I have spent a couple of hours (it takes me along time to write anything!) jotting down thoughts about cycling around Mino. It's proved to be really important to my stay here. Cycling has opened the extent of the whole experience both inside my head and in the landscape within which I've been moving. Please excuse my mixture of present and past tenses and please excuse anything else you find fault in...just try and imagine yourself in this magical place.
Cycling every day now. Visited temple and shrine with cat again; it's reliably luxuriating amongst the vivid foliage. See kingfishers most days. See so many herons too. Enjoying the movement through the landscape. The wind passing my ears, I remove my hat to ensure I feel movement through space. Sunshine provides warmth in morning. See the same people too. People exercising, walking quickly, dressed from top to toe in black. Wearing protection from the sun. I always see one man, shakily trembling in his strides, fighting the onset of a condition that may render him immobile one day - for now, he's fighting it, punching his way along the river path.
There is colour in the hills, fire from the trees. Colour encircles the temples and shrines, it seems to have a holy purpose here - people, generally wear somber colours, black, beige, cream, navy etc. They're unified by the universal desire to be amongst, be part of, and not, in front of or separate from. Colour appears to be an expensive spiritual currency and of course, controlled by man. I pass people trimming leeks, people with wheel barrows overflowing with greenery. I pass people in the river, tending nets, (they've removed the nets now though, as it's cold). I cross a bridge, many cars are passing over it, rush hour, it always take a long time to move over this point. Dogs, 'guarding' their houses, bark at me as I pass, revealing my presence. I pass Persimmons hanging from balconies, from the eaves of houses, drying in the sun. I've watched their forms shrink, shrivel and their hue darken over time. Raddish, huge, long, white and bright in the sun are also hanging, drying in lines. At one point I travel through an area of old and densely arranged housing. I love shooting on through the narrow corridor streets. Convex mirrors are conveniently positioned at various bends, so I can look ahead, look around a corner, without reducing my momentum. It's great fun and the closeness of the buildings' walls, only intensifies and enhances the feeling of speed and exhilaration.
Bonfires neatly burn, housed in galvanised bins, they smoulder, filling the river plain with sweet, milky smoke. Plastic poly-tunnels are slowly filling with forms. Plants are beginning to emerge through black, bin bag, plastic. Order in nature, often planted by octogenarians. The elderly appear to be the most active, however crippled by their bent over physicality, they insist on moving; they continue to tend their world. They can't allow nature to get a foothold on their plot. The milk processing plant, near the river; it has fibreglass cows residing in the car park. Cows are unseen, they are hidden in sheds to ensure their aroma doesn't escape. Chickens too, are disguised in barns, shame, they produce such beautiful eggs with yolks, the colour of glowing apricots.
The river continues to assists my movement. It pushes me down the valley. Even cycling against the flow seems easier somehow. I'm compelled to witness something new amongst the cradling routine I've found in Mino. I pause occasionally to view the deeper pools of heavy bellied water. Fish sway through the streaming flow, they're held in limbo, being pressed into weightlessness by the passing currents; must be nice to be a fish.
As I return towards the centre of Mino, I pass numerous examples of manufacture. There are beautiful satin sheen fabrics on display in the window of the Futon Maker. Every now and then, a pile of rainbow patterned pillow beds appear, presumably waiting collection. I have seen numerous tatami floor mat factories, (I say factories, I mean open fronted houses). The slightly damp, straw-like, aroma is comforting, it reminds me of sleep. Tatami are always warm, there's an inert softness I love, the smell is also reminiscent of playing in barns as a child, being near livestock. I pass one small building every morning; the shed window is usually open. I see a man routinely standing in the same position. I can't see his hands, but the sound I hear gives away the purpose of his stance. He's sharpening knives (and possibly brand new knives made in, nearby Seki City). All day, everyday, putting an edge onto the blades of knives. I can smell the grind stone, the fumes are ejected from the building via extraction, the visual evidence of this, streaks its way down the exterior wall. At least he keeps his window open.
The studio is located in the historical centre of Mino City. The 'Udatsu' houses are distinct. They are terraced, covered with shiny, graphite coloured, tiles; these beautifully reflect sunshine and are pleasing sight when wet too, (a commiseration when the heavy Gifu rains fall.) Geometric wooden window frames punctuate the linear frontages and copper guttering is suspended from beneath the eaves. They are neat and their stature is admirable. The area attracts tourists and school parties from near and far. I often have to avert my head, (when cycling along the main street,) to avoid the gaze of elementary school children.
That's as far as I've got for now, hope it enlightened you a little as to why I've found this whole experience moving and life changing. Thanks for reading.