We have spent the last 3 days in the Kansai Region of Japan. We spent just one night after arrival in Japan in Tsukuba (not far outside of Tokyo), which will be one of my home bases while in Japan. We met up with my host, Michio, a research scientist working at a public-private research institute here. He helped us get settled in to our apartment. We departed the next day for Osaka by shinkansen (Japan’s bullet train, and now Nico’s favorite Japanese word). We met up with Noriko and Mayumi. Noriko has the dubious distinction of being our very first Japanese home stay student in our hometown of Portland, Oregon. We have kept in close contact with her over the years (she’s come back to the US for two visits since the end of her stay with us). Mayumi was a more recent home stay student with us, and is the daughter of a very important colleague and partner of mine (Mikiya Kasai) that will enter later in my story here.
We are staying at a traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) in Osaka– this is my family’s first introduction to this. Over the last two days they have experienced much (ofuro or Japanese style bath, yukatas or robes, slippers for every occasion, tatami mats, traditional breakfasts, etc.). We spent one cool, rainy day in Kyoto (the old capital city in Japan), full of beautiful gardens, temples and shrines. We did a lot of walking! As expected, we were a bit too early for the sakura (cherry) blossoms, but we were all greatly impressed with the beauty of the place.