“Mayor” Haru, attired in a freshly laundered, blue-checkered yukata, greeted her fellow early risers as sheepish men, women and children made their way to latrines dug along the tree line in back of the Takayama compound. She kept her practiced eye alert for any discarded trash along what had been a grassy corridor but was now a worn dirt path.

She waved at the polite lines of people formed at the ofuro. Her own bath was finished an hour before sunrise. She and Kenji kept to the 10-minute usage limit, although her “citizens” insisted she should not have to sign up or stand in line. “Your time is too important,” they said. Rather than argue with their kindness, she adopted the early-rise routine.

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