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.While my luggage was taken to my room, I sat in a small reading room by the entrance, a few coals glowing in a round brazier, mandarin oranges in a bowl, a stargazer lily and a painting by a local artist the only decoration.In a moment, I was escorted to my room by a woman in traditional garb, her feet moving noiselessly over the floor mats in tiny, rapid steps.My room was not so much a room as a collection of spaces: one large area to eat and sleep in (my futon would arrive later), another area with a low bureau and tall pivoting mirror and a few little drawers, and another area with a low writing table and a heating blanket called a kotatsu – basically a table you can bundle yourself up under and stay warm in while you write.There were a few flat pillows on the floor, a painting, and a single flower in an unadorned vase on a shelf.That was it.Sliding back one side of the room, I found myself looking out at a small garden, an orange tree, the mountains and valleys of Atami, and the ocean beyond.Every room at the inn had been ingeniously angled in such a way as to provide each visitor with a spectacular view – and yet maintain the illusion that one was completely alone, the only guest.I looked warily at the flat pillows on the floor.I knew what that meant.I’d be spending two days sitting exclusively on a hard mat floor, my long legs folded up beneath me.I was getting pretty good at contorting my six-foot-four-inch frame into correct Japanese dining position, my legs either tightly crossed or tucked under, knees in front.But getting up afterward was becoming tougher and noisier; the crunching and popping sounds of my forty-four-year-old legs reacquainting themselves with sensation after hours of numbness was not melodious to hear.Japan threatened to cripple me.A server opened one of the screens from the long foyer to my room and motioned for me to sit.Crunch! Pop! Snap!At the low lacquer table in the main space, she gave me a hot towel, followed by green tea and a candied fig.She left for a while, reappearing later with a neatly folded stack of clothing.To my discomfort, she stayed to show me how, once I’d bathed, I should dress.A long gray-patterned yukata with billowing arms, a belt – which took many attempts for me to master tying and knotting correctly – an outer jacket, from which my arms protruded ludicrously, and little two-toed white socks, which on my size-twelve feet looked like particularly unflattering Mary Janes.Left alone to bathe, I pondered my environment.I stared out the window, all thoughts of the outside world quickly banished.There was nothing in my room, just that single flower, the paper walls, the wide expanse of floor.In no time, I felt my metabolism shift, my whole system undergoing some kind of temporary metamorphosis from neurotic, hyperactive, short attention-spanned New Yorker to a character in a Kurosawa samurai flick.The surroundings were identical.I felt I could sit there forever in my yukata motionless, doing nothing more involved than contemplating an orange.There were two parts to the bathroom.The toilet, a typically Japanese device overloaded with gadgets, was in one room.It looked like a regular toilet that had been tricked out by a bunch of speed-freak aerospace engineers.From the array of multicolored buttons, plastic tubes, non-English instructions and diagrams, I gathered that the thing could clean and sterilize itself after each use; spinning and washing the seat, it could direct various widths and pressures of warm-water jet at your rectum – a feature that might cause my old sous-chef, Steven, never to leave; it could wash, sanitize, powder, and emoliate every recess of your nether regions; and it could probably play a medley of popular show tunes while doing it.I was afraid to flush the damn thing.The other part of the room was more in keeping with my idea of superior plumbing.A deep oblong cedar tub sat against one wall, next to an open window, from which one could gaze out at the mountaintops without being seen, along with an adjacent area in which to wash oneself prior to soaking in the tub.There were a small wooden stool, a scrub brush, a wooden bucket, and a high-powered-spray shower attachment.The idea was to squat on the wooden stool, soap up, scrub oneself down with the hard-bristle brush, pausing to rinse now and again with buckets of hot or cold water, as one liked, then shower.The whole floor, tiled in black granite, tilted conveniently into recessed troughs and drains.After one’s outer layers of skin had been scrubbed off, one slid gratefully into the waiting tub, soaking for a long, long time, the window open just enough for a cooling breeze, a view of ripe oranges dropping from the trees in the outer garden.After a bath, I nervously dressed myself in my yukata, socks, jacket, and belt, hoping to God that Steven – or worse, my cooks – would never see footage of this event.The yukata was long, ankle-length – and tight, constricting the legs like a long skirt, so I had to take short, quick steps.With the addition of the clunky, ill-fitting sandals one wore while moving from room to room, I felt like I was sashaying down a runway in an evening gown as I tottered off to the larger area of the room, which had been prepared for my dinner.I would be dining alone at the long black table.By alone, I mean that I would be the only one eating.I would be attended to by two traditionally garbed geishas, who would assist me with my table tactics and food and drink service and provide musical entertainment.Mr Komatsu, the ryokan’s manager, in tie and tails, knelt in front of me at a respectful distance, observing and stage-managing the event.A server ran food from the kitchen, opening a screen and dropping to her knees with each course before sliding it across the floor to the geishas.I managed to seat myself appropriately behind the low table, without exposing any crotch, and washed my hands with a steaming towel.A handwritten menu with a personalized watercolor of a flower on rice paper (caligraphy and art by the chef) described in Japanese what I’d be eating [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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