I live in an urban city, where there’s technology in lots on places, I have internet everywhere I go (well in most places anyway) and I can get ANYWHERE by bus or train. Going to Japan, I had to say goodbye to the internet in most places and scavenge for wifi anywhere I went. I’ve gotten used to that but at the end of the day I would encounter wifi at the minshukus (Japanese-style hotels) we would stay in. This homestay was a different experience.
Skyy, Rey and I had the pleasure of staying with Mie Sato, a mother of two, in a house in the mountains with an ocean view. I expected a house kind of like the minshukus we’ve been staying in. That was not the case. When we were on the way to the house, call me a phone addicted millennial, I was the most worried about wifi. Then I saw the house, which was like a log cabin in the woods that was solar powered. At that point I knew there was no wifi. We took a look around and I admired to find out that literally 94.9% of the house was built by hand. We were told to get our stuff for the bath and we would go to to the lower level further down the mountain. Seeing as this house looked more house-y I saw it as necessary to look for wifi since the tv was on and the weather lately hasn’t been the sunniest, I knew the house wasn’t solar powered. I checked, and still no wifi. I felt really bad worrying about the wifi, so I just stopped (for not too long).
My home also had kids, two boys to be exact. One was seven and the other was two. I enjoyed watching the kids because the seven year old gave me nostalgia of when I was a young’n and the two year old reminded me of my little sister who’s four now, but when she was two as well. I admired their bond as brothers – they were both HIGHLY energetic and they weren’t scared of much. The seven year old, we would joke around and called him Tarzan since he knew a lot about plants and bugs and he climbed literally everywhere, especially when we were in the woods. The two year old was soooooooo cute. He ran to and fro, back and forth, over yonder like it was nothing. People complain about those Trouble Twos but personally, I like it when a child’s rebellious side shows. Well, when it’s innocent of course. There was a point in time where he didn’t want to come into the house and it was time to eat. Skyy was smart and tried to lure him in with candy, but when I tried he started to run away so I had to chase him. I almost fell on the hill he was running down the night before so I had to be careful chasing him, but he ran down the hill with no fear! Long story short, I got him and we had dinner. Yay.
In terms of the activities we did, on the first night we just set our stuff down in the lodge, ate dinner, watched a weirdly interesting movie, went to an onsen-style sento, then passed out in bed. The next day though was more eventful. When we woke up, we took a walk down the mountain to the lower house. After breakfast, we walked by the ocean. The experience by the ocean was fun because my host mother was scared of me falling off of the sea wall so she quickly urged me to go back home and it was so caring that I couldn’t just say “no” and came when I felt it was time to go home.
After that, we stayed at home for a bit and I found this MAGICAL kanji booklet called “unko” which means “poop” in Japanese, so anyone who knows me would know that I would have to get that book as well as the rest of its volumes (which is a goal in progress). Anyhoo, once the children came back from their friends’ house we went by the ocean for a second time and this time I went in. The kids went all in, but I went in. I was like a kid in a candy store, I had lots of fun going in, feeling the tide wash upon my feet, looking for things in the ocean and then finding flat rocks attempting to skip rocks. It was just fun. Afterwards, we went into the bath which was a pretty scary experience, but that’s another story for another time.
Anyway, after we went to the bath we ate dinner and relaxed for a few hours. We went to sleep that night and the next morning, we met the father who was a pretty calm guy. He’s a handyman who built the cabin we were staying in, the well whose water we used to wash our face, and did a lot of the backyard work for the house further down the mountain. He always told us about how he wished he could have done more for us since he works faraway from home so he not exactly at home all the time. He’s not afraid to express his opinions and I like that about him because on the drop off to the meeting point at the end of the homestay, we ended up talking about how nature reserves were being altered for Minamisanriku’s recovery efforts.
All in all, the homestay experience in the mountains of Minamisanriku seemed very eventful for me. As I said before, I live in an urban city where there’s internet almost anywhere I go, so I never take the time to absorb my surroundings since I’m glued to my phone half of the time. Thus, being in a country where I don’t have 4G Data, and in an area where I don’t have wifi, it taught me how to appreciate what’s around me and what’s in front of me. I tend to take advantage of my first-world privileges and I never would have noticed that if it wasn’t taken away from me.
Banneker Academic HS