Kako and Anne

Following our first day of sightseeing we returned to Nat and Kako's home for the evening. On the way we stopped with Kako at the local market to purchase the needed items for dinner. Walking around these markets was extremely interesting. You get a feel for what it's really like to live in Japan, and you are literally struck by the expense of everything. For example, a small bag of oranges, perhaps 3 pounds, was approximately 10 US$. I have no idea what the average Japanese salary is, but it had better be quite high to afford such prices.

Kako (left with Anne) is a skilled craftsman in various art forms including quilting. In the photo Kako is holding a handmade photo album she presented to Anne as a gift and memento of our visit.

One of the primary reasons we scheduled our trip to end in Japan was to allow us to meet with some good friends, Nat and Kako, whom we had known for years. They lived not far from us for 15 years when Nat was summoned back to Japan by his company. Since they left we have kept in touch with them and also visited them one time when Nat was temporarily assigned to England. We looked forward to not only seeing and enjoying some of the sights of Japan, but the time we would have with them in their home.

Nat and Kako are excellent hosts. Not only did they show us around, but they invited us into their home and treated us as family not just friends. Their home offered many surprises for both Anne and I that I would like to share with you.

Japan is an island and relatively speaking it's quite small for the population considering that much of the central area is mountainous. Land is naturally at a premium and many of the roads seem small by our standards in the US The houses are good size, but they are generally located on small plots of land and very close to other houses that surround them. Nat told me that the president of his company was picked up by limo everyday, but that the street he lived on was to narrow for the limo to negotiate requiring him to walk to the end of the street to meet the limo each morning.

Nat and Kako's house was good size and only three years old. It was well appointed with all of the modern conveniences you would expect to find in a new house, but to our surprise was not centrally heated. The season where heat is required is relatively short and, as a result, they do not install central heating. Each room had its own space heater and there were other little amenities that made up for the lack of heat.

The picture at right shows the modern Japanese toilet. It was really an ingenious invention that I've never seen the likes of in the United States. First and foremost the seat was heated and there were numerous controls that could be activated by the touch pad to the right of the seat. Another really good idea was the top basin which allowed you to wash your hands as the tank was being filled after flushing.

You're probably aware of the Japanese custom of taking your shoes off when entering a person's home. We found out that it goes beyond that. Entering the home you leave your shoes at the front door and don a pair of house slippers. When you enter the bathroom or shower another set of slippers are sitting just outside the door. You change your house slippers for the bathroom or bath slippers before entering the room and change back when leaving the room.

While Nat, Kako and their three children enjoyed the luxuries of normal beds it was our pleasure to sleep the traditional Japanese style on tatami mats laid carefully on the floor. In the photo left Anne can be seen standing in our bedroom next to the space heater that was used to warm the room prior to going to bed. Because of safety it was turned off when you went to bed.

In the photo below Anne can be seen snuggled up for a good night's rest. The covers turned up at the bottom expose another nice Japanese invention ... the foot warmer. Electrically heated the foot warmer was a nice comfort during the chilly nights. Believe me, if your feet are warm, then the rest of you is warm and comfy!

An ultra modern Japanese toilet
complete with lots of controls

Anne standing in our room
by the space heater

Snuggled up for a good
night's rest with a
foot warmer
The kitchen was another interesting part of the house. Being relatively compact every possible use of space is put to good use. Kako's dishwasher doubled as storage for her plates and utensils. The floor contained a trap door that when raised revealed storage areas and another the freezer. I can remember the small confines of the kitchen in my first house. We could definitely have used some of these techniques to maximize on the limited space.
Kako met us at the train station when we arrived in Osaka and guided us on our tour of Kyoto. For our next adventure it would be Nat's turn to take us to Nara and Osaka Castle. Join us on the next page for pictures of Japan's ancient capital ....
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