I have always been intrigued with Japan, its art, its theatre and its literature.  A fellow traveller I once met told me that after many journeys to Japan he had learned that it is not what is told in Japan that matters but what you can read between their lines.  Moku hanga, woodblock printing with water based inks that allows for transparency.  The medieval aesthetics of  transience in Noh theatre, “one chance, one meeting”.   The lightness of Kawabata’s Snow country and the darkness of Tanizaki’s The Key.  The first novel ever documented in Japan by Lady Murasaki The Tale of Genji which tells of the Edo Period.  Japan, a country’s people known for tradition and simplicity, a country’s people who have a name for viewing cherry blossoms at night—yozakura.

I arrive at the Tokyo airport from Bangkok tired of large cities and in much need of clean air.  I retrieve my backpack and sit down to look at my guide book to figure out how to get where.  Needless to say I landed in Japan with no plans but to wing it.   In a far right corner there begins a great deal of hoopla.  “Rain Man,” the dapper Japanese business man says who had just sat down next to me.  “Rain Man?” this added to my dilemma of where I was going.  “Yes, Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man.”

I stand up to see a tiny man in stacked black boots in a beige trench coat, a skinny blonde taller than he by about a head and a dark haired baby in a stroller between them.  Oh what the hell, could be him.  It was 1988 and I had been in Nepal, India and Thailand a long time.  I had been looking forward to Japan to change the pace.  The two things that concerned me most right now was where I was headed and the yen being 135JPY to $1.00USD.

“You are looking for somewhere to visit that is nice?”  Him again.  “Yes, quiet with temples maybe hot springs and walking trails.”  “Cherry blossoms?”  “Sure, why not.”  I figured that Cherry blossoms come with the territory in April.  “”Arashiyama.  Arashiyama.  Kyoto.”

The Japanese man says this with such conviction that it had to be true—Arashiyam, here I come.”  “How do I get there?” “Easy, take the bullet train to Kyoto then transfer to the Sagano or as it is called the Sanin Line.  From there you walk a short way to the town.  Someone will direct you from there.”  It was if I was predestined to arrive.  “And don’t forget yozakura.”

I arrive in the western outskirts of Kyoto or Arashiyama two hours later.  The town is small and in the mountains.  I walk over Togetsukyo Bridge or Moon crossing bridge, Arashiyama’s most iconic landmark built in the Heian Period around the year 800.  There are forests on the mountainside, a riverside park and dozens of cherry trees adjacent to the bridge.  Minutes later I come to Onsen Ryokan Togetsutei.  I quickly look it up in my guidebook. 

“Kyoto Arashiyama Onsen Ryokan Togetsutei-Syuzankaku offers Japanese-style rooms with private bathrooms and mountain views. Local breakfast and dinner are served. The hotel is situated alongside Katsura River and is a 5-minute walk from Togetu Bridge and Arashiyama Station. Iwatayama Monkey Park is a 10-minute walk, and Tenryuji Temple is a 10-minute train ride away. Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a 20-minute train ride.

Rooms at Onsen Ryokan Togetsutei-Syuzankaku feature tatami-mat flooring and traditional futon bedding. Some rooms come with a private outdoor hot spring bath.  Guests can relax with a massage, or make use of the sauna. Souvenirs are available at the gift shop.  Ryokan Togetsutei-Syuzankaku provides a safety deposit box and luggage storage area for its guests. It also provides free parking.”

Sounds good!  One night cost, dinner, breakfast, hot spring and room equivalent to $40.00USD.  I am tired.  A youngish woman in her late twenties dressed in a traditional cyan colored yukata takes me to a sliding glass door near my room.  Before entering I am instructed to remove my shoes.   I sit down on the bench and the woman returns with a pan of warm water and cloths and proceeds to wash my feet.  When done I may enter my room.   The room is spacious, simple with tatami mats covering the floor.  There is an indented area with a fouton for sleep.  Before me on a table is my yukata, in pale green.   Bathrooms are communal.  There is a porch with more sliding doors.  I open the doors but do not step out because my feet are pure.

Directly in front of me I see the moon’s smile light up a tree.  I look closer and witness tiny flowers pinkish white blooming from the branches.  Peace.  I am exactly where I need to be.  Yozakura—viewing cherry blossoms at night.