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Feeling such incredible awe and gratitude is something I am having to get use to in Japan. Last night I could just not find words to express my feelings after a memorable birthday dinner hosted by my (newly adopted) Japanese sister and her husband, Mr and Mrs “Klaus.”

Mr Klaus was the chef for this fantastic meal, which began with herring caviar and pickled octopus and other goodies whose names I can’t remember. Takoyaki was the main dish, served both traditionally (octopus as main ingredient) and a design-your-own option. Ten of us sat on the floor around the table making takoyaki. Takoyaki is made by pouring batter into a special pan similar to a muffin tin, except that the “holes” are half ball-shaped. Then you add ingredients such as octopus, green onion, tempura pieces, cabbage etc., and cover with batter. You let it brown for a couple of minutes and then start rolling each piece with small wooden skewers to brown on all sides, forming a complete sphere. After sampling the traditional takoyaki we made our own, choosing from ingredients such as bacon, cheese, kim-chi, sesame seed, corn, and others. We enjoyed our takoyaki with either oyster sauce or soy sauce and mayonnaise – delicious! After eating our fill of takoyaki and sides, we continued to eat, indulging in a wonderful almond-topped birthday cake.

I received wonderful, thoughtful gifts some of which were handmade by artists, but all of which represent something special to me. But the real gift was the genuine love and acceptance that I felt for both my husband and I…from people, most of which, I had only met a few times. I will never have a gift as special as this!

Thank you Mr Klaus, my 2 new Japanese sisters, Chiyo, SekiSan, HaruSan, Nori, and Fumie. This is a birthday I will always remember!