[The events of Tuesday in Kamikatsu]
After a pretty traditional Japanese breakfast of pan grilled salmon, rice, tea and pickled vegetables, we boarded the bus for the ride up to Nakamura-san’s. To say the road is narrow is an understatement, and the bus threaded its way up the mountain with care. At one point, the driver and our escort hopped out to cut off a small tree branch so we could pass.
Nakamura’s house is a restored barn, with a mud hearth in the kitchen- cast iron tea kettle at the ready, beautifully organized spices on the shelves, a downstairs workshop and an upstairs tatami room where you open the shoji onto a view over mountain and valley that captures heart and soul. His garden and small citrus grove provide much of his food. There is no phone, no internet, no car. Communication is through the postal mail and a small radio, which he said he got after a bad storm caught him unaware many years ago.
He is an artisan, who over the next two days would teach us how to bind a traditional Japanese book, as well as talk to our students about the ins and outs of living an intentionally simple life in a first-world country.
For lunch, we took a side trip to a traditional charcoal maker, who turns bamboo (and other organic plant matter, such as lotus roots and chestnuts) into artful charcoal for use in tea ceremonies. The charcoal makes a characteristic hissing noise when burned, reminiscent of the sound of wind whistling through pines.
We ate pizza (!) cooked in a wood burning oven and small river fish skewered on sticks, sprinkled liberally with salt and grilled upright over a charcoal fire. You eat them right off the stick, like corn on the cob.
We returned to Nakamura’s to continue our work on the books, heading back to Yamo no Gakko where we were staying in time for dinner and a short discussion of the trip to date.
We slept to the sound of the river and the rain falling, delightful to listen to , even if it meant our clothes would be slow in drying!