The End of an Era

Day 10 – Sunday, 7 April 2024

Evolutions of Eevee
Sebastian walks on, or at least in, water

We are not done with Pokémon. Seb has seen, on the trains, advertisements for an exhibition leveraging the popularity of the little monsters to showcase the work of leading and emerging artisans in the traditional Japanese crafts, collectively called kogei, including textiles, lacquer work, you name it. It means quite a step out to the art museum at Sagawa, train and bus, but it turns out to be well worth it. The works themselves are of the highest quality and the museum is an architectural palette cleanser after so many curlicued temples and pagodas. I got my dose of austere minimalism and recovered slightly from temple saturation syndrome.

Over lunch at the museum, I get a message from my sister that our father, who a couple of weeks earlier had a bad fall, has gone into a decline, and she is not sure how long he’ll last. He has been failing slowly, and sometimes quickly, for some time now – years, truth be told. I text back that I don’t intend to cut short what I expect is the last major trip on which we have all four of my family together, to come home to a deathbed vigil that may last days, or even months or years.

The actual one is round the back

Then it’s the bus and train back to Kyoto, this time down the western side of the southern reach of Lake Biwa, completing a circumnavigation of that lobe of the lake. From there to another big item on Anna’s Kyoto wishlist, Kiyamizu-dera. However, it involves a bit of a slog up a crowded, sloping street in the southern bit of Gion, Kyoto’s picturesque, labyrinthine old quarter, and by the time we reach the temple complex we have finally worn out poor old Seb, whose parents have not been insisting on a reasonable bedtime. He’s done, and so Anna and Raf head into the famous site while Seb rests his head in his father’s lap on the stairs to the temple, and I try to encourage him to nap, gently brushing the hair from his forehead. Nap he does not, but much needed rest we both get, if only for twenty minutes, before Raf and Anna reappear to announce that this was the best temple of the lot. I search my fomo register, check my still pretty high saturation levels, think about my time with Seb on the steps, and decide that I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. Back we go, downhill this time – ice cream, bus to Kyoto station and back to Yamashina for a cultural must do while in Japan, karaoke, which by now all of us are pronouncing in something like the Japanese fashion. Hell, I don’t think Anna has corrected my pronunciation of anything in the last 36 hours, which means either that I’m getting pretty good or she’s just given up.

You come from nothing, you go back to nothing. What’ve you lost? Nothing!

Karaoke is a ball. With my still sore throat I croak through a couple of Abba and Pet Shop Boys numbers, Raf gives us Taylor Swift, Anna channels Regina Spektor and Seb doubles up on Monty Python. It’s just as he’s launching into his penultimate number, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, that the text comes through from my sister to tell me that my father has died. I decide in an instant that the boys don’t need to hear the news at precisely that moment and, swearing Anna to secrecy until tomorrow morning, pass the phone over to her to bring her up to date. Seb sings us out with a raucous rendition of Sit On My Face and Tell Me That You Love Me and, somehow, it all seems perfectly right. The wheel turns.


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