a simple bamboo vase on a wall at Beniya Mukayu holds a single red camellia
Had things gone as planned today, we would have been visiting the Jisshoin Temple in Kaga for a meditation lesson with a real monk, having a vegetarian lunch with him to bear witness to the simple ways, then gliding down the Daishoji River in a gondola under a froth tunnel of cherry blossom, serenaded by a singing boatman.
Instead, our poor monk unfortunately became sick and had to go to hospital so we couldn't meditate or have lunch with him, and the cherry blossom on the river has blown from the trees. The boatman did actually sing, but it fell on our musically ignorant ears. Thankfully we hear that the monk is on the mend.
A boat ride still sounded like a nice thing to do, so we took a taxi to the Daishoji River in the nearby town. Don't you love the taxi driver's outfit? Gloves and mask and more white lace inside the taxi than a bridal wear shop.
When the taxi pulled up here, a weeping cherry called a cheery Japanese greeting. Not all was lost.
This town is named after the Daishoji clan who controlled a rich fiefdom here for several centuries. That's a mighty long rule! The local area became known for its pottery and porcelain. All the dinnerware at Beniya Mukayu is locally made. Have you noticed it when I've posted the food shots? It varies in style from rustic earthenware to finer quality china, from traditional to quite modern.
By the seventeenth century, the family's vast territorial holdings of fertile land made Kaga the wealthiest province in Japan. The area grew enough rice to feed one million people for a year. It's still famous for good rice and each September there's a rice festival.
While we were waiting to board, we wandered along the river a little. A roadside stall was having a half-price special ($2.40 down to $1.20) on those tiny fairy Japanese iris which grow along the roadside everywhere here. Everyone must be picking their own!
We walked down a flight of stairs to our gondola moored in the river. The front and back were open, while the middle passenger part where we would sit had a roof. The floor was covered with padded fabric and a low table in the middle was set with a bottle of drink, paper cup, and this beautiful rice cake each. The colouring is made from sakura or cherry blossom.
But hang on, no seats! Oh dear. We might be able to walk for hundreds of kilometres, but getting down to sit on the floor takes a little manoeuvring! John nearly capsized the boat in the attempt.
A Japanese couple were boarding as well - loved his co-ordinated pants and sneakers! They're now on on my shopping list for John. -:)
The guide at the front of the boat had the Japanese couple laughing. Every now and then they'd nudge us and point at something the guide had seen - small turtles swimming in the water and sun-baking along the bank, giant egrets in a tall tree. By the time I turned to see each, it was too late for a photo.
watch the video of the oarsman above by clicking on the arrow on the photo above - this is the first time I've used this technique for a video - hope it works!
Our oarsman at the back of the boat held the handle of the vertical oar, pulling it from side to side through the water rhythmically, while laughing at the guide's jokes.
Trees lined the river, with daffodils and buttercups flowering beneath in the soft green grass.
Although the cherry blossoms were almost gone from the trees, the last of the petals were drifting down through the air, landing on the water, and washing up against the timber edge of the river bank.
The riverside scenery was quite pretty.
This is known as Choryu-Tei, a pavilion on the river used by the Daishoji lords, who used to sit in armchairs near the windows and hang their fishing lines out into the water.
watch the video of the singing boatman by clicking on the arrow in the photo above
The guide sang a Japanese melody and later demonstrated his breathing technique for holding a note for a long time.
As we glided into the jetty, the guide laughed and said to John 'You notta stand up!' - he wanted to keep the boat on an even keel! We all had to move together so all the weight didn't suddenly shift to one side.
Rather than at the temple, our monk's lunch was in our own private room at a small restaurant chosen by Beniya Mukayu. There was also a long bar in another room where the locals were eating. A good sign. Its name was Bante (spelling?) and this is its owner.
She brought in two big black boxes and put one in front of each of us.
These were the very beautifully presented contents, but we seem to have been eating non-stop lately and didn't really do it justice.
I felt quite smug when we went to the toilet later. There was no English sign, but I recognised the more blockheaded one on the right! This girls' sign is really quite curvy by comparison!
We continued on by taxi to the Zen Jisshoin Temple, named after Daishoji lord Maeda Toshiharu in 1660.
All succeeding generations were buried here, and their graves lie behind the building on the left hand side.
The temple has a forested hill at its back which encircles the shrines and graves.
The taxi driver waited while we visited the temple, and talked non-stop to us in Japanese all the way back to the hotel. Such a nice man.
It started to rain as soon as we arrived back at the hotel - it was nice to be welcomed with a warm towel and the choice of a juice, coffee or tea.
I wanted to look at the ceramic shops in the village - the hotel has a covered walkway and an elevator down the steep hill which makes it very easy and dry. There wasn't anything I fell in love with, and it's a little heavy to carry anyway.
This little verbena looked even brighter on such a wet afternoon.
I went back to the hotel and did a little damage in the gift shop instead. Not too much. Just a little. Mr Nakamichi even blends coffee for sale - the one we have at breakfast - my two expressos this morning were just perfect!.
tonight's menu - remember read right to left!
There's a kaiseki dinner each evening but we skipped last night as neither of us felt hungry. But we were glad to arrive at the dining room tonight. The aperatif was plum wine which we decided we'd keep to have with dessert. Izumi took the two glasses away to put in the frig but then she came back with another two, 'We will keep those in the refrigerator, but here are two more, for you to drink now'. You just can't buck the system here. Then we lifted our glasses to each other. I said camp pie (thanks Chrissie!) and John said happy Christmas. Izumi gasped with surprise, snorted and put her hand over her mouth and doubled over laughing. She's such a good audience. There was nothing else for it: we both skolled.
This was the first course - this photo doesn't do it justice because I actually gasped when it arrived. The ice was sparkling under the small plates, the cherry blossom looked so pretty, and the diagonals with their blue china and yellow ingredients was the perfect balance. We both thought it absolutely delicious. Except maybe the tofu - we left a little bit.
Please forgive me - I didn't take any more photos tonight, but the meal was just as spectacular as on Saturday night. I don't think I've had abalone before - shimmed or not, it was quite pleasant. And we love the rock fish and the beef.
I can't leave the hotel without mentioning Edward (above) again. The Nakamichi family and the staff have been just awesome. But Edward has been such a treasure too. Whenever I've asked for anything he has put in 200%. Today I mentioned Kenrokuen garden to him (where we're visiting tomorrow) and the next time I saw him, he had a map of the town of Kanazawa, a map of the garden, and a train timetable. He's just so nice.
I have mixed feelings about tomorrow. Sad in a way to be leaving this hotel, sadder at the thought of waving John goodbye at the airport tomorrow night, but excited to see our daughter Ange a little later for a girls' week in Tokyo!
Do you know what I'm going to miss about this hotel? Blush. The toilet lid goes up when you walk into the loo. It's so friendly.
Enough rubbish travelling buddies. Time for bed. It's quite wild outside - I can hear the rain beating against the roof on the balcony, the wind is whipping the trees and I can hear downpipes gushing. Please let it be fine tomorrow for Kenrokuen garden.
I won't post tomorrow night as it will be late by the time Ange and I arrive at the hotel. But I'll be back the next night with lots of Tokyo news.