November 10, 2013
The drive to Miyamasou is gorgeous. And harrowing. We twist our way up a misty mountain road, through fields, forests and Buddhist shrines. As we rise higher the road narrows to a single lane, and we drive more and more slowly, peering into the mirrors at the curves to try to see what's coming toward us.
The sounds: waterfalls, babbling brooks, wind in the trees. The leaves are changing, becoming deeper red as we climb higher into the hills.
And then we are at the ryokan. The quiet is intense. A man dabbles in a small stone pond, netting fish. The entire staff rushes out to greet us, ushering us into the small, spare inn. Shoes are removed, tea is brought, and suddenly the entire world as we have known it drops away. We are in another world, another time.
The bath is spare, soothing, with a view to the trees and the brook running across the rocks just outside. We wrap ourselves in robes, put on wooden sandals and make our way up the path to dinner.
There are seven of us, seated around the chef who stands in the middle, cooking. The food goes from his hands to ours. Each dish feels like a gift.
First flavor. (Note the lovely mioga.)
Ginko nuts in gingered miso, roasted in a leaf.
Shrimp, peanuts, ginko: and hidden away, deep in the back, a single bright red egg yolk.
There are many, many more courses. And then desert:
Persimmon. Grape sorbet. And a single, huge, glazed grape.
Across the road, to another bath, and big fluffy futons.
We wake to rain, which makes the ryokan even more otherworldly than the sunshine. A bath. And then what might be the world's best breakfast.
The trip down the mountain is even more harrowing in the rain. Half an hour down the road big trucks start rumbling toward us, and by the time we reach Kyoto, we're prepared for civilization. But it's nice to know that Miyamasou is up there on the mountain, waiting.
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