Thursday, November 02, 2006

Takayama - Saturday 16th September 2006

We rose around 0700, although we'd both been awake, off and on, since 0530. We never did quite decide if the equipment the Japanese traditionally use for sleeping in naff or fabulous.

The chanmber maid came in at 0745 to put our beds away. She was soon followed by another lady serving us a fabulous Japanese style breakfast. Well, I say fabulous, you know, dear reader, how uneasy I am with anything savoury before lunch time.

Madame, whom we later learned was named Akiko, came in to say good morning and wondered if we'd prepared a haiku yet. This set the wheels and cogs of our brains in motion and we decided to look for some quality paper and give her a personal haiku as a gift.

The morning was spent in the markets and shops of the Takayama. We shopped until we dropped, buying copious amounts of table-ware (which all survived the journey home). The lady running the shop in which we did most of our business was quite grim, rude and off-hand with us until she saw the volume of our purchase. Money talks, dear reader. The more of it that's seen, the broader the smile, the more helpful people become. She even threw in a free plate stand in the end. And bowed. Quite different to the lack of interest in which we were initially ignored on entering the shop, the looks of disdain and sighs. This experience will be forever locked in my memory. I think, during the whole of our three week expedition, we only encountered an I can't be bothered attitude twice. In the depths of fabulous customer service, these blips tend to be committed to memory. Conversely, customer service in the UK is so bad, the only time you remember it is when you're treated properly.

Of course, it's always nice to take a break from shopping. This came to us thanks to a sojourn at Don's and a couple of breaks on park benches (avoiding the local viallage idiots) for a fag.

In the afternoon, we took the bus to Hida no Sato, an open air folk/craft museum cum village. Lots of homes, mainly farm dwellings, dismantled and reassembled in Takayama. Fabulou
s and unique. Of course, this is Japan and although such artefacts from the past are treated with due reverence, there is a touch of Disney about it.

In the evening, we returned to our fabulous ryokan, bathed in the onsen, and ate our evening meal. No turtle tonight. Our server spoke very good English having lived in London for a year as a volunteer, looking after disabled children. Perhaps her long term aim was to enter the Miss World contest. Ooh, I'm such a cynical bitch.

After our meal, we wrote the haiku we'd earlier prepared on a fabulous presentation sheet bought in a stationery shop in Takayama. We presented Akiko with our hakiu and a box of Walker's Shortbread, brought all the way from bonnie Scotland. She was very touched, genuinely so. I could see it in the dear woman's eyes.

We then went to the laundrette, about a fifteen minute walk away. After working out how to use the machine and figuring out that the soap powder and conditioner were dispensed automatically, we set our clothes on a wash cycle and headed off, back to Don's Coffee And Cake for, yes, a coffee, but hey, don't fall off of your chair, dear reader - no cake, but a slice of toast and jam! Oh, heaven on a plate! I didn't realise how much I'd missed bread, let alone toast - and jam! It was genuinely better than sex. Eating it felt like a constant orgasm, especially when the butter was running all down my chin.

On our return, Akiko was pleased to show us our haiku hanging, in pride of place, in the front parlour. Japanese rooms all have multiple uses and I wonder if they actually name rooms according to use at all. The Japanese always reciprocate the giving of a gift, so we should have not been surprised when she presented us with some Happy Baby Monkey Dolls, mobile telephone danglers/jewellery, an embroidered cloth and her business card - asking us to keep in touch.

No comments: