Now that the unique beauty of Kyoto had pretty much been destroyed by the city tax laws and tasteless developers, and Kyoto was coming to resemble any other Japanese city of its size, we needed more nature and less city, with air not nourished by exhaust pipes, and sunlight not blocked by sham brick highrises. The kids were growing, and needed their own rooms. We needed a bigger house, and no landlord. I was tired of bending to look in the mirror, of bowing to go through doorways, of walking around hunched up in my rented house, of having sinks just above knee height, stairs steeper than a sliding board, with steps that long foreign feet could only use sideways. I had seen too many tall foreigners wind up bent like canes from living long in Japan.
So we began looking for land. We saw all sorts of land: tiny land, not-so-tiny land, out-of-the-way land, in-the-way land, land without water, land without air, land without land, land in the middle of cities, land in the middle of nowhere, land with no view, land with a view of the neighbor's bathroom, land beside the road, land beneath the road, land above the road, the first real estate dealers having no idea what it was we really wanted, we having no clear idea where might be the potentially right place: Nara? Senri? Kurama? All we knew was that it had to be right for the house we wanted. Then one day, when we were on our way to visit a real estate agent, as I looked out the train window I saw the place: gently sloping mountains, all green... We first visited the land in November. It was a kilometer or so up the long slope of Horai-san (Pure Land Mountain) on the western shore of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest freshwater Lake, a region steeped in history. It was marked on the map as some kind of forest preserve, which was a big plus, for no one would soon be building a resort hotel to block the astonishing view of the Lake.
It was time to move on: we made an offer.