japanesesong

Mashiko

僕の育った街・千葉から益子、那須へ車でドライブ。お盆期間だったので道は渋滞。
千葉からまず那須へ行き、益子に泊まり千葉へ戻る予定だったけど、渋滞で車が動かず、益子、那須の順に予定を変更。
日本のお盆はどこへ行っても混んでいる。

益子はその名前の焼き物があるとおり、陶器で有名な町。町のいたるところで、陶器の店と釜を見つけることができる。
その中でも異彩をはなっているのが有名な店・スターネット。有機野菜やリネン、陶器を扱う店に並列してカフェもある。ここを目的にこの町へ来る人も多いぐらい有名な店。
ショプとカフェの反対側の坂を登ると、そこには夜から営業するレストランがある。レストランは要予約なので、今回は入ることはできなかった。
似たような店はあまりなく、夕方5時頃には閉まってしまう店が多くて、びっくりした。レストランを探していると、小さなアンティークストアを見つけた。車を止め、中に入ると小物から家具まであり、店に入りきらない家具たちは外に並べられていた。扱っている物はほとんどが国内のものが多く、学校や医療、個人宅で使われていたものやどが多かった。値段も都心部に比べて安い。小さな椅子やラックなど色々欲しいものはあったけど、持って帰れないのであきらめる。
店でいくつか小物を購入した後、車に戻り引き続きレストランを探すも閉まっている所が多く探すことができなかった。残念なことにコンビニで夕飯を買い宿泊先のペンションへ。森のガーデン・益子という一軒家の可愛らしいペンション。ナビでも少しわかりにくところにあり、たどり着くまで少し時間がかかった。部屋はわりと広めで、離れにあるお風呂がペンションにしては大きく、バスタブも数人入っても十分な広さ。ペンションは名前の通り森ではないけど、茂みの中にあるので、夜は明かりに虫が集まってくる。Davidは虫はが苦手らしく、小さな虫にも怖がっていた。
翌朝、早めにペンションを出て、那須へ向かう。ペンションの人から、空いている道を教えてもらった。高速道路は使わず、国道をひたすらまっすぐ北西に向かって行く。今回那須へ行く目的はひとつ、黒磯にあるSHOZO Cafeへ行くこと。今のカフェスタイルの原点とも言われている場所。開店前に着くと、すでにお店の開店を待つ人がちらほら。2階にあるカフェに入るとダークブラウンで統一された店内にコーヒーの香りが漂っていた。コーヒーとスコーンを食べてゆっくり。お店を出る頃、外には入店を待つ客でいっぱいだった。カフェの他にも雑貨屋、洋服屋がある。洋服屋には以前職場で一緒だった同僚が働いている。服やの隣には音楽室があり、そこでイベントが行われているらしい。普段はもちろんイベント時にしか入れないのだが、幸運なことにはいらせてもらった。中は名前の通り学校の音楽室を思い出せる内装で、カラフルで種類の違う椅子が並べられており、とてもかわいらしい場所だった。
ここで働く彼女は、東京で働いていた時よりも元気そうだった。
お昼が過ぎた頃、那須を離れ千葉に向かって車を走らせた。そしてまた渋滞にはまる。車の運転は慣れていないので、渋滞がこんなにもしんどいとは思ってもみなかった。車がマニュアルでないことが唯一の救い。

千葉に戻り、Davidに僕が通った小学校を案内した。当時と変わらない姿の小学校。当時に比べ子供は減ってきているものの、学校へ行くまでの通りも変わらない姿でそこにある。
子供の頃、父親の転勤で東北で数年間過ごしていたせいか、そこは故郷でもあるけど、そこにいつか戻りたいという思いは不思議とない。たまに戻って、ゆっくり何も考えないで過ごす、これぐらいの方が僕にはちょうどいい。

It had been a few months since our last visit to Koichi’s hometown. This time, our trip was during the Japanese Buddhist celebration called Obon – a time when Japanese people pay respect to the spirits of their ancestors.
During our stay at his parents home, him and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood one evening. We walked the route he did as a little school boy twenty years ago, through parks and vegetable gardens and a maze of winding streets. We reached his old elementary school and as I stood there looking through the front gate, I could imagine him at the end of the day, running out with his little black randoseru (backpack) on his back.

The next day, we continued our journey. We drove about ninety kilometres north of Tokyo, where there lies an incredibly small town called Mashiko. This little place is famous for ceramics called Mashiko-yaki which has a history that dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Over the years, the number of potters in the area has increased and the town now hosts ceramic festivals every spring and autumn, which apparently attracts thousands and thousands of people. Sadly, the massive earthquake that hit the Tohoku region on 11 March 2011, crushed and destroyed many of the ancient kilns and world-famous ceramics with an estimated cost of damage at 770 million Yen. However, with the help of donors and volunteers, kilns were rebuilt, museums restored and shops reopened. One of the shops we made our way to when we first arrived, was the gorgeous Starnet – a shop, gallery, and cafe housed in an old, renovated farm building. There was a large selection of earthy coloured ceramics with rustic glazes. Koichi and I both bought a special pair of cups which have become our favourite cups to drink our morning coffee from. Actually, whatever we drink out of those cups, just seems to taste so much better.

That same day, while searching for a place to have an early dinner, we discovered Uchimachi – a secondhand store. Suddenly my hunger contractions disappeared. I was in heaven. There were plenty of incredibly beautiful pieces of furniture I wish we could have taken with us, but for the time being, I found a few smaller, special items, including some rusty enamel spoons and an old mirror. It was only when I put the old mirror in the back seat of the car, did Koichi tell me how creepy he thought it really was and how the thought of the person who it once belonged to would look into it everyday – sent shivers down his spine.

A few minutes drive from the centre of Mashiko, we made our way to the bed and breakfast we would stay at for the night. Mori no garden is a lovely wooden cabin in the middle of a small forest. It was late at night when we arrived. There, in the middle of nowhere, the stars do not have to compete with city lights. The sound of the city was replaced with those from nature. Specifically frogs. Big frogs. Terrifying, actually.

We decided to take a bath before jumping into our futons. The bath was in a small room outside. Among the frogs. The 10 metre dash was worth it though. Inside was a large bath made of Japanese hinoki wood. The steam and hot water released an amazing scent from the wood, and it was the perfect place to relax. But the sound of those frogs…

The next morning we woke up early. During breakfast there was an earthquake. The house rattled and shook and from the breakfast table I could see the trees outside swaying like bamboo in the wind.

We left Mashiko and drove further north through Tochigi Prefecture towards Nasu. It was my second time to visit this small town and I was looking forward to stopping at Shozo Cafe with Koichi. Situated on one of the main roads in Nasu, Shozo is super popular and there is always a line of people waiting to be seated. The coffee is divine. The scones are divine. The atmosphere – divine! Even the little gallery space and shop on the ground floor – yes – it was all divine.

Mashiko

Antique, Mashiko

Antique, Mashiko

Trip information

Comments

    • Kalle, I was doing some research recently and discovered you can get a custom-made hinoki wood bathtub made and sent to you…

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