Yesterday will definately go down as one of the strangest/most memorable/ironic and funny of my trip to Niigata.

I was met at the Toyomi station by Kentaro Sato, a local sculptor in this very very small village in the mountains. He has set up an artist retreat and workshop in the summer and occasionally rents out rooms to the rare winter guest. This is my second visit to his place in the last 3 weeks as he seems to be the “guy to know” in these parts.  Each person we met in Toyomi, Mr. Sato would introduce as “… an so is one of the Village People”. It was fantastic. I always wondered what had happened to them, now I know…

Kentaro and Mikiko Sato.

My main objective, which he mastered for me by pulling alot of strings I suppose, was to make an  attempt at the impossible, namely bringing the big camera into an Onsen, one of the beautifull hot-spring baths found all over Japan. This is normally very tabu, but like I said, Kentaro seemed to have the right stuff. So, I spent about an hour, naked of course, making some pictures in the Onsen. All men as it is not co-ed, so it only took awhile for everyone to be comfortable.

So I thought my day complete and I was happy, and then I found out that Mr. Sato’s wife, Mikiko, has offered to perform a “tea ceremony” for me, something which is usually only done in private family circles; a real treat to get to be a part of this. It is a cermony which involves numerous gestures of washing bowls, spooning out tea, pouring water, turning the bowl in certain directions, passing it back and forth, bowing, washing it again and on and on. I messed up enough the first time that I got to do it again, which I didn’t mind.

and just when I thought it coldn’t get any better, I find out we are having the ever coveted “Head of Yellowtail” for dinner. I was only thrown for a minute, until I tasted the best fish of my life. I have now heard how rare it is. I can only recommend it if you find it on your local menu. No you don’t eat the eye. ( I watched in anticipation, happy to see nobody go for it)

You would think that would pretty much take the cake, but you would be wrong.

After dinner we retired to the living room, very comfortable, in the traditional Japanese style which I am very fond of and was looking forward to absorbing hours of local Japanese lore, hearing their stories of life in a small mountain village in the middle of Japan, maybe peruse their personal photo album and talk about the cultural differences which our two completely different lifestyles contain but instead the tv gets turned on and what should be on the entertainment list for tonight…..?

None other than “The Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews, dancing and singing her way through the hills of Salzburg. Go figure.

Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do