The usual stresses of travel aside, I certainly got to experience more peak moments on this trip than I usually do in a year. Here's the Top 5 (I'm finding it helpful to make lists, it seems.)
1. Dinner our first night in Tokyo. We found a wee restaurant called Robata - a grill/buffet with a very wabi sabi style. I was thrilled to find we were seated next to a spinning wheel. The food was amazing - and Ian was actually much more enthusiatic than this terrible picture would indicate.
2. The onsen (hot spring) in Karuma, north of Kyoto. We took a tiny train like something out of Spirited Away, into a little valley in the hills. The onsen was very traditional - men and women separated, a scrub down before entering the deep outdoor tub for a soak. Snow falling, steam rising, aahhhh.
3. The ryokan (Japanese inn) Sansei-ko in Nara. This was the courtyard outside our window in the morning light. Our sleep on the tatami mats was the best we had on the whole trip!
4. Finally meeting Mrs. Mandu and her friend Fujii-san. Mrs. Mandu is an art and antique dealer in Suzuka, quite the aristocrat, and we have formed a relationship over the years. She sends me bits of fabric through our intermediary Jean Pierre, and I send her completed quilts. She was charming, elegant and warm - the icing on the cake was a impromtu tea ceremony she performed when I asked if she knew how. I couldn't believe my good fortune.
She showed me her museum, holding her collection of treasures gathered over the last 40 years.
Just one piece of shibori to swoon over - I'll do a post devoted to textiles next time.
5. Dinner at a famously secret restaurant in Suzuka. 12 seats, open kitchen and a genius chef. We ate the most glorious food, like something out of Babette's Feast or Last Night. Probably the ultimate food experience of my life!
Another highlight was sitting in on a service at the temple in Miyajima - the priest was chanting and playing a huge drum - very resonant and powerful.
In Tokyo, a tiny perfect plum tree ouside someone's home.
Night scene in Tokyo's Ginza area. Women do still wear kimono!
To see Ian's version of events: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2071016&l=0b981&id=116206351