Your Loss! Don’t Be Shy About Homestay Because of the Language!
Many people have a keen interest toward Japan. For example, people have keen interests about the language, lifestyle, society, traditional culture and modern popular culture such as anime, manga, and games! Well, have you ever imagined how would it be to live with native Japanese people under one roof? To be and act as ‘Japanese’ even for only a few days? For those of you who are interested, Homestay might be a good choice. Many choose to study Japanese so that one day they would be able to visit Japan. Perhaps you are one of them. However, if you refrain yourself from visiting Japan and not to try the Homestay simply because you cannot speak the language, it will be your loss!
I want to share a little bit of the Homestay experience that I have participated in last autumn, November 2014. Follow this article to the end, maybe this could be a reference for you who are still uncertain to take part in the Homestay experience. I participated in a program of a brief visit to Japan for a week, which was held by cooperation with my school, Wakayama University. Homestay for 2 days with family farmers in Hidakagawa city, Wakayama Prefecture, is one of the very interesting agendas in this program. It was the first time I stayed with a native Japanese family, and I was very nervous because my Japanese language skill is not up to scratch! At that time, I was living with the Kamiuchi family.
At the Homestay place, I called Mr. Yoshihiro as Otousan (father) and Mrs. Yui as okaasan (mother). This is so that we become more familiar and feel at home. What had made me worried was I was staying at Kamiuchi’s with my two Japanese friends and 1 Thai friend who could not speak Japanese at all and my own Japanese skill is a mess! What do I do? I was very nervous at that time.
She is Kanon-chan, the Kamiuchi’s 5 years old daughter. She was holding a sign that have our name and the Homestay family’s name, Hana no ne (Voice of Flower). She is very adorable, right? I wanted to take her home with me.
On the first day we arrived mid-afternoon, Mr. Kamiuchi gave us a tour of his farm. His house is a Japanese traditional house. When entering a Japanese home, do not forget to remove your shoes and leave it in the genkan. Genkan (玄関) is a traditional Japanese entryway for a house, apartment, or building-something of a combination of a porch and a doormat. For the Japanese, shoes and sandals are soiled and dirty, therefore may not be brought inside the house.
Yeah! Finally now is dinner time! This is what we have been waiting for; to enjoy Japanese culinary at its greatest! Mrs. Kamiuchi made sukiyaki and okonomiyaki with ingredients directly picked from the Kamiuchi’s farm. They are very fresh and delicious! For Japanese, dinner is the time to share and talk with each other at the dinner table. We took the opportunity to give the Kamiuchis the souvenirs from our country. Yes, bringing a gift while being a guest to someone’s home is one part of Japanese culture. There is no need for expensive or glamourous things; just something special from your country. The gift is our expression to show gratitude for the Homestay family’s hospitality during our stay.
Otousan and okaasan asked me a lot of things about my country. I nervously answered with stutters and it took time to understand what they were asking. However, I got to understand how nervous our Thai friend was because he cannot speak Japanese at all! But unexpectedly, he had memorized some vocabularies and basic sentences like, “kore wa nan desu ka” (what is this?), “oishii desu” (this is very tasty), “arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you), etc to communicate. Although he had to use body language as well and asked for my help to translate. This may be tips for you who want to visit Japan! Learn basic vocabulary to ask questions. As long as you are not afraid to ask, then you won’t be lost.
And finally … that was the first time we slept on futons on tatami floors in typical Japanese rooms. Futon is a folding mattress to sleep on the floor and consists of various layers with a thick quilt that keeps me warm. When going to sleep, you have to set the futon itself. It’s very heavy and thick but warm! Then when you wake up, do not forget to tidy up the futon and return it to oshiire. Oshiire is a kind of closet with sliding doors. This is used for sleeping by Doraemon. I’m sure you know it!
We were also invited to make a wide variety of Japanese food along with Homestay participants from other houses in the village hall. We made takemeshi, which is rice baked in the fields with mushrooms and a Japanese fish called ayu arranged in bamboo with soy sauce seasoning. In addition, we also cooked udon noodles and grilled Ayu fish. So yummy.
We were taught to create cutlery that we’ll use. Wow! Very cool. First time for us to use cutlery that we have made by ourselves!
When talking about Ikebana, certainly what is in your mind is a typical Japanese vase with flowers. But this time, we were invited to create a unique ikebana named “oshibana”. It can be used to decorate the refrigerator.
Cute! You’ll definitely say that word once you look at this picture. It is one of the carvings that we made together by using some sort of a hot pen. It’s created like a drawing, only the medium is a thin board.
Time to go home! Okaasan gave us a sweet snack (sort of like sweet potato). It looks so yummy, so we immediately ate it up, forgetting a chance to take a photo of the snack.
Although we can’t fully understand the real life of the Japanese people in the countryside in such a short time, the experience certainly has given us some real ideas of how the Japanese family life style looks like. It was because Otousan and Okaasan were very open and did not hesitate to tell us whatever I asked them. Although my Japanese is not good and my Thai friend cannot even speak Japanese, it did not deter us from participating in the Homestay program. If you want to know about the lives of Japanese people, Homestay is the right choice. Believe me, language is not an obstacle.
Homestay in the city of Wakayama Prefecture Hidakagawa, managed by the association named Yume Club21. If you are interested, please visit this website: http://yumeclub21.hidakagawa.jp/
Let’s further recognize the Japanese family life, get new experiences, and meet your Japanese parents!