Sachiko: The title of chapter six is a question, “What is nature?”, well, to me, it is the origin of Beniya Mukayu, as the ryokan is where I found my position in nature. Beniya Mukayu has definitely changed my life (you know, I was an elementary school teacher before!) and it made me discover where I fit in. It seems that you too “have found your position in nature, changed your life, and discovered where you fit in”, haven’t you?
Scott: It’s day-to-day practice. I look to nature for personal meaning: it enables me to look outside myself, to forget who I am.
Sachiko: Interestingly, when we discover where we fit in, loneliness disappears… I sincerely hope that staying at Beniya Mukayu will be a chance for the guests to feel the same peace of mind that you have felt when staying at the temples in Kyoto!
Scott: Well, ryokan allow us to experience nature in a very original way.
Through seasonal food, onsen bathing, and natural setting, guests can be closer to nature in a very comfortable environment. Then, too, at ryokan someone is always taking care of you.
At the ryokan you feel like a child because people take care of you. I still remember the first time that I stayed at a ryokan: the woman who showed me to my room, the long hot baths, the napping. I loved sleeping on the floor like a child, and being in all day. Then, too, at a ryokan you can be passive (or, in another way, you are required to be passive) because everything around you is taken care of. You can be very passive. When Westerners ask me what is the best way to approach a ryokan stay in Japan, I tell them: “Be passive, don’t argue, don’t create problems. Let them take care of you”. This feeling is even stronger when you go back to the same ryokan because they remember you, they know what room you like, what table you like, what food you like… Going to a ryokan as a regular guest is a bit like visiting friends.
However, being passive and letting someone taking care of you can be very challenging for Westerners who are used to being very active. In English there is an expression: “I am a control freak.” For control freaks, a ryokan stay can be a real challenge.