My wife Heidi and I got married on May 11, 2013.  On May 17 we left to go on a honeymoon vacation in Japan, as a part of a small tour group led by my friend and shakuhachi mentor Ronnie Seldin.  Besides Heidi and myself there were only two other people in this tour group.  Ken was retired from the publishing business, now a full-time poet and playwright.  Kay was a former anthropologist who works as an ESL teacher and is an amateur scholar of Japanese culture.

May 17/18:
Syracuse airport, we boarded a tiny prop-driven plane to Toronto, where we then took a very big plane to Tokyo, very long and boring flight.  I tried to sleep but couldn’t, finished reading Burning the Days by James Salter.  Started reading the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.  Crossed the international date line and it was suddenly a day later!  We arrived at the Narita Airport in Tokyo, and had a long wait for Ronnie to arrive.  I rented a cellphone for Ronnie to use on the trip (at his request since he would be arriving after all the cellphone rental companies closed).  About the time Ronnie finally showed up, Kay and Ken appeared and introduced themselves.  A driver, a friend of Ronnie, drove us all in a van to the Tenrikyo Center in Tokyo, where we would be staying in their dorm.  The room was small but decent, with two small, flat, and rather hard beds.  I slept OK but woke up around 5:00 AM.  Felt surprisingly good considering how little sleep I got the previous couple of days.

May 19:

The view from our 5th-floor window was of a mixed residential/small-business neighborhood.  Modest apartment buildings and little shops and gas stations.  We had breakfast downstairs in the main dining hall at the Tenrikyo Center.  There was rice and miso soup, pickled vegetables, tempura, green tea.  We didn’t see any other non-Japanese people in the Tenrikyo Center.  After breakfast our driver took us on a long drive to a little village on the outskirts of Tokyo where an eminent shakuhachi maker named Sadao Chinone lived.  Chinone is 75 but appears extremely fit and vigorous.  We were served a sumptuous and very elegant multi-course lunch at Chinone’s house, the meal prepared and served by Chinone’s wife and daughter in law.  Chinone showed us his workshop, his gardens, and an extraordinary and awe-inspiring family cemetery.  Chinone and his whole family were extremely gracious and generous to us.  We left with Chinone who took us on a drive up into the hills to visit the public baths.  The public baths are very popular in Japan.  The men and the women bathe in separate facilities.  Chinone, Ronnie, Ken and I went off to the bath together and Heidi and Kay went to the women’s bath.  The way the public bath works is that you are supposed to wash yourself off before you ever get into the bath.  You sit on a little plastic stool and wash with bar soap and water from a spray nozzle.  When you’re clean then you get into the bath.  It looked like a small swimming pool.  There were large windows with a view out over the wooded hillside.  There were several men in the bath, mostly pretty mature-looking guys in their 50s and 60s.  Ronnie and Ken and I were the only non-Japanese.  The water was very hot but very pleasant and deeply relaxing.  After the bath we said goodbye to Chinone and drove back to Tokyo where we had dinner at a small cozy noodle restaurant near the Tenrikyo Center.

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