Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A different kind of luxury

The mountain scenery here is gorgeous, the town is seated along a mountain gorge, the river running full after the typhoon. The day dawns clear, with the clarity we were told to expect in its aftermath.

We drove up into the mountains to see an artist, Nakamura-san, who works in paper and fabric, beautiful little fan books filled with small pencil drawings, wood block prints and fabric collages. The incredibly narrow road up here wound tightly up the gorge, past tiny terraces, rice paddies, lotus fields and vegetables.

Nakamura lives a deliberately simple life in an old barn tucked up into the side of the mountain, his water comes gravity fed from the nearby stream, his bath water is solar heated, he cooks over a traditional Japanese mud and brick hearth. His studio/bedroom is in a loft over the barn, with shoji that open floor to (low) ceiling onto a view that is nothing short of spectacular. I had instant hermitage envy, yet to completely dissipate I must admit.

He made us tea over the hearth, which we drank upstairs while talking and looking at some of his work. He showed us how he carved the woodblocks for the prints, with tools he made himself, which thus fit his hand perfectly.

Our host in the retreat center kindly drove us back to Tokushima to catch the train, so we didn't have to do the two bus traverse of Tokushima prefecture. I thought I had mastered the Japanese bathroom, until I was faced with trying to use one on a wildly swaying train. I decided to take a pass. Tonight we are on Naoshima Island, sleeping in yurts a few yards from Japan's Inland Sea. I suspect the morning view will be spectacular, though since we didn't arrive until late tonight, all I can see are shadows of other islands out there.

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