a japan highlight tour

our host, mochan (a nickname derived from 'mo', the first 2 letters in his surname, and chan meaning mister)

jay came across a japanese guy offering tours of japan while doing a routine couchsurfing search. mochan started wishclub a few years ago after he tired of owning and running a local bar. his purpose was to provide a social context in which travelers and local people could meet and mingle while exploring japan. he requests that travellers that stay with him and take the tour offer to pay ride shares. we thought this sounded reasonable as we had heard how expensive it is in japan...from pretty much anyone that knew we had added it to our itinerary! so we signed up for 2 days in the shimizu/shizouka area which, for those that are not familiar with japan geography, is very near mt. fuji.

after a cozy night sleep on a soft mattress on a tatami mat floor, mochan took us out to see mt. fuji. we had a late start so by the time we reached the viewing point you could see the clouds had rolled in and mt. fuji was quickly disappearing. there was no point in driving closer so we turned around and head in the opposite direction to experience a traditional tea ceremony.

tea master preparing our tea

we entered the tea house and were shown to a large open room with shoji screens on the windows and tatami mats on the floor. there were already two men sitting crosslegged in the room that had been served their tea. mochan asked us to follow his lead and described the steps to us as he accepted his tea. in the picture above the tea master is elaborately folding the napkin so that she can wipe down the utensil and cup you see to her left. it was a performance of placing items, moving them, measuring powdered green tea, pouring hot water, whisking and stirring and finally the presentation of the tea. as the tea master is preparing the tea another woman in traditional dress served us each a sweet made from red bean paste.

jay turning his tea cup

when the tea master presented the perfectly prepared tea, she bowed to us and we bowed to her while sitting on our knees and by placing our hands on the tatami mat in front of us. mochan explained to us that she sets the cup with the more beautiful or more interesting side facing towards the guest. when we picked up the cup, we were to place it in our left palm and slowly turn the good side to face the others in the room.

the tea house wet room

after our tea was consumed we wandered around the rest of the tea house. there were narrow hallways leading to smaller rooms off the larger communal tea room. one room was the wet room where the tea master prepares the water and her tools for the tea ceremony. there was also a more traditionally sized small tea room for individual visitors. this room had a small door low to the floor so that the room was accessible directly from outdoors. you can see the door from the exterior of the tea house in the photo below. traditionally, you are invited to tea by the tea master. there is a wash basin where you can wash your hands before tea is served. you are then invited to enter the house through the low door. this door requires the visitor to enter the house while bowing showing respect to the tea master.

corina and jason with the tea masters

rock wash basin to wash your hands and low door to enter the tea room

the next day we made a point of leaving the house early and arrived to the viewing point of mt. fuji with just a slight haze in the sky. we drove on to one the lakes near mt. fuji for more scenic photo opportunities. we walked around the lake taking in all the beauty of springtime in japan. it was a perfect day.

mt. fuji photo op early in the morning

the gorgeous mt. fuji

and what is a visit to japan without imbibing in some sake? mochan took us to a sake factory for a private tour where we learned how grains of rice are turned into the throat burning liquid of sake. we had to take our shoes off and slip on factory issued flip flops and wash our hands as not to bring in any unwanted bacteria. the making of sake is a very serious and even religious endeavor. barrels of sake are brought to the temples to be blessed and at this factory there was an armoir with several buddhas inside. at the end of the tour our guide showed us how the good stuff was made (much slower and with less pressure) and then offered us a taste. a special treat just for us!

barrel o' fermenting sake

getting the good stuff

barrels o' sake waiting to be consumed!

usually the wish club tours include more than two people but we came on a slow weekend. mochan made up for the lack of other travellers by inviting some people from shimizu to dinner. if you look closely at the photo below you can see that one of the tables has a blanket below it. most homes in japan do not have central heating even though temperatures can dip below zero. the use of shoji screens, gas heaters and a kotatsu (a table with a heat source and blanket below) keep the main living space warm and cozy. one of the girls demonstrated how at home she would lie beneath the table with only her head and shoulders sticking out of the blanket while she watched tv. we also learned that when pouring a drink for someone you should say "may, may, may" (more, more, more) and that the receiver then says "ote, ote, ote" (stop, stop, stop).

wish club dinner guests

we had a great weekend exploring the shimizu/shizouka area but once again we were left wanting more.




Emms said...

that picture of mnt fuji is amazing! gorgeous! it looks...like a photoshoped scene!

gayle said...

Wow!! What an experience for you two with your cs host. Your pics, as usual, are wonderful. Miss you Love you