Hillside shrines disappear from sight as I ride the rails onwards to the old capital of Japan: Kyoto.
A woman in uniform brushes past as she strides up the aisle alongside my seat. At the doorway to the next car she halts, pivots, and closes her eyes as she makes a deep bow to all of us on the train car she is passing through. It is a moment of formal acknowledgement before moving on to what’s next; a pause amidst duty, both of which are executed with focus and grace. She is part of the train staff, of whom all do this each and every time they move between cars.
Bowing is a deep part of the culture of Japan, one which I do not pretend to have anything but a crude understanding of. Mostly, I emulate - watchful and following others’ leads. The image of a smiling soba chef comes to mind, who met my eyes as I turned to bow when exiting his quiet countryside restaurant in Magome. The action feels like an unspoken: Thank you being here and doing that which you do.
I like that.
Looking out the window, I’m eager to move on to Kyoto. It’s a city I know little of but I have a good feeling about it, especially after 12 days of moving through rural Japan. The contrast, I hope, will prove to be a window of its own through which to see and appreciate both extremes.