Six months seems a long time to be away from friends, especially when you return to discover one of them six months pregnant. I was so happy to see Mitsuko again, married and with baby bump well developed. The nice thing about six months is that it is not long enough to make meetings a little awkward. We went for sushi and the on the advice of her doctor, hiked up into the Eastern Hills for a long walk. I do not pretend to understand the thinking, but apparently she needs a lot of exercise now she is in her final trimester.
Chion-in is Mitsuko's favourite temple, so we struggled up the hundreds of steps to sprawl out on a bench to catch our breath. The day was reminiscent of the summer, bakingly hot though minus any of the uncomfortable humidity. We craned out necks and searched for the umbrella hidden in the rafters (one of the architects who helped rebuild the temple placed the umbrella in the rafters to help bring rain and thereby ward off fire), skittered across the nightingale floor (intentionally squeaky boards designed so that when the Tokugawa family stayed at the temple, they could detect unwanted intruders at night), and drifted off into a daze at the relentless humming of monks.