This is important, of course, not only for the language exposure they can potentially provide, but, more fundamentally, for the fleeting chance to nurture a meaningful bond between grandparents and grandchildren.
With this in mind, I arranged for us to take a family trip with my wife’s parents—my children’s Japanese grandparents—this past weekend. In this case, there was no benefit of extra input in the minority language, but that naturally wasn’t the motive: while my mother-in-law and father-in-law are both pretty spry for their early 80s (they can still easily ride bicycles!), it’s also true that their health is now more fragile and it’s hard to know how many more trips like this we’ll be able to take with them.
So we went to the lovely, peaceful town of Hagi, located on the Sea of Japan, about three hours by car from Hiroshima. Hagi is an old castle town, remarkably well preserved and full of splendid sights.
In fact, Hagi is truly one of my very favorite places, not only in Japan but in the world. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may even recall that I shared our last trip to Hagi four years ago.
This post won’t include as much background about Hagi itself (so if you’re curious, please see that previous post) and, as always, I need to maintain everyone else’s privacy by not showing their faces too fully. Still, I’d like to invite you to join us, through photos, for a sense of our time together…and particularly, this memorable time my kids could spend with their grandparents.
Saturday: Safari Land, then Hagi
We first drove to an animal park called Safari Land. I have mixed feelings about such places (as I do about all zoos), but it’s still a captivating experience to drive your car through large enclosures of wild animals, where bears and tigers are roaming freely, even right up to your (closed!) windows. Then, after the drive-through portion of the park, there’s an area where you can mingle closely with less-fearsome creatures, like goats and ponies (and kangaroos).
Let me add, though, that it was in this area that, years ago, I was bitten by a lion. (Yes! It’s true! And just click on that link to see the proof!)
Oh yes, and I also kissed a giraffe there, too.
After Safari Land, we drove on to Hagi and checked into our hotel, which featured a variety of wonderful onsen (hot springs) baths and a fancy, multi-course dinner (including the fish head you’ll see below).
After a breakfast buffet at the hotel, we drove to the historical town center and rented bicycles. Hagi is a fairly compact place and riding a bike along its pretty streets is a perfect way to see the many sights: the old stone and mud walls; the traditional homes where samurai, merchants, and other prominent figures once lived; the castle ruins; the peaceful shrines and temples; the ancient pine trees; the hushed graveyards; and the many shops selling beautiful pottery (Hagi is also famous for its pottery).
The day ended too soon, really, but as the sunlight faded, we climbed back into the car to begin the long drive home.