From Tokyo, we took a beautiful seaside train ride south to Wakayama province.
We arrived in a small seaside town called Kii-Katsuura where we dropped our stuff off at a Ryokan. More about Ryokans later.
We were quickly met by some distant cousins Kuniyo and Naoko, who took us on a short hike across the beach. We looked across the bay to the northern part of the town where my grandmother had spent some years as a young child and imagined her playing on the same beach we were now walking on. Our hike ended at an old drugstore owned by our family. Inside the drugstore, we met Yoshie, my grandmother's first cousin, and made offerings in their family shrine.
From the drug store, we went to the town's graveyard and paid our respects to our many ancestors who had tombstones there. Some of the stones were so old that their weathered remains had been stacked together on a new platform to protect them. The deep sense of history we felt as we took turns offering incense was indescribable.
My maternal great grandmother's tombstone was here and seeing it drove home how personal and unique this trip was. I remember my great grandmother from when I was a child, always smiling, watching Japanese shows on TV, but not saying much to us because she didn't speak English. She passed away in 1993 and now she rests on this side of the Pacific, back in a familiar world.
Our visit to our family's drug store and graveyard sparked a strong connection that I have with this place - so unique and so far away from my world in both time and space.