During that year of 1963-1964 I had the great grand fortune of living with the Itoh family. There were three children and I fit in between number two, Ryusuke and number three…..
…Masumi. She's a few years older in this photo of 1969 or so, and she is a few more years older now. But over those 50 years we have remained in touch, and have seen each other whenever our paths crossed…in Japan, in US, in France.
She now lives in Ito City, south of Tokyo, and we took a train, of course, to visit.
If one did not get something to eat or drink back at that platform store, not to worry, there is "seat-service" available.
Masumi and her husband Hiroshi picked us up and out we went to the hillsides above the city...
…to their house in a development around a pond, whose swan boats mourn the departure of summer visitors.
They live is a typical western style house, compact by our standards, but generous by Japanese.
Ito, and all of the Izu Peninsula, is famous for its seaside locations and hot springs. But changing tastes and tight family budgets have led to the decline of tourism. One victim of this is the Tokaikan Inn, built 1928, closed 1997.
A superb example of that exuberant inn architecture, the city had the foresight to buy it, restore it and use it as a museum, a restaurant, and event space.
The "tsubo" garden in the courtyard has an exuberant turtle rock island in the gravel "pond", and we know it is a pond because that particular three-legged stone lantern is always found by "water".
The central staircase leads...
…to the guest room corridors.
The rooms are in that restrained elegant style, with a narrow "engawa", with obligatory table and chairs, overlooking the river.
The small study area, adjacent to the "tokonoma" (a decorative niche) has Mt Fuji above Sugami Bay in its sliding shoji panels.
This one has a fishing net, above the tops of water edge plants.
After poking in all the corners and recesses of the inn, we had tea time in the restaurant, looking out on the garden.
The changing tastes and economic hard times have not only been hard on the inns, it has hit the city center shopping districts as well. A shopping arcade street like this was always the scene of many shoppers and pedestrians going in and out of the shops, or getting from one end of town to the other. But now people drive cars and seek stores with parking and larger selection of items.
This fruit and vegetable store has is products pushed out onto the empty walk, bold pricing to attract shoppers.
A pharmacy may not attract a mother, but maybe these guys will lure the children in.
A tea store (Shizuoka is famous for green tea) displays powered teas, loose tea, Way of Tea items, but young people more and more prefer coffees and Way of Video items.
We too succumb to the ease of a large super market with nearby parking, to get some groceries. We are familiar with self-service stores and check-out lanes, but taking ones items to a table and do your own bagging is new to Zhufeng and I.
After shopping Masumi introduces us to the latest in "come-come" sushi…in addition to the selections which come around on the conveyor belt, menu items can be ordered on the touch screen, and the dish zips out of the kitchen on "Bullet Train" cars along the track below the screen. The computerized system stops the train at the correct station, and the cost is added to your tab.
Some lodgings, preferred by Japan's 1%, are doing ok, take the Kanawa Hotel, also of 1928, and its golf courses.
Day guests were few when we visited, but a large contingent of M-B's and BMW's out front indicated there was a group activity going on somewhere…probably out on the links.
Of course we had tea time in its tea room.
We did not take up cue sticks in the billiards room, but paused to look at the glass wall.
And it was on to a hot springs for a dip. There are many…a sign promoted a tour of "100 Baths" on the Ito Plateau…and this lantern with its symbol for "hot springs" welcomed us to one.
Some featured mud treatment to improve one's skin condition.
But most come just to go in and out of inside and outside pools, seeking an agreeable temperature, or soft rock.
And when thoroughly cooked, top it off with a massage by mechanical fingers.