The first night in Japan. A strange night, I wake up a few times assuming that I had slept 20 hours and each time it had only been 2 hours. In the end I still came wonderfully rested out of my ‘bed.’ I had started with one extra-thin futon mattress on the wicker floor mats but quickly added another. I’m not Japanese, which is obvious. I made reservations for breakfast today. Set the alarm, since the Japanese believe in “early to bed and early to rise.” The breakfast is at 6:00 but for me they have one made for 7:00. For this one time, they mentioned. When I arrive there is a sign with my name on the table. A woman brings a wooden box with all of the food in it. Unlimited white rice and Miso soup. I need to readjust and my stomach still feels a little strange from the trip but I dig in. There is also baked fish, vegetables and tea on the table. It tastes good. I leave the fish. That’s taking it just a bit too far. It is best to adjust gradually
Today I will explore Uji. I will go look at how the tea culture here is structured and look at temples, seeing as they are in abundance here. I exit my hotel with a camera and a map. All of the temples can be viewed for free or for a nominal fee. And all of them are very beautiful. The temples are made of wood and often they are already very old. You can leave a coin at the entrance and many people do that. Then you are allowed to pull on a large bell and then there is a sort of gong sound. People bow, take a photograph and leave. An efficient way to practice belief. Just like everything goes efficiently here. My first goal for today is to go to a tea whisk cemetery. A tea whisk is a bamboo whisk that is used to whip Japanese matcha. People come here with a broken whisk, honor the statue that stands there and throw the old chasen in the hole. Haha. Ok. The man who stood there said that if you buy the less expensive Chinese whisks, you need to come here every week ;).
I walk further along the river. Everyone along the way bows politely. I do the same. There is a polite, kind atmosphere here. I take photos along the way. Literally, it doesn’t matter which way you turn, everything is picturesque and beautiful. Green everywhere, temples and lovely mountains. I cross the river and find a specialty coffee bar. What would that be? I’m only one day from home and when I see a Linea and a good coffee grinder I go crazy. Ha ha. They are playing good jazz music and I order a drip coffee. Delicious!
After the coffee I go to visit the biggest temple and for that I stroll through the small streets of Uji. They sell matcha tea-flavoured ice cream everywhere. I see a company that also sprinkles extra matcha over it and go for it. It tastes really delicious. I start to truly appreciate the typical matcha flavour. I am curious if people in the Netherlands can also enjoy it. It has a very hearty flavour. Sweet, as well, but that comes later. I will make an attempt to test this in the Netherlands. Since it is very delicious.
I buy a ticket and what I see is absolutely gorgeous. There are dozens of temple in this part of the city. Each one has its own design and beauty. People are calm and the sun is shining. A magical atmosphere. I walk to a temple when I see a queue. I walk toward it and see everyone standing there with pretty books. I wonder what they are doing and join the queue to see. I quickly discover that the people at this temple turn in their books to get a kind of souvenir by turning their books into a man with a brush and a pot of black ink. He makes a beautiful painting. In each book. I want one! I don’t have any idea what it is but I want one too. For 300 Yen he makes an amazing drawing for me. Still in awe of the man’s artistry, I walk further.
Twenty people at a time can visit the beautiful temple in the middle. Of course, everyone has their shoes off. People are very accustomed to that. I am not. I lose my balance the whole time because you are not allowed to stand with your shoes on the one place. Which is a nuisance. You do have long shoehorns so that they don’t need to bend down when they put their shoes back on. Even there I don’t have any real talent. The temple is gorgeous, and a Japanese guide tells a story for fifteen minutes that I cannot understand. This doesn’t matter, since I was staring the whole time at a huge gold sculpture that is inside. Immensely high and beautifully made. I can’t tear my eyes off it. I was so distracted that it scared me senseless when the gong rang. Haha. Wow. The rest of the people make a graceful bow while I recover from the shock. I walk at least another hour through the lovely garden. Nice to see that people who do gardening aren’t comparable to those in the Netherlands. Here it is a true art. The wear white gloves and very carefully prune all of the branches from the bushes. One at a time. And sometimes they step back to check if it is good. A true art. You can see that because everywhere you walk you see gorgeous trees and shrubs. I had gotten hungry and walk by a baker. They throw matcha into everything here and so I buy a matcha bun and pastery (go with the flow) and go to sit next to the river. Everyone is naturally sitting properly on a bench. I walk down the stairs and take my shoes off. I want to feel the water, but you cannot swim becaus of the current so I put my feet in the water. You hear the birds everywhere and can notice that this is a pleasant environment for animals. And you can imagine that good tea is grown here. You notice it in everything. Clear water in the river, green everywhere.