Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meeting Madame Michiko

So after 17 years I run into an old friend, on Christmas day,  at a new friend's house in Kyoto. It was a strange but wonderful surprise for both of us, not having had any contact since her stint living in Australia. We quickly reconnected and eager to catch up on the goings on of almost 2 decades we arranged to meet at Aquariel, her gorgeous tea house in Nishijin. 

A qualified naturopath, Michiko now focuses on blending teas and herbal tisanes for both enjoyment and health  - well, that is when she's not performing healing baby massage. While the ground level of this refurbished (and importantly warm) Machiya offers a bouquet of dried herbs and flowers and exotic teas for brewing -plus essential oils and other natural beauty products, the top tier is a quiet and cosy area to take tea and light refreshments and escape the world for a while - or bring your wee one for some professional TLC of course!.       
After chatting and giggling over tea for a couple of hours, where she also produced 'those photos' ( as threatened on the Christmas Day post) we were rudely interrupted by a noise that sounded a little like a cross between a wounded cow and the echoey call of a Canadian Mountie's horn - neither of which was a likely source.   Michiko practically threw me through the Shoji in an effort to get outside. I had absolutely no idea what was going on but she seemed more excited than scared so I just went with it. The "mountain monks" were doing the rounds of the 'hood performing an annual New Year blessing for local homes and businesses. Although Michiko had heard the legend of the shell blowing, pom-pom wearing folk, it was her very first encounter with them and she enthusiastically beckoned them inside.
Ritual performed, Michiko glows with pride and perhaps something a little more mystical. Consequently we were a little late for dinner but what better excuse!!

Michiko was filmed a few days earlier by NHK for the popular 'Venetia's friends' programme which will air on the 6th and 8th of February 2011 for those in Japan. 

If you are visiting Kitano Tenmangu Shrine - exit through the east gate,  walk straight ahead about 20 metres and Aquariel is on your right.

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