Roger L. Simon

Old Japan

I am in Nikko in the mountains only a couple of hours from Tokyo, yet seemingly much further away. I am sitting here in my yukata, having just taken a hot bath in the large communal tub at my hotel Konishi, feeling reasonably mellow and not completely dead although the digital clock in the corner of this page tells me it is 4:25AM in Los Angeles.


The Konishi is a ryokan hotel, a slightly larger version of the traditional Japanese ryokan. English is only sparingly spoken here and all of the other patrons are Japanese. They seem to be more in search of Old Japan than even this gaijin. The hotel itself is at once tatty and luxurious, something out of Tanizaki. Here is Madeleine on her way in.
Later, mother helped daughter into her yukata. Everyone walks around in their robes at ryokans, to dinner and to the baths.Of course I had no idea how to put mine on and was always afraid it would fall open at the wrong moment.
Dinner was served in the ryotei. It was kaiseki (Japanese formal dining) of the Nikko region, which specializes in yuba, a molten tofu dish I had eaten once before in Los Angeles…
… and a mountain fish described as rainbow trout (I’m sure it wasn’t) plus several other dishes about whose ingredients I only have a vague notion at best. A locally grown rice, however, cooked with baby bamboo slivers was quite spectacular.
It’s great not be to be thinking about politics all the time for a few days. What is going on outside the Tokugawa Shogunate? (I’ll be back to it of course. Probably tomorrow.)


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