Here's a few photos from our day yesterday. We went to Amakusa on the western coast of Japan and took a boat ride around the many islands and 5 bridges there. Amazingly Amakusa was once a stronghold for Christian ministry and remains today one of the most undeveloped and natural parts of Japan. We saw many eagles, some other birds and lots of fishermen. They harvest seaweed, shrimp clams, oysters and other fish there. The area is famous for pearls, so we bought some :)
We also stopped on the way back at a local fishery where we bought yellow tail, sea bass and squid for a wonderful sashimi dinner that night at Takako's uncle's house. We celebrated, from what I am told, a very rare occasion - a formal invite from a Japanese family for dinner. Unlike American dinners, Japanese culture dictates that people are not usually invited to other people's homes as the home is considered sacred and a temple for the family. Especially for an outsider, an invitation to meet the family and relatives is a high honor and we treated it as such. We were also introduced to to Takako's ancient relatives, when we visited their gravesite. I didn't take any photos, out of respect, but the site is in Takako's uncle's village and houses remains from several relatives. We cleaned the site, lit candles and incense and added flowers, saying a brief prayer as we did. It was very nice.
Dinner was wonderful, you can see the photos of the event, sushi everywhere, many relatives and lots of sake and beer (uncle has a penchant for sho-cha, a strong sake that will knock your socks off and clear the sinuses.) Every 10 minutes or so we were greeted to a robust "konpai!" We met too many relatives to count, including a VERY shy two-year-old Hami, who, like another kodomo we know, loves the train "Thomas." We ate too much, drank too much and rolled our way home in a taxi...to be greeted by a huge watermelon at our doorstep. Takako's mom bought a specialty from Kumamoto - local watermelon that was delicious. Takako's aunt came over to tell us the latest about her other uncle in the hospital and soon after we went to be content.
Today we host our reception and get dressed up in kimono's...looking forward to these photos. Flying back tomorrow :( Already booked the tix and now we somehow have to fit 10 suitcases worth of stuff into 5 bags. We'll see how it goes...gotta run. See y'all in a few...