Today I had the red carpet rolled out for me! It has been perhaps my best day in Nakagawa yet, which I think you’ll agree, is saying something. The Welcoming Barbeque that was supposed to happen last weekend was moved to today. The weather couldn’t have been better, 80 and sunny with a perfect breeze coming off of the ocean from the east. The entire Rotary club (21 members) and some friends and family were all invited to President Ohkawa’s “mountain resort.” I say that because with the clear skies today you could see all the way across Tochigi Prefecture to the Mountains and Nikko Forest more than 50 kilometers inland. It was honestly breathtaking.
Papa Sato provided all of the Ayu for the party. For those of you who don’t know, Ayu is a small, freshwater sweetfish that Nakagawa loves. In order to have the fish ready for the party he and I headed over to the Ohkawas’ early. He and I sat on the front step and skewered over 100 fish! It was great sitting there learning from the “Ayu Master of Nakagawa.”
Soon the other Rotarians started showing up, each loaded with more and more food and drinks. It quickly proved to be a genuine feast. I was happy to see my Sasayaso friends, Mr. Kevin Blackburn, the principle of Bato High School, and the Sato’s son, his wife and two daughters came all the way from Utsunomiya.
The rest of the menu was grilled veggies, meat, seafood, and soba noodles out on this large falt iron skillet. That is my “host sister-in-law” (my brother’s wife) as she grills the food. Everything was very fresh and they use this great dipping sauce that is tangy and rich, I need to figure out what’s in it!
We then had a short welcoming ceremony, which was all in Japanese so I can’t exactly tell you what was said. But my counselor spoke for a bit, then my host family was introduced and the club gave me a giant bouquet of flowers. These are my host parents and their two granddaughters with me during the ceremony.
The party lasted several hours and I had a nice afternoon of socializing with my new hosts. Once it started to get dark, the club governor said a few words again, and everyone helped to clean up.
We then headed back home where the family had tea and more snacks. The two girls, Saki and Riho ages 11 and 6, jumped all over the place, doodled something for a while, watched a TV show about whales, ate raisins and looked at pictures I had of back home. I guess kids have ADHD all over the world : ) They were fun though, and Saki has even started to learn English in school so we practiced for a while together. When it was finally decided that it was late and that we kiddies had school tomorrow, we walked them to the door.
Just as they were about to leave Saki whispered something in Riho’s ear and turned suddenly to me and handed over the three pictures they had colored together. One was a flower done by Saki, the other two were Riho’s creations: I think the first is her in a kimono holding the sun and a tree, and the second is of two very colorful flowers. It was such a sweet gesture that I wanted to hug them but help back because hugging is so rare here in Japan. I hope they knew how happy I was by how big my smile was. I guess kids are cute all over the world too.