Sunday, April 18, 2010
April 18: Kanazawa to Garuku River Retreat via Toyama
April 18: Kanazawa to Garuku River Retreat via Toyama
You Toyama rice-field maidens!
The only things not muddy
Are the songs you sing.
Motto yukkhiris hanashite-kudasa
Could you speak more slowly
Two more bathroom pics, one of the all-in-one-sink (you put your hands under the soap and water faucets in the rear, and then in front where the hand dryer is hidden) and another of those on-the-wall panels, at the River Retreat. Then a picture of gas pedals, you can pick them up retail and install yourself if you're worried about your Toyota coming to a complete rest. Picture of a temple in the middle of Kanazawa, our lunch in the market, and then pics from the River Retreat including THB and DB in full yukatas, and finally, one of DB's butt complete with bow! Something tells me I should reword this caption...
Take a shower (okay, not ALL that unusual) this morning and when I get out, the mirror is all fogged up (again, not all that unusual) except for a large rectangular portion over the sink that is totally clear (that’s unusual!).
Weather is actually great, cool and clear.
On the way to breakfast, another couple enters the elevator and I cheerfully (well, it’s early, so sort of grouchy for the rest of you) I say ohio gazamais. The guy replies: we’re from Taiwan, what did you say? The buffet is full, we have to wait to get a table, there is a large (Taiwanese?) tour eating early. Not much decent on the buffet to report.
We head to the train station because we need to put some bags away before our morning outing and to exchange tickets. We then visit N-san, a well-known ceramicist (the Bennett Bean of Japan). His wife is a jewelry artist, and we’ve arranged for a translator because we want to have a fairly intense conversation. We’re glad we did, Yuko is terrific. She spent only two years in the US, in SF while her husband worked at UCSF yet her English is just like ours.
N-san’s house is three-stories, concrete, and the by now familiar lack of furniture. We like his work a lot, and of course the piece I like the best is NFS. It’s not stable enough to stand up to shipping. It’s also part of a very large set that N-san did for the River Retreat, which we see later in the day. We end up buying a sake pot, a very good representation of his work. We end up staying over 2 hours, cutting into the time of the person from Naoshima and her granddaughter.
We walk back into town (this is really a small town, though there are 450,000 in surrounding area). We go back into the market and decide to have a fish churashi (fish on top of a chunk of sushi rice) and have our first experience of paying via a vending machine. You put in money, pick the price of the item (from another menu nearby) and then out comes a small ticket and your change. We buy two different meals, total of $30 (DB makes a comment about there must be a small guy in there). By now, we are so used to big bills we don’t even realize we’ve put a $50 bill in the machine. The food is very good and comes with a a bonus: terrific fish soup in a very mild miso, There is a guy behind the counter doing the assembling, this is not a job that takes years of training like you might hear about for sushi chefs. He’s cheerful, speaks nada English.
Get on the train and get off at Toyama. Go outside and look for the Garuku River Retreat car that is meeting us. There is no car. Very unusual. We call the River Retreat (this is the 5th time using the phone, so now it is only $20 per call) and they are surprised to hear from us, their English is not so good and the guy even asks me to speak slower! They need a few minutes to discuss, they’ll call us back. We call Steve (now $16/call) and he points out that while it is good we got off the train, we should follow the instructions and transfer to the next train.
OOPS!!!!!!!!! The train has left the station (in more than one way) and we find out that next train is 3 hours later. The River Retreat calls back (now $13/call) and we apologize! They are sending a car for us at this station. Phew!! Japanese hospitality trumps American oversight.
On the ride, we notice that a) this is the first city we’ve driven through that looks like most American cities in layout and setbacks and b) just about everywhere there is a small open patch of land there is a rice paddy, even close to the center of town. On the way out of town, this becomes even more prevalent, and the paddies are all pretty small. Hard to tell, we think these are mostly individually owned and cared for, making it more like a hobby than a profession. And, in the distance, mountains. Mountains with snow on them. Mountains with a lot of snow on them. We are spending tomorrow night at a house in the mountains (so we believe, not totally sure). Much snow…and maybe not enough clothes.
Half hour later, the car arrives and about half hour after that we are in this large modern fancy art-filled hotel. At the desk, DB asks about massages (the hot springs baths are free and available in two areas of the hotel), and chooses shiatsu for us. Wow, we’re having something that sounds like a small Chinese dog, and they come up to the room. Have a glad-to-see-you drink, ginger ale. In the land of ginger, this actually a very strong and refreshing version of ginger ale. DB goes for the whisked luke-warm green tea. As we are walking around the lobby, in one of the display cases is the china we got when we got married, Royal Copenhagen. Refer to one of our days in Copenhagen for a similar sighting!
Our room is actually three large rooms, plus a gigantic bathtub/bathroom. We switch over to our yukatas (bathrobes) and wander down for a soak. Men separate from women. Nobody on my side when I go in, first you soap up and rinse off, then climb in; not bad (manzara), warm to hot and not so hot you can’t get right in. Couple of other Asian guys show up, old (older than me? Hope so). Head upstairs for our massages.
The masseuse is a short friendly looking guy. DB opted for the hour long, I am not too big on massages so I chose 40 minutes. She goes first, they have set up a futon for us in our tatami mat room. Now it’s my turn. Unbelievable, in the first 10 seconds I realize I have made a huge mistake. Shiatsu is Japanese for “we are going to really hurt you…badly” and has nothing to do with cute long hair dogs.
This guy, so friendly looking, is a ninja assassin, and is killing me with his bare hands (actually, only one hand). I am screaming “oishe, oishe, oishe” before realizing I am telling him how delicious this is…I better switch to the only other word I know, SKOSHI, SKOSHI, SKOSHI (just a little bit) and in my now semi-conscious state I am praying I don’t start saying manzara (not bad).
After he finishes and I think I can stand up, though doing anything useful with my extremities is a ways off, we realize he can’t find the door, he is blind (or nearly so). Great, killed by a blind ninja assassin…and paid for the pleasure.
Dinner in the hotel, Japanese style. We wear our yukatas, we are the only one not wearing an overjacket (brown for the women, blue for the men). We don’t mind, it is as usual so warm in the hotel (and not just because we are on top of a hot springs) that we are tempted to eat naked. (At breakfast, it is spit: the old folks are in normal attire, the younger set – no, not us – are wearing yukatas with overjackets).
Another one of those 9 course meals, of which we pick shabu-shabu as our main dish (other choices: sukiyaki or tempura). Before that comes 7 other courses, a variety of fish (of course) of which the most notable is something with three fully formed one inch squid, served cold. DB donates one of hers to me. The shabu-shabu is really four very thin pieces of fatty beef (good!) and some veggies to dunk in the hot broth (mild). At some point, we should have figured out how to say we want to pick the 5 courses from the 9 course meal, we’d enjoy it a lot more. Skip the over-cooked grilled fish courses. Dessert is passionfruit panna cotta, and excellent (and not particularly Japanese). Meal pre-paid, local sake for 2, $9.