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Full Circle

Day 27: Sado Island

Michael Palin - Full CirclePausing only to change my lavatory slippers for my bathroom slippers I make my way into the washing area. I soap myself first then squat down on a three legged wooden stool, and rinse myself using a small bowl and a bucket of water. Only when every sud is banished from my body can I remove the stout wooden planks from the tub itself and settle myself in the very hot, very clear water of the o-furo.

There remains only the ceremony of the evening meal, taken robed and cross-legged. This consists merely of seafood with garlic, bream, tuna and squid sashimi, seaweed, cooked vegetables with bean curd, abalone steak in soy sauce, fried seabream with limes (served whole with head and tail curved artistically upwards) teriyaki of tuna stomach and rice pickles and bean paste.

Mama-san serves this in impeccable style and with almost religious ritual. So pleased am I to see the jug of hot sake arrive, that I make the dreadful faux pas of reaching for it myself. The sake goes flying and I am covered in confusion and rice wine. One of the last lessons I learn on this crash-course in Japanese etiquette is that a guest must never, ever, pour his own sake.

I can barely shuffle upstairs at the end of all this, but I reach my room with relief, pull aside the balcony door and refresh myself with great gulps of muggy night air. Soundlessly, Mama-san's daughter slips in behind me to lay out my futon and bean bag pillow for the night - and to remind me that I really shouldn't be wearing my upstairs slippers inside my bedroom.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 27
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Ogi
  • Book page no: 52

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