Japan Part II
On green tea;
“No! You must do it again like this,’ instructed the lady from the little temple in Kyoto. I’d just been invited to wash my hands before a tea ceremony in a picturesque fountain. But I’d washed them into the pool and not the drain. Whoops! I was fast learning, the Japanese love rules – God forbid you break them.
‘Your Father wouldn’t even fit in here,’ said my Mother as we crawled on all fours through the tiny hatch to the Tea House. I felt like giant Alice (in Wonderland) when she outgrows the thatched house. Once seated on tatami mats, our host whisked the matcha green tea into a frothy frenzy. It’s a brief ceremony.
One thing became clear; tea was not being served until I’d eaten the whole adzuki bean paste sweet (and half of my mother’s who refused hers).
A taste so torturous for a Western palette and yet unwise to refuse – the rules thing again! Yet, sipping tea and looking out into the temple garden turned out to be one of my highlights. Even if it did feel like sitting in my kitchen cupboard.
Green tea has a habit of finding its way into everything in Japan. Luminous looking ice cream, bread, biscuits and unfamiliar looking sweets are abundant. For years I couldn’t stand the stuff. The bitter flavour reminiscent of the crippling jet lag that came with (handbag design) factory visits to the Far East. Somehow, my taste buds realigned on holiday. This was my undoing; the green tea croissant, trust me, it’s pastry magic!
Making full use of our bullet train passes, I observed that Japanese adults and children alike are potty about trains. They all jump to take turns having their photo taken at the front of the train. The type of train, be it hikari, nozomi and shinkansen is very important too. Observation deck seats had sold out for the ‘Romance car’ train we took to Hakone. But once onboard, I couldn’t see much romance going on inside my car.
British rail could learn a lot from Japan, their designers need to plan a research trip. You could eat off the floor it’s so clean. The seats rotate, so you can always face forward or face your friends in a group of four and it goes at the speed of lightening.
Here are a couple of videos to whet your whistle;
On playing dress up;
Everybody knows that you’ve got about as much chance of seeing a Geisha as I have of shaking the Queen’s hand. So the next best thing is to get yourself down to a kimono rental shop in Gion. Have the full hair and makeup and parade yourself round Kyoto in slightly cumbersome attire. Even better take a rickshaw drive and snap multiple selfies of you and your friend. Japanese were quick to comment that only a Chinese person or Westerner would do this. I found it all very endearing. What would be the English equivalent? Going to Bath for the weekend and donning Regency attire, Jane Austen style? Or lacing up my corset for a trip round the V&A museum and some Victoria sponge.
Part 3 coming soon.
In search of Mount Fuji, Temples and Cats