According to the old adage, "Home is where the heart is" — and Rebecca Otowa would no doubt agree. Home for Otowa is a 350-year-old farmhouse nestled on the edge of a tiny village in Shiga Prefecture, where generations of her husband's family have lived. It is a lifestyle she has grown to cherish since arriving in rural Kansai as a bride more than 30 years ago.

"It has such a welcoming atmosphere and there's a wonderful sense of continuity about it. Everything in the house has a story," says Otowa warmly. "But I didn't know what marrying the oldest son of the family would entail."

Under her mother-in-law's watchful eye, and with the matriarch's frequently caustic tongue as her guide, Otowa set about trying to master the duties that went with her new status. Along with learning to care for the house came an appreciation of the values and traditions it represented.