It was no idle boast to say that they owned the mountain. And how they ended up with so much land was weighing on my mind as another round of drinks were poured. My wife’s uncle, now 75 years old, explained their samurai roots. In fact, one of the family relics, an ancient sword, was even in his possession as a child. Not realizing its historical significance or value, he often used it to split bamboo until one day he left it outside and someone stole it.

That evening, as the drinks continued to flow, I encouraged more stories out of the usually reserved uncle. One revelation was that after WWII, like many families in Kochi, they brewed their own booze to compensate for its scarcity. Yumi’s uncle then bragged that he had managed to circumvent the laws prohibiting homemade stills by marrying a lady from the agency responsible for its enforcement. Even to this day, he still enjoys making all sorts of exotic sake, including one from poisonous snakes captured in the yard. He had even bottled it planning to offer it to my father in law his next visit but had forgotten where he put it (and after 10 years of the snakes decaying within, we were in no hurry to find it). I stuck to beer the rest of the night just to be safe.