour.