Let me say a bit about the location of Bryan’s house: It is perched on the hillside, amongst the greenery and monkeys (so they tell me, I have yet to see one) and encroaching trees. The nearest town is Fujino, with roughly 10,000 occupants, known for its artist community. Bryan’s house is about three miles from town but a million miles away in spirit.
From Fujino station, the road to the house follows the creek and winds around the mountainside. On the corner of each pavement turn sits a set of buildings–a house, maybe a garden shed, an open-sided building under which a car or two is parked. The nearby greenery feels sculpted and controlled. The road cuts into the hills, and patterned concrete walls line the roadside turns.
Once we turn from the main road–served by a bus a few times in the morning and evening for commuters–the road narrows into one lane, with occasional turnouts to create passing room when cars meet. Mirrors mounted high on poles let you know if other traffic is approaching on the blind turns.
We pass roadside signs, collections of buildings, abandoned sheds once used for traditional tasks like tea harvesting or making charcoal. (Many people in this area still grow tea, but Bryan explained that people abandon the practice once they can afford to buy tea. Farming your own is seen as backward and something to leave behind). The tea rows that do exist mark the hillsides around the houses. They form neat rows, with impossible paths worn into the vertical ground by the farmers who weed and tend them.
The truck rises with each back and forth. We drive by a small shrine fronted by a large wooden gate. We pass still more houses. Finally, we take a steep driveway with hairpin turns and are home. There is freshly-dyed fabric drying on the line, two indigo vats waiting to be used, and two dogs happy to see us.