Tokyo is about a 9 hour flight north from here.
Landing, I found an alcove between some potted palms under an ad for maybe a ski resort ~ it featured a fluffy white dog ~ and re-arranged stuff in my carry-on, then took a light rail to arrivals. Long queues. I fell in, and felt for my papers ...
Back to light rail, back to the gate I came through ... fluffy white dog, potted palms ... there, where I'd left them, were my passport, my wallet, and my phone. Maybe a thousand people had passed them since ...
Brian was holding up a sign on the other side of customs :
He was Head Librarian of the British International School, married to a Tokyo girl, living on the outskirts. We took the train, and I gazed out the window on a Miyazaki evening landscape while he outlined a schedule for the coming week.
We went first to his apartment where I met his wife and their 8 year old boy, then the four of us walked down the road to Ano's mom's restaurant. Seafood. Seafood Hokkaido style. Fragrant, packed to the rafters, loud ~ we had a low table upstairs ~ hibachi, beer, welcome to Japan.
From my hotel in the morning I wandered through a market paradise to meet Brian at the station, then into the city proper. Nothing can prepare a newcomer for Tokyo.
We got off at Hachiko and walked to the school, my home for the next four days. The kids were great. Evenings I wandered ~ streets and alley-ways that once, in Edo times were canals ; electric spiderweb skies ; motorcycles out of Bladerunner ; sidewalk machines dispensing whiskey, used women's underwear, hot noodle soup. Shrines, a cabbage patch beside a skyscraper, dolls, everywhere. Staring down traffic to cross a street.
A teacher at the school pointed me to Nikko, in the mountains, and booked a room for me the first week-end. Shinkansen-bullet up on pylons out of town past Fuji into wooded hills, and up. Changed out there to a regular train, and up. Finally, Nikko, a so-what sort of town I thought ... sitting at the station bar with an Asahi and a bowl of noodles, it was snowing.
Outside a cab pulled up, and a man in uniform and white gloves opened the door. We drove out of town, and further up, to a gravel driveway, an ancient garden and a very old timber hotel. Kanaya Grand. I was the only guest. In the library adjacent to the lobby I was brought another beer. In a display case was a visitor's book : Benjamin Disraeli, Somerset Maugham, Greta Garbo ... autographed pictures in frames along the panelled walls, a fire, curtains, it was snowing, growing dark.
Upstairs, room 101 : a Hokusai on the wall. The bathroom : the toilet had seat-temperature control and a selection of music including 'waterfall' and Handel. Beyond the bed were cedar-louvred screens, ceiling height. Sliding them aside revealed a bay : low table, a vase with an orchid beside a small stoneware jug of Suntory and a porcelain cup, a bowl of fruit, more screens ... sliding them aside ...
In the dusk below, a river. To the right, a red-lacquered footbridge. Beyond, a forest of cedar and pine with now and then the glint of a temple roof, rising up to a landscape from a dream : more trees, fainter through the snow, more and more elaborate temples in silhouette, lit within, and beyond them higher hills, and beyond those, a snow-covered mountain, and above the mountain, reflected in every gentle snowflake ... full moon.
"Anna? Hi. I'm in Nikko. Just got here ... yes, no, lovely ... listen ... you know that feeling ... sometimes when you don't know where you are ? You know ? Yeah ... that one ... Well, I'm here. I think I found it."
"I think I'm home."
pic. Watanabe, Moonrise at Tokumochi ; Miyazaki : Film-maker ( Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle ) ; Edo : 17th-19th century Japan ; Shinkansen : Fast train ; Hokusai : Edo printmaker ( The Great Wave, from 36 Views of Mt Fuji )