Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 19: Garuku River Retreat (Sasuzu) to The House of Light (Tokomachi)

April 19: Garuku River Retreat (Sasuzu) to The House of Light (Tokomachi)

In all this cool
is the moon also sleeping?
There, in the pool?

A mountain village
under the pilled-up snow
the sound of water.

How many times must a man (or woman)
Look up before he (or she)
Can see the sky?

Kyoo no tenki wa doo desu ka?

What’s the weather today?

Department of clarification: As part of our lunch yesterday, we did stop for dessert in the basement of the department store across the street from the open market. Department stores are very big on food in the basements, tons of prepared food, spots to eat, and usually a full-service market. We decide to stroll the hall before going to the train, and manage to stop in the “western” bakery, and select two of the big, flat, thin French pastry-dough sugar cookies. They did not survive the walk to the station, $2.50.

This morning we get up and take a soak in the hot springs, eat one of those many-courses Japanese breakfasts (complete with the cold overcooked grilled fish) that includes purple (yes, purple) tofu in broth that gets heated at the table (mini-shabu-shabu). Best part of the meal: we ask for coffee when we sit down, they are a bit surprised because it usually is served last. It is one of the better espresso style coffees we’ve had anywhere, so of course we have another after the meal too!

When we check out we find out that the train station pick-up in Toyama was $20, a bargain considering they had to send a car for us and a taxi would’ve been closer to $50.

We get taken to the station we should have arrived at yesterday, it is 5 minutes walk from the hotel, 1 minute drive (even by slow standards here)l! The train is a true local, two cars and the heat turned up so high we think they must be doubling as a sauna. Easily between 75 and 80 degrees.

We catch our transfer, and fortunately it is on the same platform where the local has deposited us. There are only a few minutes between trains, which here is plenty. Two hours later we are in Tokamachi, a ski resort. (Aside: two stops before we get off, almost the entire train departs, in a town we can’t find on the map. Maybe 3-400 people, all old, with at least one of those leaders carrying a flag. Of course, we have no clue as to what they are heading towards.) There is a ton of snow in the mountains and big drifts on the side of some of the streets and in some of the rice paddies. The good news: it is warm out! Very warm…DAMN! This is good news because we are sleeping with the roof open tonight.

Lunch of soba and tempura, $30. Tokamachi is dead, most of stores are closed, either because if it Monday or out of season. Stocking up on snacks (baum kurchen, strawberries, chocolate bread (see pic of bakery), dried bread squares), $12. Cab ride to House of Lights, $30.

We are the only two spending the night at the Turrell House. With dinner and breakfast, private hot bath (only the two of us, so it is co-ed tonight), sleeping in the room with the movable roof (now open), light shows at sunset and sunrise, $350 cash. Reason for cash: they don’t know how much it will cost because the rate per person goes down the more people who stay here, up to a max of 7 (and for some reason they don’t take credit cards, shades of Denmark). Cosmic question: after we booked, did they tell any other interested parties there would be foreigners in the group? Or, are we the only ones foolish enough to spend the night with a roof open and snow covering the mountain?

Maybe so, unless you are a Turrell fan and interested in staring at the sky at sunset and prior to sunrise for over an hour. This evening, the changes of the colors are not as pronounced as at Chichu Museum (maybe the way the led’s are set), yet just as encaptivating.

Dinner is delivered, another 9 course cold to barely lukewarm meal with fried chicken (a first), cold tempura, maybe fatty short ribs (without bones) and a bunch of fish. We are supposed to clean-up our own plates, we decide that is the case if you are cooking in, and we have ordered in, not same-same, same-same but different.

Down to soak in the hot tub/bath…very hot, dark, and very subtly and coolly lit (small light bars hidden in the walls and lights underwater). Are we sleeping with the roof open?

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