Several years ago, I pulled the covers over my shoulders in a rented yet hip apartment in a gorgeous and architecturally relevant district in Rome. A fine wrap to the end of a satisfying day, a disguised American tourist, eating, drinking, and photo logging a clutch of sisters’ journey through Rome. Sure I would elude jet lag through the precise execution of Spouse’s strategies of staying awake all day and in the sun, I settled in bed.
Until the yelling in the kitchen drifted up through the open courtyard. Echoing off the stone walls, two people arguing sounded like a platoon of mess hall cooks. Followed by the incessant clanging of dishes and pots being washed and thrown haphazardly in to their places on metal shelves. For the next two hours. For the following 3 nights.
Fear not virtual tour goers- our tour will not involve nightmares such as this to ruin your valuable and hard-earned vacation money and time. Loud banging is not allowed at our last must see stop – the traditional Japanese ryokan.
Once our lodging was booked for Kyoto, I questioned Andretti-san, cultural guide, language sensei, and reckless driver further regarding specifics of the ryokan.
Ouiser: “Andretti-san, please explain the ryokan.”
Andretti-san: “The ryokan is a traditional Japanese boarding house. Very Japanese.”
Ouiser: “Very Japanese? What the Hell does that mean?”
A: “It has Main room for dining and sleeping, futons or low beds, sliding wooden doors between rooms, an onsen or deep tub, and meals are served family style in the main room.”
Speaking of, Ouiser-san, sometimes you forget to remove your shoes- very insulting! Like spitting on the floor.”
O: “That time was an accident! Spouse pushed me on to the mat.”
A: ” The traditional dinner- kaiseki- is served, with sashimi, a cooked fish or shrimp, a couple of vegetable dishes, Japanese pickles, rice, and soup. For you, I have made a special request of live baby octopus. Watch the suction cups on the way down. Hahahaha.”
O: ” Sounds delicious -you’ve been so helpful I ordered you a special dish of puffer fish. I certainly hope the chef has the expertise to prepare it correctly lest you die from the poison.”
So after dinner, the nakai clears the dinner, sets up the futons which are stored in closets, and then Japanese people usually bathe….”
O: “We walk around town in a robe? With- like- only skivies on underneath?”
A: ” Yes. It’s hot outside- this keeps you cool. Tie the bow in the back or people will think you’re a prostitute.’
O: “I think most people already think that.”
A: ” Fold the yukata left side over right. You only fold the right over left for funerals.”
O: “I’m not going to remember that. I’m sure I’ll end up in a back alley retying. What’s for breakfast?”
A: “Traditional Japanese breakfast, fish, baked egg custard, green tea, miso soup, Japanese pickles, and tofu.”
A: “You can ask the owner ahead of time for something else.”
Ryokans are primarily located around mountains, rivers, and natural onsens or hot springs. Meals are included in the price and owners tend to be flexible if contacted ahead of time regarding food choices and meal times.
So ends our 5 Part Tour That Never Was. Keep your eyes open- you never know when the tour flag will again wave its ugly head for another page turning installment of….
THE VIRTUAL TOUR!