After making it through the long traffic of Golden Week, we finally arrived at Nihonmatsu where we will spend the next two nights“.

Located on top of a hill amongst rice paddies and orchards, we could make out the dark and tall pine trees that surrounded the house. Shinobu-san came to meet us at the entrance. As soon as we stepped inside, we were greeted by fairy lights and music box songs to the tunes from Studio Ghibli’s popular anime movies. There was an irori fireplace at the entrance and behind it was a study area with books and CDs. To the left was the dining room and to the right, the kitchen. We joined a Japanese family for Shinobu-san’s home cooked dinner. Everyday he would make us delicious hearty breakfasts and dinners with locally sourced ingredients. 

Full course healthy breakfast!

The house was a spacious, renovated traditional Japanese home with tatami mats and sliding paper doors. The more I looked around, the more I could see that Shinobu-san really put a lot of care and effort in decorating and giving life to his house. An origami dragon hung above the mantle piece corner surrounded by floating woven wooden balls while behind me was a table of booklets, small house plants and cartoon figurines. In fact I would later come to discover that every corner of the house was lovingly touched with Shinobu-san’s decorations. 

When talking about Japanese houses, you can’t miss out on slippers, the quintessential elements of Japanese homes. To walk around the corridors in a house you put on a pair of slippers and take them off each time you enter a room. Bathrooms on the other hand have their own specific pair of slippers. If you don’t find slippers that fit you (in my case most are too big), walking through a squeaky wooden corridor or going up some flights of stairs without trying to disturb other sleeping guests was a bit difficult. It’s even more awkward when you are in a hurry to reach the bathroom that’s located on the opposite side of the house. Rushing through the corridor in oversized slippers, taking them off, passing through another room, putting on another pair of slippers and rushing past another room and kitchen, only to be greeted with bathroom slippers was all quite a task. I often end up forgetting to take off the slippers when going into a room.

During the evenings, the house got quite cold. Conveniently, Shinobu-san had some wool socks for sale. A friend of his owns an alpaca wool clothing brand, with wool sourced from alpacas in Peru. The socks did their job and kept me warm throughout the rest of the trip and I’ll definitely take them on a future trip to cold places! (they do have a lot of nice stuff if you want to check them out:

Our bedroom on the second floor of the house.
On the second day, Shinobu-san’s friend Midori-san joined us at the house. Her cooking skills were on par with his. If they ever own a café together they would definitely have a lot of customers who can’t get enough of their cooking.

Shinobu-san’s house had an air of a Studio Ghibli movie. Maybe it’s the décor or the personality of the house. Whatever it is, it felt magical and welcoming. During our stay we spent a lot of time chatting to Shinobu-san and his visiting friend Midori-san about many things. They were both genuine and kind people. This is what I love about travelling, you get to meet so many interesting people along the way.

Evening Walk in Izumi

Not far from Satoshi-san’s house there was a small golf course and behind it was Matsu river. By late afternoon there was hardly anyone outside and it was so quiet. On the golf course there was a sign indicating the radioactive measurement, a safe and normal level for Japan.

We followed a narrow path next to the river and came across some trees with white flowers. Those were sakura trees! Although most of the flowers had fallen off, we were still excited to see them. We didn’t come on this trip to see sakura flowers, much less expected that we would even catch a glimpse of sakura flowers because it was quite late during the season.

On the other side of the riverbank, we noticed a few sakura trees with some flowers on the branches. So we proceeded to cross the bridge to get closer to those trees. Then we realised that the path was actually lined with sakura trees. It must be so stunning to walk on this path when they are in full bloom. Standing around, we noticed a big tree next to what seemed like an abandoned building. Unlike others, itstill had a lot of flowers left on its wide reaching branches. This graceful tree was the start of our proper encounter with a sakura tree.