During the years the OSU-K campus existed in Kameoka the faculty and staff lived in an apartment building owned by a couple named Setsuro and Yoshiko Hitomi. The building was completed just in time for us to move into our apartment when we arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Hitomi’s home was only a short distance from the apartment building and my wife, Kayo, and I were assigned to the first floor apartment which was the nearest apartment to their home.
Mr. Hitomi was always listening to English language tapes in an effort to improve his English skills with limited success, and since our apartment was the closest to their home we saw either Mr. or Mrs. Hitomi fairly often when there was a need for translation, but that was okay as they were a delightful couple. Not long after we arrived we were invited to their home one evening for tea. Their home was a very traditional old house with an entry alcove which was about ten feet square with a dirt floor. This is where one removed their shoes and stepped up about 18 inches to the regular tatami matted floor.
Against the wall in this area was a large display case with a nice flower arrangement, some nice pottery pieces and a mounted pheasant. When I commented on how pretty the pheasant was Mr. Hitomi said “I’ll get one for you next hunting season”. I said “thanks” thinking that was the end of that conversation, but that “next season’s” beautifully mounted pheasant is setting in our Japanese room. The couple always had a really nice garden and were always generous with the OSU-K faculty and staff with what their garden produced. Actually, they helped us grow our own vegetables. The land on which the apartment building in which we lived had previously been part of a larger rice paddy and just beyond the parking lot, it was still one of the Hitomi’s rice paddies.
After the rice harvest in the fall of our first year in Kameoka, Mr. Hitomi offered to help any of the OSU-K faculty or staff who were interesting in planting a fall garden do so. He plowed up the area and prepared the land, so all we needed to do was get the seeds or plants for what we wanted to raise. We planted cauliflower, celery and some other vegetables, but what I remember most were the strawberries which did really well. But what was most interesting was to see everything covered with snow and after the snow melted, everything continued to grow.
The Hitomi family history goes back a long way around Kameoka. They appear to have been major landowners around Kameoka and still own a significant amount of land. During our time in Kameoka there was an archaeological dig where quite a lot of very old pottery and other items were found.
Mr. Hitomi told me that was quite common and went ahead to say that he could find quite a few pieces on old pottery on the surface on his mountain. Not long after that he took me to his mountain and in a short time we picked up several fragments of pottery that had probably been there for many many years. A couple years after our time with the OSU-K program Kayo went back to Japan to visit her family and visit friends in Kameoka.
While in Kameoka she spent some time as a guest in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hitomi. Around 5 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2005 Kayo experienced what she described as one of the most terrifying events in her life. She said the house shook so violently she could not stand up during an earthquake which struck the city of Kobe about forty miles away taking the lives of more than 6,400 people and leaving more than 300,000 people homeless. More recently, in 2015, she and I had a much more pleasant homestay with Mr. and Mrs. Hitomi, truly good people and good friends.