Suddenly, we were off! We arrived at an old-fashioned cotton weaving mill. A cotton plant grew in a pot at the entryway, and you could see wooden hand spinning wheels, a kitchen where they use natural dyes, some skeins of drying cotton thread and some baskets of goldenrod, indigo, and mystery plant. Upstairs has a room with 50 little looms where visitors can make their own coasters. We were invited to try, by our translator, a very funny middle-aged woman who made rude suggestions while bowing politely. After we were done, minions finished off the coasters and slid them into plastic wrappers, which, they said, adds 30% to the selling price. Then we toured downstairs where the working looms are, pretty much the same 16 inch width (this might be half a meter). Most of them were empty, but one woman was warping a loom and another was weaving an indigo and brown pattern that we later saw in the gift shop.
The mill was attached to an old house, built, I think, by a defeated noble family turned merchant. They entertained Lord Date of Sendai, an old friend of ours familiar from the visit to the masoleum site in Sendai. The building was wood and paper, with a dark corridor surrounding a central tatami room with screens, alcoves, and low, ornate tables. Mr. Kuman suddenly said (his first words all morning) that my father had sat at one of those tables across from two geishas, and, thinking he was a young man, tried to out-drink them with sake. I was suddenly very moved by the story and by the sense of all the ceremonial and friendly activity that must have happened over the centuries in that room.
We rushed off to a department store, had melon sodas, and then to a Korean all-you-can-eat diner where we met more of the Kuman extended family, including three soccer-playing boys. We ate until we could hold no more, and then a little bit more. "Don't you like the food?" we were asked. "Why aren't you eating?"