Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Another Warm-Hearted Welcome

For the next two days of our journey, we were blessed to be able to stay with yet another Japanese family. I met Teruko in Ota where she was part of an English class I sometimes helped teach on Friday nights. She was very excited when she found out in March that we would be travelling to Shikoku, since that is where both her and her husband are from. Coincidentally, they were also planning to travel to Shikoku in April for some family time. So of course, we were promptly invited to join them in Higashi Kagawa, very near Takamatsu.

We arrived at her husband's mother's home on Saturday night. Teruko's father-in-law was a temple priest. The house is SO OLD, and it's full of beautiful carved wood, and old tatami mats. Teruko and her husband joked that they feel as though they are camping when they stay there. We kinda understood why. Jeff and I both warily watched the giant spider in the corner of the bathroom while we bathed. We let the family know he was there, but no one seemed to mind...

On Sunday, we started by exploring the area around the house. We walked to the local temple, and then strolled through the parks to the ocean. Teruko's husband explained to us how, as a boy, he used to swim to the nearby islands. Wow. All I could think was how ideal it would be to grow up in such a beautiful, peaceful area.

Next we drove to Takamatsu, where we got to taste de-li-cious sanuki udon, a Takamatsu specialty. As I'm a major lover of udon, it's always great to try new varieties.
Then we walked across the street to Ritsurin koen. This park is not technically one of the "top 3" (gotta love those Japanese rating systems) of Japan, but it is really gorgeous. It's HUGE! And it combines all of the features of Japanese gardens we've come to love...winding paths, carp-infested ponds (yes, I said 'infested'), red bridges, quaint teahouses, raked stones, sculpted trees...etc, etc.


We spent a good chunk of time walking around the park, enjoying the many sites. We finished off our time in the park in the tea house, relaxing over mattcha (that's super bitter powdered Japanese green tea) and traditional sweets. Since we were being treated, I gave Jeff the stern command to "act like you enjoy it!" (said with a charming smile, of course). The fact is, the combination of sitting cross-legged on a floor, sipping super bitter tea, and eating pastries filled with sickeningly sweet red bean paste doesn't really do it for Jeff. Are you surprised?

Back in Higashi Kagawa, we got to meet Teruko's children who had just arrived. Her daughter, Ayako, son, Kazumasa, and Kazumasa's wife, Rie. I had to get over some embarrassment after I learned that Rie had folded away all the laundry we had done earlier... she denied thinking that my bras were ええええ!すごく大きい!Whatever! We had an absolute FEAST (did I mention that it's Teruko's HUSBAND who does most of the cooking? There's hope for those Japanese men yet!) and then we mesmerized everyone by pulling out the "Rush Hour" game Nathan and Rose had sent us. It's a great logic game that crosses all cultures and languages. All you have to do is get the little red car out of the traffic jam. However, this can often be QUITE the challenge. It gave me the chance to finally hear the Kansai dialect "live", as Rie kept blurting out わからへん! "wakarahen! wakarahen!" (I don't understand!) as opposed to the "wakaranai!" we're used to. The linguist in me found it all pretty exciting!

Finally, I just want to say thank you to the Tonami family for the great time they gave us. As usual, we were treated with much grace and kindness. Thanks for the excellent memories!

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