Welcome to Tachibana-san’s lovely garden home in Kyoto, Japan! She opened her doors to me when I was just 18 years old, inviting me to stay with her and her cat Shima-chan. She gently pushed me when I was prone to getting lost, helping me come up with strategy for returning home. I learned to explore the city alone on a bicycle with a small map in hand, making friends with monks and solitary travelers along the way.
After all these years, it was wonderful to be able to return to the place I once called home. I arrived from Kobe by evening, walking past the garden in the shadows. The next morning I woke up in the second floor bedroom, laid my feet on the warm tatami mat, and peered out the windows onto the mountains. I walked downstairs for breakfast and tea, and watched Shima-chan nap by the windows. We packed our cameras, put on walking shoes, and headed out for a stroll around the neighborhood.
“Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, at the moon only when it is cloudless? The moon that appears close to dawn after we have long waited for it moves us more profoundly than the full moon shining cloudless over a thousand leagues. And how incomparably lovely is the moon, almost greenish in its light, when seen through the tops of the cedars deep in the mountains, or when it hides for a moment behind clustering clouds during a sudden shower! The sparkle on hickory or white-oak leaves seemingly wet with moonlight strikes one to the heart. One suddenly misses the capital, longing for a friend who could share the moment.” – An excerpt from Essays in Idleness by Kenkō
That summer must have stirred something within Tachibana-san, too. I was astonished to find out she had started studying Korean history and language. We were able to make a small conversation in Korean while looking for a teashop in Gion. She remains just as adventurous as ever, chatting about her travels and an upcoming trip to a tiny island community.
I hope to see her again soon, perhaps here in California!