Springtime in the Heart of Japan
An all-girl line-up for this tour! And they were the dream girls … Although coming from the four corners of the US , they were in fact all family. Like the earlier tour in March, the holiday was essentially a present; this time for a daughter who had always wanted to come to Japan .
It was a drizzly start on the day we visited the traditional Japanese village in North Osaka , and then went on to see the Tower of the Sun sculpture by Okamoto Taro and the National Museum of Ethnography. The contrast between the shadowy, reed thatched cottages of the past, and the surreal sculpture created for Expo 1970 - symbol of a different, younger Japan – summed up much about how society has changed. But the skies cleared and we had a week of fine spring weather and drifts of cherry blossom. The blossom arrived late in the Kansai this year.
Petals blow in the breeze
Delicate pink blossoms float
Fleeting season ends
Later, on the evening before the last day of the tour, we enjoyed a superb, eleven course dinner in our ryokan in Kyoto . For our first dinner out in downtown Osaka , however, we had okonomiyaki of course. A local favourite, okonomiyaki is a thick, savoury pancake stuffed with assorted goodies – meat, fish, vegetables, cheese, and smothered with brown sauce or mayo. Buddhist vegetarian meals were served at our temple on Mount Koya . It wasn't Japanese food all the way though. We discovered a great little Italian place in Kashihara, and had farewell pub meal in Kyoto on the last night. Variety is the spice of life, and gourmet food a hallmark of Hike Japan tours.
Warm choco croissants
A latte sipped, tour escape
Rewards of playing hookie
Covered mouth, hushed smile
Butterfly batting lashes
She walks in and pleases
I always explain bathing protocol to clients at the beginning of a tour. Big tubs are single sex, so I can hardly point things out inside the women's bathrooms at our lodgings. I generally assume that ‘Wash before you get into the bath, not in the bath' will be taken to mean that you make use of the showers and other facilities in the main bathroom. The ladies on their first night, however, started washing before even entering the bath area (I presume using the basins)! They were put right by daughter, who came in a little later, who instructed the oldies to go into the bathroom to wash before soaking in the baths. I try, but I can't keep my eye on everything!
Yoshino was a picture this year. We walked to Saigyo's hut on the mountain and, as usual, enjoyed fresh kuzu noodles. It was at Saigyo's hut that we started writing haiku in earnest. From Yoshino we took a short train ride to the old capital of Asuka where we stayed very pleasant family-run lodgings Hike Japan has discovered. It was home from home and we chilled out for a couple of nights in good company and a lovely house.
Nara was filling with school kids, the temples flooded bright spring sunshine
Screaming boys and girls
Flirt with deer in Nara
Sonorous bell tolls
We also made it to the Miho Museum this time, which was worth the trek. Again, it was a magnificent day, and the mountains looked gorgeous.
After we said our ‘goodbyes', the ladies were treated to seats at the sumptuous spring Geisha dance in Kyoto .
Ice blossoms drift down
To be reborn in the earth
It's time to go home
If you'd like to read more, the haiku poems written on the tour are here .