Delmar’s Homestay

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!

Delmar Tarrago
School Without Walls

Jatalia’s Homestay

While in Japan I stayed with H.I. and her family. My stay with them was fantastic and their home became like a second home to me. My first day “home” I felt extremely welcomed and like part of the family. I will admit I was a bit shy at first because I was taller than the entire family and couldn’t speak Japanese but they were so friendly and patient I quickly began to talk and bond with them.

My first dinner with the family was a pretty interesting one and one I will never forget. It was spaghetti and french fries which I found funny because I was expecting to eat a Japanese styled dinner. In the mornings for breakfast I would either have toast and soup or toast and yogurt, then my host sister and I would be out the door, off to Kikuna Station to catch the train. At night after dinner if I wasn’t too tired I would spend some time with my host sisters and my host mom, getting to know them better and answering any questions they had for me.

On the fourth day of my homestay, I got injured while traveling to the train station, and the following day I stayed home to recover from my injury. It was that day that I found out how well I fit with my host family. My host mom took care of me that day, and while being home alone with her I found out that she shared my love for Korean dramas and was a fan of Korean actor, Lee Minho. We really seemed to bond that day and I felt as if she was my real mom the way she always asked if I was OK or if I needed anything.

My homestay was the best and I couldn’t imagine staying with another family. There was never a time where I felt excluded or unwanted and if it were possible I would’ve stayed forever!

Jatalia Wilson
Eastern SHS

Atiya’s Homestay

Ever since the reception, where we, the American TOMODACHI participants, saw our Japanese counterparts for the very first time since their departure from Washington, DC, the anticipation for the home stay portion of the program had been at an all time high for everyone. When the time had finally come to go to our host families, we followed our host brother or sister to our host home.

When I first arrived to the house I would now call my home, I was extremely excited, but also very nervous in fear of making a careless mistake. I walked into an aroma of fried foods. My host mom greeted me as if I was her long lost child who had returned home. She gave me a tour of the house, showed me my private bathroom, and showed me to my rooms (I had two), which were both incredibly relaxing. After getting settled in, I washed up and prepared for dinner, which was fried pork cutlets with white rice of course, and miso soup. That night, we got to know each other and I was delighted to find that I had a family who appreciates music as much as I do. My host father arrived during dinner and embraced my presence just as my mom did. I figured that then was the perfect time to present my gifts, which were a framed picture of my host sister and I, and an engraved snow globe expressing my gratitude. They loved the gifts and displayed them on the living room mantel.

The moments shared upon my arrival to my host home shaped the unforgettable experience that was in store with my host family. We learned a lot about each other from their occupations and my aspirations to our favorite sodas. Over the short period of time that was spent together, we bonded enormously. Because of our bond, however, it made it almost impossible to say goodbye. This only goes to show that beyond the language difference between my host family and me, we were able to connect on a level that is ultimately unbreakable, regardless of the distance between us. This teaches me the importance of connection because with the connections formed in just 3 weeks, come friendships that last a lifetime.

Atiya Artis
Coolidge SHS

Joel’s Homestay

My homestay with CT was really a learning experience. In fact, if I learned anything about what it’s like to actually live in Japan, it was from my experiences in my homestay. At first I was a little bit scared about making any mistakes, but I knew if I was to learn anything, I first had to ask questions, which was crucial. However as I got to know my host family, I wasn’t scared anymore.

For one thing, I really loved their home, especially the living room. I also loved that we were able to spend a lot of time just talking amongst ourselves. I also got to learn a lot from my host parents, from learning how to say what my age is in Japanese to learning an alternate way to wear my yukata.

One of my favorite days with them was on November 11, 2013, which was the night I learned how to make sushi. I really loved spending time with them. Even now I do miss them, but soon I plan to come back and catch up with them. Hopefully I could also help CT study abroad in the same college I go to while I’m at it.

Joel Bernola
Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Tenaj’s Homestay

I had a magnificent time with I.Y.., my host sister. Her family was so amazing and so giving. I had to stay at I.Y’s grandmother’s house because I.Y.’s home was far from her school. When I arrived at I.Y.’s grandmother’s house, her grandmother gave me a gift. She gave me two necklaces and there were both handmade. They are very detailed pieces and I felt special because her grandmother doesn’t really make jewelry anymore. I.Y.’s youngest sister made me a welcome poster even though she wouldn’t be there to meet me. Her grandmother couldn’t get over that I was much taller than I.Y. Her grandmother’s home was beautiful even though she didn’t think so. She had a traditional room with tatami flooring. I.Y.’s grandmother always asked me if I was hungry and tried to feed me all the time, even after I was finished eating. I thought it was funny. She reminded me of my mother. She is always trying to feed people even when they say no thank you. Her grandmother spoke a little English as well.

I went to visit I.Y.’s home in Guma Prefecture. I.Y. has a beautiful home. Her home is more modern than her grandmother’s home. They had a room with tatami flooring honoring her father’s parents. I met her sister there. I.Y. has three sisters just like me (one difference is my younger sisters are younger than the two younger sisters. I also met her father. He didn’t speak English even though I. Y. told me he could speak a little English.

We went to a mall by their house and went shopping. I.Y.’s older sister brought me some eyeliner which is awesome. I loved staying with I.Y. and I plan to go back to Japan to visit them again. Maybe when I graduate high school.

Tenaj Gueory
McKinley Technology HS

Rebekah’s Homestay

Finally I get to talk about my amazing homestay in Japan, with my host sister A.T. and her family. Before I even got to the house they were being hospitable. Hospitality is a huge part of Japanese culture and I had heard so much about it, so I was extremely excited.

We met up with our hosts on Keio University’s campus and then they took us home. The subway ride to her house was quite interesting. Besides the subway system and there being turnstiles inside the train station when you wanted to change lines, my host sister carried my bag! This was entirely new to me. I know that it is the hospitable and nice thing to do but in America I was so used to carrying my own weight. It wasn’t as funny as seeing little H.O. though lugging around Atiya’s bag however. When we arrived at our station we made a quick stop at their house, then off to a traditional style restaurant. Not until now a couple months after the trip have I realized how Japanese people park. Every time we parked anywhere they would park backwards so with the front facing out and back of the car facing in.

Like I expected, we left our shoes downstairs before we enter the “house,” then stepped up into the house and wore slippers. The house was surprisingly very modern and western. I was hoping to have seen a more traditional house, but they did have one traditional room where her mom mainly slept rather than her designated room upstairs where I stayed. Several other students had found the same thing; their families had one traditional room as well. From this observation I inferred that the younger generations preferred the modern and western feeling homes, while the older generations felt more comfortable in traditional settings. My host family was so kind, I felt a little bad for taking her mom’s room, which had a beautiful view of Mount Fuji. Waking up to such a beautiful view was breathtaking.

Then came the dining experience. For my first homestay meal it was incredible. It was both delicious and I got to see more hospitality in the work force. I got to try Fugu! The deadly puffer fish. I was a little nervous at first but excited to branch out and try new foods. Fugu turned out to be very delicious and I had other types of fish. Our server was very cute; she served us tea, came in and checked on us periodically, when we had our hot pot she would come in and scoop up the grease. It was an overall great first experience and we had a nice conversation about our families. Some things I had expected and did see were the small cars, slipper situation, constantly feeding me, and showering first, bathing afterwards. The breakfast was better than any I had in America – little sausages, eggs, a little salad, yogurt, etc. The breakfasts and quite frankly every meal were amazing. The meals were some of the things I looked forward to the most. They were always checking in on me, and her mom always offered me tea and more food to keep me fed.

While I stayed with them they took me to a ramen museum and a cup noodle museum. Ramen was my ultimate goal and I ate more Ramen than possible. I enjoyed spending time with my host sister and mother at these really cool cultural places. I learned quite a bit about ramen and cup noodles on this trip. Even though I stayed in a home stay, I only saw my host father twice, mainly because he is a pilot and doesn’t come home often. However I enjoyed my time with the whole family. I think the main reason I enjoyed this stay the most was how similar our families were. My mom doesn’t really work but is a choir director; A.T.’s mom is an interior coordinator and stays home often. My dad was a pilot and is in the air force and was gone often like A.T.’s father. My brother is in college and her sister is in college in the USA. In fact her sister goes to the college my aunt teaches at. Our families have so much in common and I felt at home in Japan.

Rebekah Armstrong
School Without Walls