Leizel and Sayaka's family indulge in some of Ise's finest unagi.
The second set of visitors weren't overnight guests, but we met them for a day in Ise during one of the days of "golden week", a long stretch of Japanese national holidays in early May.
With our occasional trips to Tokyo, we've had a good number of opportunities to meet with our Japanese friends we originally met and hung out with at Kent State, all of whom now live in Tokyo. However, we've had two occasions to go to Kagoshima, southern-most prefecture of Japan-proper, to visit our friend Sayaka's hometown -- one of those times was fairly recently. While in Kagoshima, her family was very nice to us and gracious hosts so we told them we'd show them around Ise Grand Shrine one day if they ever were able to come. That day came, and her family (including her mother, aunt, uncle, and grandfather) made it up to Ise and the area for a few days.
Unfortunately they rented a four-person car for five people and thus couldn't squeeze and extra the two of us as well while going to other parts of the Ise-Shima area where only cars can go, but we met them at Ise Grand Shrine and, as (ex-)natives, gave them a good tour. We saw pretty much all of both the outer and inner shrines of Ise Grand Shrine, as well as the road into the inner shrine called Oharai-machi and Okage-yokochō. Here we ate Akafuku in its original shop, something I do with any guest who comes to Ise. For lunch, we ate an unagi rice bowl at Kitaya, a fairly well-known unagi shop near the outer shrine.
Sayaka's grandfather had never been to Ise Grand Shrine before and thus had wanted to make it while still alive. I'm really glad he was able to see it, he's always been very kind to us. Ise Grand Shrine has a lot of things written and said about it, but one is that it's the "home of the Japanese people", so I was quite pleased to be able to provide a Japanese person with information and a tour of a place so significant to their cultural history.