Roger L. Simon

Ryokan Deluxe

We are splurging on a rather upscale ryokan (formal Japanese inn) in Takayama called Nagase. The sculptor Isamu Noguchi stayed here as well as several famous Japanese novelists and poets whose calligraphic salutes to the establishment adorn the entryway. Here is my young model/daughter in our room by the television and the tokonoma – the traditional scroll shrine.

toke.gif

When last I stayed in one of these places (the eighties, when researching a novel) I was rather overwhelmed and uncomfortable I would be seen as some crude barbarian. Now I am quite enjoying it. The bath (ofuro) is terrific and the cuisine (served in your room) even better, including a tempura of raw rice (hard to explain) and the local Hida beef. The Japanese, I gather, are less impressed than we Americans with Kobe beef. They have many fine regional varieties, Hida being one of them. This is also a sake town because of the mountain water. I’ve had more than a few glasses.

Takayama is another heavily touristed region (known as “Little Kyoto”) yet still there are few Westerners around. Of course none of them would use these latter day rickshaws, lest they be accused of imperialism. The Japanese themselves have no such restrictions.

old-style.gif

One of the renowned local attractions is the Hida village where the old grass roof houses have been collected. These seemingly rustic constructions are actually quite complex and beautiful, quite large too. We ran into some Italian architects who had come all the way from Milan to study them.

hida.gif

This is what the roofs look like from the inside. The excellent book Lost Japan has an interesting discussion of the difficulty in trying to build such a roof today.

onside.gif