New Year's in Osaka
Jan 2, 2008
After a quiet New Year's eve (which included real, western-style pizza; beer; the best chocolate brought back from Sapporo; and a Japanese tradition of watching the year end K1 tournament, their mixed martial arts league), Tanja and I headed off to a small community an hour or so outside of Osaka, to visit with the family of one of her best friends, Naoko. They had invited us to spend the New Year's celebration with them, which involves food, food, family, and more food. Kyla was feeling a little under the weather, so she stayed behind.
(Just a pause for a second to note that this was only the second day either of us felt ill [not including the food poisoning, of course] throughout the whole 4 months. Back in Canada, we would have each had about a dozen colds at this point in the year.)
We arrived early, and were ushered to an honoured spot around the table. The big winter warmer-upper in Japan is a heated living room table, with a blanket around the edges, so that you can stick your feet and legs underneath. Toasty!
The food was incredible, and kept coming all day. Wave after wave of sashimi, breaded things, pickled things, hot things... And the family also did the same, with family members dropping in and out of the house throughout the day. At one point, the respected uncle of the family dropped into the spot beside me, and waved over a steaming flask of sake, which I had managed to avoid so far on the trip. However, it was not to be, and he continued to refill my cup each time I would empty it. It was actually tasty, not nearly as strong as I had heard sake was. But I did have to beg off earlier than anyone else, politely covering my cup with my hand.
I'd like to thank Naoko' family for their hospitality and warmth - it was a great time!
The Day after New Years
The next day, we were invited to go to the house of another one of Tanja's best friends, Sano-san, who trains others in the fine art of the tea ceremony. She performed the ceremony for us, in full kimono, teaching us how to take the cup, bow three times forward, right, and then left, and then drink from the cup. She and her son then put on a huge spread of food for us, and we played some card games for prizes afterwards. (One of the games we played was "spoons", but to make it more interesting, Sano-san introduced a penalty for the loser - hand slapped hard by the winner. Nothing to increase the pace of the game than a little physical punishment.)
Unfortunately, we had to take our leave from Sano-san and her son fairly early that night, since we had to leave Tanja's at 6:00 am or so to catch a bus to get to the airport.
Just like that, our time in the land of the rising sun was setting for good - we had an incredible time with Tanja and Akihiko, Marty and Haruka, and everyone else we met during our two weeks. We hope to close off our time in Japan with some random thoughts on the country, the culture, and our experience.