Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kumano Kōdō XII


We slept in, until the humidity began to pat us on the cheek. The rain was making promises, it was ringing from its mobile, but it just hadn't shown up yet. Later, when we a little more roused, Miyuki, the owner of Buddha Guest House, asked if we wanted to pass the morning at a cafe she liked. We quickly agreed. Ikora Chaya Cafe was a large open garden-like space filled with books and magazines on amazing topics. I grabbed a stack and sat out on the patio above a stream moving about as slowly as the day. One magazine was filled with pictures of Kumano, causing me to badly regret my decision to leave Japan. I fantasized about moving down here, spending my days doing research on the shrines and the mountains, my nights in conversation with the quirky people down here. (I was falling more in love with Tanabe everyday. But I recognized it as Yonago nostalgia, pure and simple.) One such quirky character was Tanaka-san, called A-chan while behind the bar. His taste in books and music was incredible. He had Miyuki take us up to his home, a Therouvian bachelor pad. It was a small building up amidst the plum groves. One room was empty but for a lone bed. Another room, very dark, had two chairs, two towering speakers, and stacks of LPs climbing the walls. I'd seen music rooms like this in ads, but never in anyone's home. (I pictured Peter Murphy asking for the usual.) Upstairs was a loft, with a couple old organs and baskets full of guitars. Throughout the house were unbelievable antiques, plus books on fantastic subjects. In my greatest loner moments, this is the house of my dreams.

Back at the cafe, A-chan and I chatted awhile, until I took one of the shakuhachi off the wall and began to blow. A-chan joined in on fue, our notes harmonizing much like our conversation had, and like the way he blends the spiritual richness around him with his simple but rich lifestyle.

Around noon, we returned to the Guest House. I took an hour-long stroll around town in search of a decent meal. I finally settled on the jazz cafe across the street, but found only frustration when my cheese dog turned out to be nothing more than some cheese melted on a bun. Foiled yet again by the misuse of English! I nearly cried, having eaten little more than bread for about a week. But I found solace in gyoza, fried rice, and a large cold beer in a ramen shop a mere block away.

I passed the afternoon in books or slumber. After dark, Miki and I braved the rain to have dinner at Gorilla cafe, the pizza and pasta quashing my week-long pizza craving. An early night's sleep capped things off perfectly.

This day off had come at a perfect time. The previous day had been a long frustrating one. I was the most tired I'd been in the nine days since we'd set out, and the concrete landscape had gotten so bleak that we decided to cut out the final 6 day Ise-ji section off our trip entirely. We hope to get there eventually, but for now, we'd had enough of rural blight. Shingu was now our goal.

The following day we were mentally recharged. Physically, we would be able to lug our heavy bags over the high passes without much grief. And Miki's ever-growing list of body complaints seemed to have come to an end.

On the turntable: Guitar Wolf, "Missile Me"

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