Nippon 25. Poetic licence
When the scrolls are put way we leave. From Karasaki station a view of Japan’s largest fresh water lake is glimpsed between some buildings, maybe a kilometre distant. The lake’s water is used as drinking water for the shoreline cities, after careful treatment. Karasaki is wedge between water and mountains not at all uncommon in Japan. Any flat land is intensively used.
In Osaka Emi has a plan to find the food samples in a mega department store. Girls her age attend the information booths and are always helpful. When we arrive on the fourth floor, we find only toy food samples, I want the full sized ones. We leave disappointed.
Osaka station is the city’s answer to Kyoto’s. The shopping complexes tower high above the station footprint, the station being a collection of Shinkansen, the high speed rail, JR and private tracks, JR and private subways. At least some direction signs are in English.
We leave Osaka to meet Yuka in Kyoto. She waits for us at a bus stop in the outer city, and together we walk to lunch. The girls have chosen their favourite place to eat, several blocks away from the main road, in a never to be rediscovered location. It’s traditional, I resist the temptation to say very traditional, not knowing what either means. A wetted cobbled entry courtyard where we remove our shoes, in my case boots has me hopping around like an ibis in mud, thankfully not landing an unbooted foot on the living space side, a mistake for which I was corrected, at the palace yesterday.
In soft whitish sandals, a little small for my size ten feet we shuffle around three corners, up a little rise into the most perfect of settings o’er looking a garden of great delicacy. The girls lower themselves as awkwardly as I do, making me feel a little more at home. My left knee wants to get in touch with my left cheek instead of staying crossed with my right leg. I forget the aches and send myself a brain memo to get up slowly to save popping a cartilage.
We are welcomed to the restaurant by the owner and waitresses ply the table with heated towels, and set places before each kneeling guest. Now I feel like in am “in” Japan.
We chat over the meal, we are silent when thinking to reply. Yuka works in a hotel, and travelled to New Zealand to study English, like Emi who went to Ireland. These girls are intrepid. They meet studying English and still do so. Having a foreigner to practice on is a real treat. Together they speak a little Japanese only when needed to deal with the staff.
I gaze into the garden, and all too soon it is time to leave. We play with the owner’s dog while waiting to pay our bills. It is surprisingly reasonable, about AUD 12. I ask why.
“Oh we could never afford to come here at night” says Yuka, ” This is one of the best restaurants in Kyoto for night dining, this is only the lunch”
So how lucky am I!
After some discussion with Emi, Yuka takes the lead and we are soon on a subway then a subway then a little train, they have in mind the bamboo groves. I had seen these mentioned in the books and on the maps, where they appeared to be closer than the journey we were making seemed to indicate.
“Are we far from the city now?” I ask them.
“Quite far” is the reply, and I am really no better informed. Dumb question really.
On the platform at the end of the line, he ticket man asks if we want to take a hot foot spa. Looking at each other we smile “Yes”
For a modest price we are handed towels and directed back up the platform to a little wooden building at the end. A man sits at the end of one of the wooden tables whose legs are in the hot spring. There are two adjacent tables with a slatted wooden bench seat around the spa. Its hot and steam rises into the cold air giving a sense of relaxation and welcome. We arrange ourselves around the far wooden table, the man is concentrating intensely on writing with a pencil on a form. There’s a pad of forms and a tin box with a slot near its top with signs indicating that the best of the haiku written on the subject of the spa will be displayed on the station noticeboards. A chance to be recognized, so we too set to the task. The girls take the task seriously, heads down, the quietness is momentarily broken by the arrival of a train and the commencement of it’s return journey. I try to imagine where in Australia we might find the opportunity to scribble a ditty about some scenic attraction. I can recall seeing some examples public written work, though not in the sonnet poetic form favoured by the Bard, more doggrel ditties such as,
“Here upon the can I sit
Waiting for a little shit
When it comes I’ll be relieved
Wiping arse with prickly leaves.”
Or the more directed proposition
“For a great time phone kylie 044230988”
Or the footy slogan appealing to club loyalty such as
I recall at one workplace place being honoured as a manager for my change management skills. Within three months some one had inscribed my name below my bosses accolade
“Brial is a killer”
“Poon is a cunt”
Apart from these types of written displays Australia seems bereft of publicly written poetry.
Here’s what I came up with in the haiku form, three lines five syllable, seven syllable, five syllables
“Hot springs heats my feet,
Train speeds up the mountain top,
Friends meet, life is good.”
I posted it in the slot, with my email address. I doubt I will be hearing from them.