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October 10

Today began with a wonderfully rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, sung to me by my fellow Odawara travelers.  Not only did I get to spend October in Japan, I also got to celebrate my birthday there as well!  
My newly minted extended family made sure my birthday did not go unfeted, but I missed my family at home and wished they were here with me.

For our first full day of touring this beautiful town, we visited the Odawara Literature Museum, the Mayor's Office at City Hall, Odawara Castle, the Historical Museum, and the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History.

The Literature Museum

The Mayor of Odawara

Odawara Castle

The Historical Museum

After a long and eventful day, we returned to City Hall for an evening reception hosted by the Mayor.  Today we also met the Superintendent of Odawara City Schools.  Tonight, however, we were introduced to our host families, with whom we were to spend 2 days later on this week.  As it turned out, my host mother also celebrated her birthday today.

We were first treated to and then taught the Odawara Lantern Dance.  This dance apparently signifies the long walk taken by the locals to climb Mount Hakone en route to Mount Fuji.

Kumiko, my host mother

Learning the Lantern Dance

The Odawara Lantern Dancers