As a guest near Shizuoka

Like most of the Japanese family homes, Kyoko’s lies around 30 minutes by train outside of the city center, Shizuoka in that case.

The guest room I’m invited to stay in is arranged in traditional Japanese style: minimal furniture, tatami on the floor and a futon to sleep on, a low table, sliding panes (though not in paper anymore) for doors, windows and wardrobes.

Kyoko’s mother has prepared a delicious sukiyaki for dinner.  The cooking pot soon boils a colorful festival of vegetables, and the thin beef slices we dip in. I’m taught how to dip ingredients in raw egg just before swallowing them.

Once satiated, we pop out for a drive on a hill to get a night view of the landscape, the small Kanaya town and, farther but brighter, Shizuoka.

Soon after, we’re back, it is bath time. By now I got used to shower sitting on a low stool, rinse myself with a bucket, share the water of the tub with others, and dry myself with my tiny bath towel.  Still, it is interesting to see how something as functional as a bathroom can be so culturally influenced in its shape, organization, daily use, etc.

The next morning, I’m treated with a delicious Japanese breakfast: rice, miso soup, cooked scallops, sakura ebi (small shrimps, a Shizuoka specialty), rolled omelet, ham, tomatoes and some tsukemono (pickles).

Granted, as a guest I might suffer the bias of a slightly boosted welcome, yet I believe it is a peak of Japanese life easily missed if one travels merely as a tourist, or even as a busy expatriate worker. It shows how most of the Japanese people actually live daily in the high contrasts and extremes we first perceive when looking at Japan.