japanese hospitality


One of the reasons that I've not had time to write is that since we've arrived, we've been welcomed into the homes of so many friends. Between travel time, visiting time, and eating time, there's not much time left for anything else. What follows is a bit of a travelogue of our trip thus far, complete with a selection of family-focused photos.

Me, Lane, Joi, and Mizuka at Joi's house When we arrived at Narita airport on Sunday evening, Joi was there to meet us. We must have been quite a sight, tired and rumpled and jetlagged! Happily, there are no photos of that. He took us directly to his beautiful new house in Inbamura, about 20 minutes from the airport. After we had some tea, we ate a spectacular dinner that Mizuka had cooked for us. I was honored to find out that we were the first dinner guests that they'd had in the new house--those who follow us are in for quite a treat!

After dinner, the three of us bathed in Joi's enormous and beautiful black marble tub, which left us feeling a lot more human. In retrospect, we of course should have bathed first, which would have given Joi and Mizuka more time to prepare the meal, and made us much more presentable. In my defense, I can only say that Lane was very hungry, and since I hadn't really slept on the flight, I wasn't thinking as clearly as I should have been. Sorry for my lapse of etiquette, Joi!

It was really nice to finally meet Mizuka, who is a really lovely person--both in personality and in looks.

The photo on the right is one that my mom took of me, Lane, Joi, and Mizuka right before we left his house for our hotel near the airport. Not a great photo of me, but we'll chalk that up to jet lag, okay?

We spent Sunday night at the Hotel Narita Excel Tokyu, which was quite nice. Amazingly (to me, at least), we fell asleep around 10pm, and slept through right until 8am. We've slept normal (for Japan) hours since then, as well, so jet lag wasn't a huge problem (although the first few nights we did get very tired early in the evening).

Monday morning we used Takkyubin (baggage delivery service) to have our bags sent ahead to our friend Masako's house, and then set out by train to meet Masako at her friend Tokuko's house (near Kanamachi station) for lunch. When we arrived, we found that Tokuko, her husband Yoshioh, their son Hajime, and their grandchildren Yuri (age 3) and Kotaro (age 6). We had a lovely lunch, followed by snacks that seemed to arrive every 15-20 minutes for the next several hours. Lane got to play a children's card game with Yuri, which involved Kotaro reading syllables aloud, and the players finding and claiming the card with that character on it. The adults were exceedingly impressed (although Lane was chagrined to lose at least one game to a 3-year-old), and Hajime insisted on taking Lane to a bookstore and buying him some basic picture and dictionary books to help with his studies.


Near dinner time (still full from all the food we'd been given), we headed out for Masako's house, which is in Kawasaki. Turns out that's a two hour trip from Tokuko's house, and by then Lane and I were starting to fade. The portion of the trip on the Odakyu line was quite a challenge for us, since that's a very crowded line, especially at rush hour. By the time we reached Masako's house, we were exhausted, and after a bath for Lane (who's already developed quite a taste for Japanese baths) we collapsed into our futons and slept until 9 the next morning.

After rising, we had a quick breakfast and headed back out again, this time to Setagaya to visit my mom's friend (her "Japanese daughter") Eri and her 16-month-old son Mickey (Miki?). Eri's small apartment was a more realistic view of Tokyo living quarters than any of the spacious homes we'd seen at that point, but it was homey and she made us feel very welcome. She took us out for lunch--to a noodle shop, at our request--and then fed us a variety of western-style Japanese cakes, and other sweets at her house. She also bought Lane a stash of Japanese candy. We had a really lovely time.

After Eri's house, we returned to Masako's home for dinner, where she treated us to a wonderful meal of shabu-shabu. For this meal, a propane-based stove is placed on the table, and on it is a large dish of broth in which various vegetables are simmering. Thinly-sliced beef is provided, and each person picks up a piece and drops it into the simmering broth, using the chopsticks to move it around. Because it's so thin, it cooks very quickly, and then you dip it into one of several sauces in front of you (my favorite was an orange-flavored vinegar).

On Wednesday, we headed off towards Shinjuku in the morning, because we had an 11:30 reservation for a formal Japanese lunch with Masako and her friends Tokuko and Inego. The meal was spectacular. (And yes, those of you know me well, I really did try everything. Even the green things. I have witnesses.)

Formal Japanese lunch with friends

Lane got a "kid's meal," but it wasn't your typical American kid's meal! (He may not look enthusiastic in that photo, but he was. And he ate most of what he was given. His culinary adventurousness far surpasses mine in many ways, which delights me.)


After lunch, we got on the subway to go to Ginza for some shopping, and to get bento (boxed meals, basically) to take to the Kabuki-za theatre later. When we got onto the train, Lane was amazed and delighted to see that his all-time-favorite store, Build-a-Bear, had purchased all the advertising in the entire subway car to announce their 2/14 opening of a Ginza store. Lane had been so patient for so many "grownup" activities at that point that I agreed. The ads made me laugh...the one running along the side of the car showed bears holding subway handholds just like the ones in the train we were on. (From left to right, that's Ineko, Masako, my mother, and Lane.)

Build a Bear ad in Ginza subway

The department store experience in Ginza was a little overwhelming. The food section we were in was loud and crowded, with people behind the counters shouting out sale prices, and many people pushing their way through. We got our food, then rushed to the 4:30 Kabuki-za performance. The show was wonderful, but Lane was getting tired at that point, and by 7:30 we were ready to start back on the 90 minute trip home.

So that brings up to today, which is one of the few unstructured days we'll have here. Lane and I are catching up on blogging, I'm doing some grading while Lane does homework, and my mother and Masako are meeting with someone about a book translation project. Tonight we'll cook a western style dinner for Masako.

Tomorrow we'll visit Masako's brother and his family. Saturday we're off to Kamakura, where my former student Kotaro Ai and his family will be giving us a tour of the area. Sunday we go to Hotel Okada at the Hakone hot springs, where we'll spend the night and then return Monday morning. We've then got two unplanned days, after which we'll leave for Shanghai for three days...and then we head home.


I travel with you... thanks for sharing, and have a wonderful time!

Someday, when I'm traveling with my child, I want them to be as cool as Lane is.

It sounds like you are having a whale of a time. Its great when you are made to feel welcome in a foreign country...that's what Oriental hospitality is all about. According to Oriental Scriptures, the guests are to be given treatment and status of God. To quote in Sanskrit:
"Atithi Devo Bhav"
(literal translation: Atithi = Guest Devo = Status of God Bhav = Given)
We offer the best we have to our guests. If we have one bed in out house, we will offer the bed to our guest and we will sleep on the floor ourselves.
Have a gr8 rest of the trip!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on February 26, 2004 2:01 AM.

size matters was the previous entry in this blog.

books and bully pulpits is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Category Archives