During my recent trip to Japan, I stayed with a host family in Hiroshima. They were the Ito's---Yoshikazu and Fumie. Their daughter Megumi was visiting. She recently retired from a ballet company that was touring Europe, and is now married and expecting to start a family. Mr. and Mrs. Ito don't really speak English, though Mr. Ito can read and write it. Megumi was our translator.
It was a real treat to stay in their very comfortable home in the Saeki-ku section of Hiroshima. I had been told that Japanese homes are small, but theirs was very spacious and comfortable. Mr. Ito's mother also lives with them, but she has Alzheimer's and so I didn't have much interaction with her. They served me a very nice meal, with special dishes. It was a huge meal, more than could be eaten at one sitting. They also gave me breakfast the two days that I was there, but the breakfast was pretty conventional for me---cereal and yogurt. They also had very good coffee. It was somewhat of a surprise to me how good the coffee is in Japan--a little serendipity. I found you could order it either hot or cold.
As is customary in Japan, we exchanged gifts. They gave me a sweet hand-made doll dressed in a traditional kimono. As I understand it, it was a gift from the group that was hosting us, Rissho Kosei-kai Dharma Center, as well as from the Itos. So, as Mrs. Ito explained, she also wanted to give me a special gift. It was a beautiful leather purse from Inden-ya. I did a little internet research and learned that it the flowers are lacquer on deerskin and the process of making the leather dates back to 1582. It is also a beautifully-crafted purse and I find pleasure in just holding it.
The Itos were wonderful hosts, as were all of the people I met in Hiroshima. Really, they took hospitality to a whole new level. It was a real treasure to get to know them.