From rice ball snacks, to really hot baths, my homestay experience in Japan was amazing. Leading up to the trip, I had been very excited for the opportunity to live with a Japanese family. I had already met my host brother when he visited in D.C. and was excited to meet his family and experience Japanese lifestyle. My host family was extremely hospitable and I was always comfortable, but also felt that I was able to adapt to the way they lived during my brief stay, and hopefully was able to contribute to the family.
My host family was composed of my host brother, who I had met before, his little, very cute, 8 year old brother, and his mother and father. It just ended up being that their family was very much like mine, as I have a little brother the same age. The family was also really into soccer, which I love, and was a great way through which we had something in common. Together we watched the Japanese national team take on the very capable Dutch, in an international friendly. As we watched I found myself cheering and exclaiming as much as everyone else, as together we cheered on the Japanese side.
Having had a homestay experience in Shanghai, China, I was curious to compare that experience with that of mine in Japan. My two experiences were quite different. My family in Shanghai only had one son and lived in a small apartment in the center of the city. My family in Japan, lived in the outskirts of Tokyo, with a small, very local train line running through the town. The town was more of a residential neighborhood than an actual town as there were very few businesses, besides a restaurant or two, a supermarket and a dry cleaner. However there was a real sense that I was in a Japanese neighborhood.
My host family lived in a two-story house on top of a hill, which although unpleasant to walk up each day, proved worth it as there was a view of Mt. Fuji when the weather was clear. Each morning I would awake and go eat breakfast, often being able to marvel at the mountain from the dining room table.
Breakfast varied as sometimes we would eat more traditional food, and other times more Western. It was explained that many families nowadays do eat more Western food for breakfast, like cereal or an egg. However, rice balls and miso soup still frequent the meal. Overall this was the case with all of the food while with my homestay family. The food in general was very Japanese, with lots of miso soup and rice, but more Western dishes were also served.
Like the other participants will tell you, it is common for Japanese families to take warm baths at night. The family will heat up some water in the tub, which will be used by everyone in the family. Each person has their turn, rinsing off before entering the bath, where he or she can relax in the water. Although quite different from what we are used to in the U.S., the experience is truly relaxing, as after a long day, before going to bed, you can just lie down in the tub and enjoy the warmth of the water.
My experience with my host family was one my favorite experiences of the trip. I had a wonderful time getting to know my host brother’s family and trying to involve myself as much as possible in their lifestyle. From rushing to school in the morning, eating a rice ball snack, or taking a bath at night, I felt that I had a good taste of how many Japanese people live. Still, I know that I was not able to completely have the Japanese experience as I was only with the family for a short time, but still I think that I learned a lot. Hopefully, I will have the chance to learn more. I will have to go back!
School Without Walls