Saint of Mt. Koya
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The snow continued without respite, only now there was no drizzle mixed with it, only dry, fluffy flakes brushed my face as we walked along. Though it was early in the evening, the streets of Tsuruga were deserted and the shops were closed and shuttered for the night. We crossed two or three broad intersections and continued for about eight blocks through streets that were rapidly piling deep with snow. When, at last, we came to a halt, we were standing in front of the inn called Katoriya.

Both the alcove and the sitting room of the old house were Spartan and devoid of decoration, but I could tell that the place was well built. The pillars and the beams were impressive, the mats were firm, and the hearth spacious. From the ceiling above the hearth hung a long, hooked rod of iron cast in the form of a carp. This was used to suspend pots over the fire, and the carp's scales glowed in the dim light making me wonder if they were perhaps made of gold. In the kitchen area were two enormous kettles, each capable of cooking a bushel of rice at a time.

The master of the inn had close-cropped hair in the manner of a priest and made a practice of keeping his hands withdrawn inside his hempen jacket. I noticed that he never brought his hands out even when sitting close to the fire. He was a phlegmatic and stubborn old man, but his wife was the cheerful sort who enjoyed doing things for people. When my companion the priest told the story about the carrots and dried gourd strips, she chuckled merrily and prepared a meal of dried fish and soup for us. Judging from the way they talked, I could see that the old couple had known the priest for a long time and I, as the priest's companion, felt very much at home with them.


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Intangible