By the time I post this, this morning will have been a few weeks ago. It’s probably thoroughly spring, and the cherry blossoms have already passed by now, haven’t they? But from here, we can only see their buds starting to plump.

This was the first day this year when I left my coat at home and went to work with only a sweater and scarf. The sunlight is warm, and there is no wind. There have already been signs of spring in the early bloomers and the weather at night has been making me shed layers of blankets one at a time, but this morning on a brief car ride to the Kyomise shopping district, something seemed distinctly different.

Had I never noticed that willow tree to the northwest of the Matsue Ohashi Bridge? I usually had only anticipated the cherry tree at the opposite end.

Did the water in the Ohashi River always reflect patterns against the side of Naniwa Issui, that fancy restaurant I’ve always wondered about but have never tried?

Had my hair salon with the yellow bricks always done Japanese style hair arrangements as well? If the hakama is anything to go by, this girl has her graduation ceremony today.

Those men chatting outside of Matsue City Hotel, the retro-style one with the clock tower I like. Are they visitors? Or going about their local business like everyone else while approaching 9am on this Thursday morning?

That young women with the peaceful smile on her face as she observes all the buildings in the shopping district, with what looks like her mother and brother two steps behind her. Surely they must be visitors, right? Or are they locals who simply appreciate what a fine place they live in?

The Matsue Ohashi Bridge, with its smooth granite, really does look its best in morning sunlight on a clear day. Is it clear enough to see Mt. Daisen out east? Or does it really look its best as a silhouette against the Lake Shinji sunset? On a morning like this, I’m prone to say the former.

From the windows of a little Showa-style tiny meeting space, waiting for work to start, my coworker and I are observing the aged buildings across the street. They fade into a foregone past, with the times traced in dirt around their windows and features. ‘Some time ago, we were stylish’ they say in quiet pride, as their inside contents are likely a more vivid shrine of pastimes unchanged as the decades have gone on. ‘We were the hot spots then, and we’re still the hot spots now–for those who know, for those as etched by time as we are.’

My coworker and I are not of that time. We look out and ask each other, “Have you heard of Kawakyo? Seems it was in some guidebook somewhere, and foreign tourists ask for directions to it.” “Is it any good? I have no idea. Seems like it would be hard to set foot in just for curiosity. Like you’d need to be taken along by someone who knows.” Its shutters are closed, its sign is dusty. The unassuming entrance makes its contents all the more mysterious.

And the building next to it? “What is that, even? Is the building just a wall?” I have seen oddly-shaped buildings built to fit into triangle corners before, but this three-story home is a fake–at least from our angle, we see the top is only the width of my forearm! Why? Whose home is this? Why does it take up such a wide, taxable area of street space, but with seemingly nothing behind it, but the shadow of a well-known ryokan?

“Ohashikan? Hmm, I’ve of course heard a lot about it, but I’ve only been inside once for work.”
“Yeah, I’ve never been inside, but they have English menus so I made a reservation for my friends there when they were visiting. It happened to be their anniversary, after all. And they like sushi, so I figured they should have some good Sea of Japan sashimi.”
“Should have gone along with them.”
“Yeah, but I was at work. They seemed to like it, though.”
“Especially with the view of the river, it must be nice.”
“Oh! But I have been to the Matsue Club building next to it. We’ve done a couple tea ceremonies in there. The view of the river really is nice.”
“Really! There’s space for tea ceremonies there?”
“You wouldn’t think so, would you? I sure wouldn’t have from the outside.”
“I knew they had a lot of different stuff in that building, but I didn’t think there would be space for that.”
“There’s a Japanese garden on the roof, too.”
“Really? I’d never have guessed!”
“Maybe that’s what’s on the roof, behind that wall, too.”
“It might be…”

Little did we ever notice that little world hidden beyond our view. Never had we thought to look.

Yet everyone thought to comment this morning, “It finally feels like spring.”