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  • Nigel W. Ruddock

Food of the Gods

Wednesday 水曜日 3rd April 2019


Cycling under the shadow of Fuji-san (Mount Fuji) can be quite cool in April, so imagine my delight at finding a restaurant serving up a warm bowl of Udon noodles with Tempura (fried vegetables in this case)


Udon noodles - thick wheat noodles swimming in a delicious broth and topped with scallions - Food of the Gods

I needed these noodles. I was pedalling around Lake Kawaguchiko on a rather small bicycle (saddle extended to maximum height) against the wind. But it was worth every minute. ........Steering my bike in from the windy lakeside road I could almost smell these noodles before I had stopped. I entered the restaurant. An elderly waiter greeted me with politeness and courtesy and explained that I first had to buy a ticket from a machine and present it to the kitchen in order to get some food. He was most encouraged to hear that I could speak some rudimentary Japanese, and asked where I was from, and yes, did I live in Japan? This was the second or third time I had been asked this. It seems that the Japanese do not expect foreigners to be able to speak any Japanese! I loved the decor - a sort of pastel affair,



and the chopsticks (Hashi 箸) were in a neat little box on the table. Oh how civilised. I like this country.


Outside, little cherry trees were for sale. Now that would be a tricky one at the airport security.



Further on along the road I passed some rather picturesque but sad boats in the reeds.......


a boating company gone bust?

Then I noticed the classic "Tori" - gates to a Shinto shrine on the edge of some woods. I parked the bike, locked it (patently unnecessary here, but habits die fast) and entered. Through the pine trees I could make out the huge outlines of a prayer hall .


Fuji Omuro Sengen Shrine

I reached the open space in front of the shrine, realising that I had entered through a back entrance.



It felt very serene and peaceful here. An avenue of trees framed Mount Fuji in the distance.



A cherry tree had blossomed in what was a obviously a venerated spot.



It seems that I had stumbled on an important site, and was eerily alone there. A word about this place. This was the Fuji Omuro Sengen Shrine. It is the oldest Mt. Fuji Shinto shrine on the shores of Lake Kawaguchi. It was patronised by the Takeda feudal family in the Sengoku Period. and enshrines the Mt. Fuji Shinto goddess Konohana Sakuya Hime (Princess Blossoms of the Trees - what a wonderful name !). This goddess is worshipped for good match-making, fertility, promoting easy childbirth, and protection from fire. Hmm, whether any of this would be helpful for me was open to debate. The Shinto ceremonies include "Reisai" on September 9, and "Hana-matsuri" 'flower festival) on April 25, where a 900 year-tradition "Yabusame" (the art of shooting arrows on horseback) is performed. Pity I would miss this! Japan if full of curious festivals - the knack is to know when and where they are!


Who is this? nobody could tell me.....

The prayer hall is very old and smells of cedar wood....







....catch the gods attention by ringing this bell.....

For pragmatic Europeans I am adding a map of the area......Well, the dark brown bit is Mount Fuji, and the lake above it is where I am cycling - Lake Kawaguchiko. Just don't ask me to translate

all this.....



Pedalling valiantly around the lake (it was 20 km) I was only occasionally met by cars (how do I manage this - I thought Japan was crowded!). Mount Fuji kept on disappearing. only to suddenly re-appear around a corner. Here are some pictures......
















Back near my hotel I tried to find a post office, but kept being distracted by the views....


The local train is of course, spotless and punctual....




...and the local station has some rather charming little chairs, which are fixed to the platform....



View from my hotel window....not bad!



I tried to practise my Katakana (The script used for western words) when waiting for the lift....


Crazy really . the Restaurant is written in Katakana, being a European word, but "Vendor Ice" is not. Actually "Vendor Ice" means a machine dispensing ices....yes, you've got it. But it's written in Kanji - which come from Chinese. Probably means that Ice Cream is a much older dessert than we think. Now just in case you are thinking that Japan is an endless series of mountainside vistas, cherry blossoms and beautiful women in Kimonos, let me show you a picture of a shop not far from my hotel.....


This is the Japan that doesn't fit the cliche, rather like a run down down housing estate on the outskirts of a iconic British cathedral town. The shop has closed down - for good.

Japan is a bizarre mixture. This must have a lot to do with its strange history. Its fast track somersault into western technology (which began in the 19th century) have left some over eager developments redundant (see a later post in this blog). The highly intricate system of social rules more or less remains in place, and thank heavens, a lot of the traditional culture has survived. I mean here the temples, the gardens, the No and Kabuki theatre, the food, the traditional music....and yes, even the Kimonos. Every woman has one or more in their cupboard at home.

The language is crazily complicated - some would say unnecessarily so. But it is, as in all countries, the key to unlocking the country.




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