The school festival at Keio high school knocked my expectations out of the park. There were so many clubs and classes doing their own theme. I seriously lost count of how many hoodies I saw because each class has their own designed hoodie. My host sister designed her class hoodie, which was pretty cool. Now going back to the clubs, I wish my school had as many options. Three clubs stood out to me the most. The first was the band/orchestra. They all looked so professional and neat. The songs were played beautifully, especially the studio giblets songs. I felt like I was in a theater listening to the track. The second club was the art club. I was so bewildered by the fantastic art that was there. It inspired me to work and get better at my own art. The third club was the rock band club. There were two bands: an all girls band and an all boys band. I was really feeling both of them. Micah and I were really into it in the end when the boy band was playing the opening of Naruto. We both literally ran up in front of the crowd and started singing and jumping.
At the end of the home stay I sorta didn’t want to leave, as I have mentioned in a previous blog post that I am in love with my host family’s house. I am also so grateful for all the things my host family did, like housed me, washed my clothes, and cooked me meals. Speaking of cooking meals, during my last night at my host family’s home, my host mom made me some pizza from scratch. It had pepperoni and onions. It was oishi (delicious). It is now one of my most favorite pizzas ever. I will miss my host family very much and I hope we can one day meet in the future.
Keio High School’s school festival is a once a year celebration and open house. The Japan TOMODACHI students gave us a tour of Keio, and guided us to different rooms, presentations, and activities. I enjoyed the Keio orchestra most. They started off with a piece that felt like it was torn from an action movie. The two next pieces were dear to my heart and I greatly enjoyed them. The first was from the video game Donkey Kong. The music is very jazzy, and they captured that feeling and exaggerated it with excellency. The next were a few pieces from the anime film Totoro. I enjoyed reminiscing over the movie while listening to the music. It was fantastic and I’m glad I got to see less popular culture in America come to life in its home country.
My first ever homestay experience was fantastic! I stayed with my host brother TM and his family. I lived with TM’s mother, father, and little brother Gaku. I did not meet TM’s father until the last night, because he was in San Antonio for a business trip. For first night I had such a warm welcome. I mostly remember a very large dinner with so many various foods, and I especially like the Japanese fried pork. I really like the way the Japanese fry food. It’s not deep fried and greasy, yet still very crunchy. The second day we went to a family restaurant and had hamburg. Hamburg is hamburger meat without the buns, and is usually served with a sauce. I also tried bone marrow for the first time. It was fried, but I soon found out, when my family and host family video chatted, that bone marrow is a popular meal in the south where my father is from. I still laugh because little did I know this meal that I thought was so foreign is so close to home!
My last night TM’s father arrived. He brought popcorn from his layover in Chicago. I had never heard of Garret Popcorn before but it is extremely popular in Japan because the Japanese don’t really eat popcorn. I imagine Garret Popcorn is a hidden jewel in America. I think that America’s cities have that one secret thing that easily distinguishes a local from a foreigner, like mambo sauce from DC. That’s why I imagine I wouldn’t know Garret Popcorn, yet if I talk to any Chicago lover they’d instantly know what I’m talking about. Or I just didn’t know the place and everyone else does, but oh well. I definitely felt that Garret Popcorn was prized by the M family, and as I saw a shop for Garret Popcorn in Tokyo Station I instantly thought of my host family. It is something dear to my heart now, all because of the love that I felt connected our family.
Today was the last day with our host families. After an hour of now trying to get everything in my suitcase, and 5 minutes of me and my host mother running to the station at full speed to make sure I don’t miss my train, we caught up with the other TOMODACHI students, and I bid farewell to my host mother with a hug and went off onto the train, ready for the next chapter of our Japan adventure.
After a few minutes in a regular train we got off at Tokyo station. Looking around, this station might be one of the coolest stations we’ve been to. Filled with stores, snack shops, and restaurants. I could have walked through it for hours. It seemed as though every Japanese cartoon character had their own store, and there was even a whole hallway made up of only ramen shops. This is where we ate, and it was delicious.
The bullet train was crazy, extremely smooth and comfortable, and the constant stream of urban skylines, mountains, and rice fields outside of my window kept me mesmerized the entire way. We got off in Sendai, a city ravaged by the 2011 earthquake, and I have yet to really explore the city.
Sadly, Sunday was our last day with our Japanese host families. I had such a wonderful experience with my host mother Mikki and my host sister MI. I really enjoyed staying with them and the wonderful conversations we had. On my last night with my host family, we all went out to dinner at a local ramen restaurant. At the restaurant we could choose from many different kinds of ramen bowls that all looked amazing and featured many different toppings such as pork, egg, and chicken! I chose a ramen bowl with a miso broth and chicken on top – it was delicious. When I first got my steaming hot bowl of ramen I was so excited to eat it! It smelled delicious and I couldn’t wait to try the miso broth. As I was eating it I realized what a mess I was making, I could never quite get the broth and the noodles in one bite. My host mother quickly noticed that too and was quick to help me master the art of eating hot ramen. As she showed me how to slurp and spoon my ramen quickly and efficiently so that I got maximum flavor possible, I found my self really sad that I would be leaving soon! I really grew close to my host family over my last four days with them and will really miss them when I leave Japan. I am really grateful for my experience with them, and found it such a great way to truly experience Japanese culture.
Today we had the school festival at Keio SFC. It was very fun and I really appreciated the hard work of the students and teachers at the school. Some of the events we visited included an amazing performance by the band, adventures in different classrooms, and viewing beautiful art from the art club. Although the long anticipated school festival was great, it came with the last day with our home stay families. I really enjoyed my entire home stay experience. On the last day we had an amazing meal. That same night, I gave my host family their gifts that I brought with me from DC, which they accepted graciously. We then watched ice skating and ate green tea ice cream. Watching ice skating has a deeper meaning, because it was something we could all enjoy, seeing as all other channels were in Japanese. I will miss them when I go home, but for now I am anticipating seeing them again at the final presentation.