It’s been a little over a week since I started living with my new Japanese family in a peaceful suburb on the edge of Tokyo called Wakabadai. The family includes Otosan (our dad), Okaasan (our mom), our two younger sisters ages 10 and 15, two fluffy cats, and two American girls from the program (me and Betrice). Though it’s only been about a week, I have already learned more than I could have imagined. I feel that there are so many nuances of daily Japanese life that you can only see when living with a home-stay family. For example, the necessary activities we’ve had to do like getting a Japanese cell phone and filing our resident paperwork at the local ward office, have been unique experiences for me. Fortunately for Betrice and I, we have a very caring Okaasan that helps us with everything we need. She took us to the local ward and the cell phone store to translate for us and make sure everything worked out. Whenever I thought of Tokyo before I came here, I would think about all the fun things such as sightseeing, eating, performances, etc. There were many things I hadn’t considered before, like filing my paperwork and things like that. When Okaasan took us on our errands, I learned about the practicalities of living in Japan, and started thinking more about what it would actually be like if I lived here. There are many steps to take!
But besides all the practical things, our family has shown us a lot of fun things, too! Okaasan makes delicious meals, and it is a treat just to watch her cook authentic food. Our younger sisters have taught us about the school systems in Japan, and we see from them what it is like to be students here. They do a lot of homework. As it turns out, Otosan is a black belt in Judo. Last week, he took us to his dojo to teach us some moves. I didn’t really know what Judo was before, though I had heard of it. After some warming up, Otosan began by demonstrating how to throw ourselves onto the ground. Betrice and I just stared at him in shock! But after exchanging a few hesitant glances, we began throwing ourselves to the ground with gusto. After that, we learned how to shove each other down, and throw each other over our shoulders. It was tough work! I mostly enjoyed watching the little boys in the dojo who were also practicing Judo. They seemed to have endless energy, and were so funny when they played jokes on each other. At the end of practice, everyone in the dojo lined up to bow and pay respects. I think this was a unique experience I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for Otosan, because Betrice and I would never just show up at a dojo on our own.
Last weekend, the neighborhood festival happened to take place in Wakabadai. Betrice and I walked to the festival through our neighborhood with Okaasan and our younger sisters. We met Otosan there, as he was selling crushed ice at a stand with the local baseball team. It was a sunny day, and we arrived late in the afternoon. Upon arrival, I got very excited at the sight of all the young girls walking around in their colorful traditional yukatas. There were also taiko drummers, dance performers, and lots of food stands. When we wandered over to Otosan’s crushed ice stand, he grabbed Betrice and I and made us start selling crushed ice for him! He gave us baseball jerseys and a sign that said Crushed Ice for 100 yen. We started yelling, “IRASHAIMASEN!!” (Welcome!!) Many people came to take pictures with us, and it was a lot of fun! But we would have never known about this small neighborhood festival if it wasn’t for our host family.