Today we met Yuki and she took us to Inuyama Festival. I’ve known Yuki for about 25 years and she’s been to visit us in England many times but I never thought I’d get the chance to see her in Japan. She met us off the train and took us to the restaurant she had booked for lunch. She had told us it had a British appearance on the outside but I never dreamed we would be eating risotto on the top deck of a genuine London double decker bus, listening to the Beatles. Quite a surreal experience.
After lunch Yuki drove us to Inuyama to see the annual festival. Unfortunately, it rained pretty much non stop all day but we still felt very lucky to have arrived at this time of year to see the wonderful cherry blossom and the festival, which is part of the community life and has been carried out for centuries. There are several huge shrine-like towers on wheels, which normally process through the streets to the shrine. This was rained off today but we were still able to see the towers, the streets full of stalls selling street food and to visit a traditional house that was built hundreds of years ago.
The house was heavily influenced by Sen No Rikyu, by coincidence the master of tea ceremony whose grave we had visited with Fumiki in Sakai. This provided a nice piece of continuity and a bit more information about the influential founder of a tea ceremony style, known to all Japanese. He was a very important man in the 16th century, ordered to commit seppuku, ritual suicide, by his master. The house is a bit run down but includes a traditional tea ceremony room and a wonderfully atmospheric Japanese garden.
We then made our way to the castle, the oldest in Japan surrounded by cherry blossom, on the Kiso River. It was a beautiful setting with amazing views over the river and mountains beyond, encircled by clouds. Returning from the castle we saw the Shinto shrine, where a ceremony was going on to return the god after it had been taken out for the festival. We felt so lucky to have arrived at the right time to experience all of this and to have Yuki as our guide. It was really great to see her on her home territory and to catch up with news.