Our One day trip to Mount Mitake in Tokyo
The sake Brewery
After about 1H30 of train, Mari-san, Hiroko-san, Akim and me, we reached Okutama
area for our first visit of the day, the Sake Brewery.
Thanks to Hiroko, who is a great translator, we learned a lot about sake production. The quality of that
beverage depends of water’s purity, the kind of rice that is used and how many
parts are taken out of the rice seed. We also learned that drinking a reasonable
quantity of sake can prevent cancer, senility and mental illness. So after the
visit we decided to have a degustation to stay healthy. Akim and I were really
surprised about the taste. We expected something strong, but it is almost sweet
and smooth. We exchanged our cups to try every sake we asked for, and of
course, we didn’t forgot to drink some water !
Warmed up, we start walking on a very nice road, next to a river, to reach the
bus station. The sky was cloudy but it wasn’t enough to scare us. Young Japanese
people were having a break from kayaking in the other bank of the river. We
made a little stop in a restaurant to have some soba, (Japanese noodles in a
soup), hot ones for Akim and me, cold for Mari-san and some tempura for
Hiroko. Stomachs full, we took the bus and got to the cable-car station. Some
kids were waiting with us, probably coming back from school. They were making
sculptures with some kind of white paste. Because I always loved looking at
children’s art and creativity, I looked further and I wasn’t disappointed; it had a poopy
It was time to get into the cable-car. We sat in the front and observed the
ground drawing away, far away. We could see the village and the houses becoming
tiny and tiny. The trees were now just a big green shape and the dark clouds started to
release their water to the earth. Arrived at the top of the funicular, we
understood that the little white sculptures were from one of the station employees;
it was his birthday.
The kids laughed a lot before going home. We tried to imagine how
living in this beautiful mountain could be; going every day to school with the
cable-car, and specially, climbing that road every day! We realized that the cable-
car station is clearly not at the top of the mountain and we stop talking during
the hard wet walk to the Mitake Shrine. And then we breath.
After the inescapable picture with the red and golden shrine, Hiroko left her
old lucky charm in a special box. Mari-san explained us that you can change it
each year and leave the old one in a Shrine, or just keep the same, like her.
Each lucky charm can be owned for different purposes; prevent car accident,
good luck for exams, happiness, good money, or even to prevent from senility.
To continue the discovery of Shinto traditions, we asked for our fortune. We had to
shake a metal box, make a wish and take out a wooden stick through a little
hole. A number is written on the stick corresponding to a specific fortune. Once
you have read it, you can keep it or tie it at the shrine; to make it happen or to
forget it – like in my case.
Hiroko told us that this year is Yakudoshi for her, a bad luck year. She asked to
the Shinto priest to provide her a special ceremony to avoid that bad luck, and
Mari-san will join her to ask for good health and good business for this year. We
were really lucky today, the priest lets us come and look at the Shinto ceremony.
We first waited in a big superb room in the Shrine with tatami, visible wooden framework, big windows, splendid paintings.
We talk for a while but then, we naturally stayed in silent. I tried to stop thinking and focus on the sound of the rain that I could also see through the window. It’s kind of an “out-of- time moment”.
Time to meet the priest. We went downstairs and arrived in a more beautiful room. All the
carpentry is red lacquered, there are sophisticated sculptures. We sat and waited
for the priest. He appeared from a hidden little door. The ceremony started with the
impressive sound of the gong ringing and resonating in all our body. The priest
was very well dressed, with a long refined purple dress and a giant hat. He chanted
in Japanese. With Akim, we couldn’t understand because we are still not really
fluent, but it didn’t matter, his voice went directly to our hearts. He invited us to
come on the stage and offer to God a plant called Tamagushi. The
ceremony ended with another loud gong. We left the shrine and the mountain,
full of gratitude for the priest, Hiroko-san and Mari-san. Not many strangers
have, once, the luck to see that kind of private ceremony.
Waiting for the cable car, we bought some chocolate and smoked cheese we’ll
share it on our way to the ground, seated in the flying car. We were really wet and
cold, the night was coming. We really appreciate Mari-san’s suggestion to go to
an Onsen, a traditional Japanese hot spring. Of course, for two French people
like us, going to a bath, naked, is not in our habits, especially with our boss! But
the attract of the hot water was stronger and we really didn’t regretted it. Thanks to
the water, our all body was warmed and relaxed, we could easily join the outside
bath, naked. Akim was alone in the men’s side, but he was well taught by a kind
old men who showed him how to proceed. We met one hour later to have tea
in the restaurant even if it close in few minutes. It’s time to go back to Tokyo. On
our way to the train station, we stopped in a tiny typical restaurant own by a 96 year
old women. She had almost all her teeth and had a lot a energy. She made us
try hot sake and served us a really good meal with miso, fish cake and
vegetables. It was the perfect place to end that beautiful rainy day, full of emotions
Back to Tokyo, back to reality; or almost. Our train was delayed because of a deer
walking on the train rails.