My Summer Experience in Japan ~ Homestay in Mobara
By Nicole Brown
Senior Captain, Women's Volleyball
Nicole is in Japan on a summer exchange program. She will update us on her travels, about once a week, with her blog.
Last week I participated in a Home Stay Program that allowed me to live with a Japanese family in Mobara-Chiba, Japan for a week. The program was amazing. Initially, I waited in heavy anticipation to see what my Japanese family would be like, and how they would differ from my American family. Needless to say, there were many different customs and practices I had to adapt to. I was so blessed to have such a loving host family who was enthusiastically open to experiencing American traditions as well.
My hosts, the Aruga family, are very kind people (shinsetsu na hito). My host father, Mr. Aruga, or otoosan (o-toe-san) as I had to call him, is a police officer (keisatsukan). He works very long shifts, often being absent from the home for a day or two. This is very common for most Japanese men who are proud to provide for their families. My host mother, okaasan (o-ka-ah-san), works for a company but enjoys flexible hours. She is also an expert cook and takes pride in preparing delicious gourmet meals three times a day, and keeping a neat and tidy home. My host siblings are Yuuika (26), Yoshi (24), and Tomomi (21). Yuuika-san is a radiologist who lives about an hour away from her parents. Yoshi-san is a college student who enjoys intense research. He is studying engineering and is very interested in architectural design. Tomomi-san is the youngest and she is currently without a job. This is not uncommon for many Japanese youth. As a matter of fact, there are a number of youth who have no jobs because only 2 out of 10 Japanese students who graduate college actually have jobs. The rest go through a strenuous job searching process much unlike the US. They must attend seminars and meetings in hopes of landing a great career. Yet still, there is a large number of Japanese youth that remain unemployed. Some can afford to do so because their parents are affluent, while others are simply preoccupied with Nintendo games and don’t seem to care. However, Tomomi is a great helping hand to her mother.
Some of the basic customs I had to familiarize myself with included: staying aware of clear separations of outside from inside, as shoes could not be worn in the house, or on certain surfaces, expressing thanks frequently, staying off of my cell phone as it is thought to be rude when the Japanese are traditional and enjoy healthy conversation, remembering to bless your food with appropriate phrases: itadakimasu (before the meal) and gochisoosama deshita (after the meal “thank you for the meal”)!! While it seems like a lot, these were some of the adjustments that became a part of my daily habits.
My host family showed me an excellent time in Mobara. We went to various places and enjoyed many activities together including: Kassamori Konsen (a temple that is known for bringing children to get their blessing at birth), a traditional barbeque (very contrary to barbequing in the states), watching traditional dancing that is performed in parades and festivals typically in July, visiting the ajisai (Japanese flower gardens), eating Sushi at Sushi-Go-Round Tabehodai’s (ALL YOU CAN EAT!!!), watching Japanese game shows (in Japanese), visiting traditional Japanese high schools (very structured and strict classroom settings… Americans wouldn’t last but an hour), walking the dog- BOBU, shopping, visiting Ohtaki Castle where I was able to dress as a Samurai warrior, and participating in many Japanese art activities.
Of course I got the chance to try some very unique looking
cuisine. I ate everything from raw fish to fish that had eyes
looking at me on my plate, to escargot, to octopus, to squid. I
also had my share of beef and chicken at the barbeque, but they
were rare. I found that it was best not to know exactly what I was
eating. Most of the time I was told EXACTLY what I was eating and
upon identifying the main dish, I often just closed my eyes and
took one for the team. LOL. Overall the food was great. I’m
glad that I enjoy white rice because I had it with every meal. My
favorite breakfast meal was sake- boiled salmon, with a sweet egg,
rice, huge toast (way larger than texas toast), miso soup (tofu and
seaweed soup), fresh cut tomatoes, and a cup of green tea.
I had an amazing experience with my host family. They are all very kind people who have a genuine love for one another. Their energy is ridiculous and I could not have been placed with a better family. They were so open and warm to me and wanted to learn everything about me and my home country. I was truly able to forge a relationship that I hope will be long-lasting and satisfying. While there is no place like home, I truly felt at home. I wish I could have stayed with them longer, but I am sure that we will keep in contact and see each other again in the near future.