Kurashiki was a place I’d never expected to go to. After Hagi, I needed a place to break my journey on the way to Nagoya and then on to Seto because if not it would have been about 5 hours on the train altogether. I had decided to stay one night in Okayama which was along the midpoint of the journey and was all prepared to simply spend the afternoon strolling around the famous Kenroku-en Garden. On my way over though, T-Sensei enthusiastically recommended going to Kurashiki instead for a day trip because there were many more interesting shops selling tea/equipment there compared to Okayama.
So… off I went to Kurashiki for the afternoon after dropping off my suitcase and checking in to an unexpectedly dodgy business hotel (mainly catered to salarymen since unfortunately the first floor public bath was for men only!). It was a quick half an hour or so away by train and without having done any research at all on the place, all I had were the Googlemap locations of a few tea shops that T-Sensei had remembered from his trip 2 years ago.
Boy, was it a hot day. There is something about hot weather that kills me/my mood slowly. After a couple of aimless attempts at checking out tea equipment and balking at the prices, I decided enough was enough, and settled for a much needed ice green tea drink at a cafe that was also run by a tea shop. I realized something on this trip, which is that things will come into your life when the time is right. There were many recommendations from T-Sensei as to what sort of Tana I could try to look out for for him, or trays/Cha-ire (tea caddy)/Shifuku (silk cloth for the tea caddies) that I would be able to get at far reasonable prices compared to Ebay… and perhaps because of those ideas I ended up feeling a tinge of pressure every time I went into a tea equipment store, looked at the prices and felt that I simply couldn’t pay XXX amount for that item. I wasn’t sure if it was worth the money or if I could possibly find a better item at another second hand shop. After a few rounds of feeling that sort of background anxiety, I realized that I was only making myself miserable by trying to look for things that I wasn’t ready for. I’d only begun learning Tea about 6 months before… there were so many items that I’d seen at T-Sensei’s house or the museum and could definitely buy while in Japan but they didn’t strike me as things I absolutely needed right that moment for my journey in Tea. It took awhile to realize that but once I did, it felt as if a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I wasn’t going to feel guilty for not recognising the worth of an item or for not purchasing something I knew would be difficult to find back in Berlin/on Ebay…because it didn’t make sense for me to get things that I didn’t know the full utility of. And that’s something that I realised also applied for pretty much anything I was learning. It’s always so tempting to want to get all the required equipment or equipment that perhaps you don’t need now but expect yourself to need in the future. In the end, when the time is right, you will find a way to search for what you need. And if you do find it despite it being more difficult, it will always be more special, more worthwhile.
Back to Kurashiki.
One thing that struck me was that it reminded me a lot of a version of Venice. 😉 An Asian version perhaps with more verdant surroundings and quieter, less crowded streets. Had the weather not been so hot and muggy, it would have been a really lovely walk down the canal in the historic district.
I walked along alleyways in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter and really enjoyed the pretty buildings with their tiled awnings and traditional facades. Plus, there was the added benefit of getting some shade from the sun walking along those really high walls, some of which apparently date back to the Edo period.
Probably my favorite part of all, was walking up to a temple nearby and enjoying the rays of the setting sun. There’s always something exceptionally beautiful about the golden light of the setting sun in Japan. Perhaps it has to do with their relatively cloudless blue skies… but the light that pours over the streets always has a quality to it that i yearn to capture on film always.
Definitely a place I would go back to to explore again.