From behind the big punch bowl, in the lower cupboard of the cabinet that dominates the dining room, Reiko pulls out the lacquered vessels. They are coal-black, with bright gold-and-silver images of pine boughs, bamboo stalks and plum blossoms.

She remembers being told as a little girl, when she lived in one of the Western-style homes near the foreign cemetery in Yokohama, that these bowls, made in Kyoto, had been coated with lacquer in the same motif 17 times. Priceless bowls, her grandfather explained, that retain the design as they age, lasting as many as 17 generations without showing wear.

As a young bride, Reiko Kimura went to Washington 29 years ago and has used them only once each year since. Every Jan. 1, the o-wan are brought out and filled with the New Year's zoni soup.