At a silent restaurant
Finally we arrived at the station of Yoro Ravine, checked from the map, we thought the restaurants and the hot springs were all reachable on foot. But it turned out we are better to use the bus instead of walking, not only because the distance is farther than we thought, but also the road is very narrow, it will be a little dangerous to walk on the road because vehicles will also pass. Too hungry to walk another 1km or get on a bus, we chose to eat at the only restaurant in front of the station.
It is an old restaurant which has several decades of history, mainly famous for the Sansai (a kind of edible wild plants) Soba. Opened the door and stepped into the restaurant, we suddenly found the atmosphere was very “special”… Nobody spoke to each other even though they seemed like families eating together, the customers were just eating or waiting quietly for their dishes. Deep inside the kitchen, there was a man in his 70s (looks like) making the dishes in silence as well.
My friends and I were confused because no staff came to us for order even though we stood there for a while, it was just…silence and that was all. We looked around and found no vending machine for orders either. We felt so nervous that we left the restaurant in silence too.
“What was that?” my friends said in astonishment when we came to the outside of the restaurant. I had the same question because it seems like we accidentally pushed the mute button of the world by opening the door of the restaurant.
Can’t imagine ourselves eating in that atmosphere, so we tried to call other restaurants to order a seat. Unfortunately it was almost the end of year and all of them were off on holiday already. “So…we go back to the super quiet restaurant?”my friend suggested. You have to compromise sometimes if you are having an empty stomach.
Again we went into the “silent world”, still in the same situation with the man cooking the Soba in the depths of the kitchen. “Sorry…how can we order or do you have a menu?” my friend asked across the counter to the kitchen side. Finally the chef replied but in a quite fast tone, all of our Japanese level couldn’t help us in understanding except the final phrases which sounded like “Please don’t speak!”
Whoa…that was the peak of nervousness when you were in the situation of having to ask a question but said to close your mouth. Luckily, I have a brave friend. She asked again:”I am so sorry but I didn’t catch you just now, would you let me know how we can order?” “Please don’t speak due to the covid-19 situation! ! Just have a seat and I will go there to ask you!” Thank God or thank all my Japanese teachers, I can’t imagine if we failed in catching the Japanese a second time.
We went to the only one table outside the door so that we could speak a little. Settling down and I finally found there was a very small notice on the left side of the door :”please don’t speak loudly due to the pandemic situation”.
After waiting for a while, the chef came to us, served us a very nice set of tea pots and made the tea for us at the table. He said while serving the tea : “won’t outside be cold? ”“No problem, quite nice sunshine here.” I said. And then he brought three pieces of bread, said :”this is free for you”, and left. It reminded me of my childhood days. My mother always bought some gifts after she heavily scolded me for something.
Finished the Soba we ordered, we finally became full. Talking with my friends about this special experience, and then the silent customers who ate inside the house came outside and found us on the tables.
“Special times you know, don’t feel bad about that.” They talked with us very kindly and I could feel they wanted to comfort us for the previous situation. “Yes, understood!” My friends and I smiled and said goodbye to them.
When we were about to leave, the chef came to us and asked about the destination we were heading to and even gave us some
recommendations about the spots. Quite a gap from the same person who kind of “shouted” at us not to speak.
I think this was a very special case living in the middle of a pandemic in Japan. In Tokyo, it is also said that it is better not to speak loudly in the restaurant but it is hard to control because there are so many people. But coming to local places, the rule will be more strict and people are more sensitive. Living in Tokyo for a long time, I could say this was a very good lesson and a good experience of “culture shock (between the city and the local)”. Afterall, the chef was so kind to give the extras, the guidance and the Soba was also very good!
The Sansai Soba.
Take a walk along the street
After lunch, we took the local bus to the center of hot springs street. But we found that all of the hot spring hotels stopped the service except for the customers who will have a stay. Even the footbath hot spring.
But we were also very happy to have a casual walk along the street. As it was close to the end of the year, there was almost nobody on the street, it was like the whole street road was reserved for us.
Puente de Kannon (the bridge of Kannon). This was the spot the chef recommended to us! Passed the bridge, you could find upstairs to the Rikkoku Temple (立國寺).
It was very mysterious that you could find plates with sayings of Buddhism on it along the steps up to the temple. The meaning is close to “Greed, anger and complaint will make your heart like hell, only the grateful mind will bring you happiness.” Thank you, I will keep this in mind.
Leaving the temple, we headed for another spot called “The two-story “Mukaiyama Tunnel”.
The wind was very strong that day, walking in the space felt like you were walking in a time machine or walking inside a huge avocado. My friend said the avocado one was more suitable because we haven’t taken a time machine before (sounded like she had walked in an avocado before…). Also, the shape of the exit looked like a green calabash. In my country, there was a story of a Chan Buddhist monk called JiGong. He always walked with a calabash to bring his drink (actually wine, long story to explain why a monk drinks wine though) and this somehow reminded me of that calabash.
Art works after sunset
Time passed, after we walked here and there the sunset was approaching. When we arrived at the station of Yoro Ravine, it was already a little dark and the moon and stars art works decorated the road very well as below:
We took the normal train on the way back instead of the sightseeing train (too cold with no windows in the evening.). Again we passed the station of Kazusa-Murakami, Mr.Murakami was still sitting there, or he had traveled to the moon already and just got back?
That was my very small day trip to the depth of Yoro Varine with the local trains. Definitely when the Nanohana season comes I will come to visit again!