Life in Japan post number TWO. Here we go!
As I mentioned in my previous post, my first few days in Japan were wonderful. Let me go into further detail about that here!
I arrived in Japan on March 25th in the late afternoon. My flight was 13 hours long and I had to wait in Narita Airport for almost an hour because my paperwork was just slightly off, so I was frazzled, tired, and in need of a shower. So, needless to say, I was very comforted by the fact that I had a family to stay with for the next 5 nights.
Now, the family that I stayed with was not an official host family, because my program offers a dorm housing during the semester, but since I came to Japan a few days before the program started, I needed somewhere to stay, so one of my friends at Hope College graciously offered for me to stay with her family!
On top of my first-day frazzlement, I also experienced a few nerve-wracking things that would have left me a mess if I had not had my host family there with me to make things easier. (Ordering food is so hard, knowing what kind of shampoo to buy is hard…and I touched upon this a little in the last post, but traveling by yourself for the first time on the train can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing.)
Even on my first night, I truly felt like I had been living there for a long time already. My room was very comfortable and felt like my own.
I was also treated to many kinds of vegetarian-friendly foods…
…took a stab at baking…
…and was able to try some traditional sweets!
…….Now, I need to take a minute to explain this last picture. This has gotta be one of the weirdest foods I have tried in Japan so far. It’s called ところてん（心太）, or “tokoroten.” It looks like clear noodles and tastes like clear noodles. Since there is not a real taste, you can see there is some sweet くろみつ（黒蜜）kuromitsu syrup in the cup as well. It was next to impossible to get them in my mouth because they were so slippery, but they tasted fine once I actually got to eat them! My host family told me it’s a nice snack to have in the summer because it’s really refreshing to eat cold. I can totally see that now!
On Easter Sunday, I spent the day with my host mom and my host dad exploring Yokohama. First, we went to a place called Sankeien Garden, where you can walk around and see replicas of some traditional Japanese houses and a beautiful three-story pagoda. The sakura were still in bloom at this time, so it was the perfect day to go.
Afterwards, I was taken around Yamashita Park and the surrounding area. Since Yokohama is a port town, we were right by Tokyo Bay and could see the ships at their ports.
I also had a great day out with my host older sister. We went to the Nogeyama Zoo（野毛山動物園）together and even got to touch some of the animals in a small petting area!
After the zoo, my host sister took me to the downtown area of Yokohama, called Minato-mirai(みなとみらい), where we found a Studio Ghibli store! We also went to the famous hall called 赤レンガ, or the Red Brick Warehouse, which is famous for its many stores, restaurants, and concert halls inside! One of my favorite Japanese actors/singers performed there a few years ago, so I was really happy to be able to see it!!
After being in Yokohama for a few days, I absolutely fell in love with the area. I was so blessed to be able to live in a peaceful city, and with such a caring family. My host family was so generous, hospitable, and patient with my intermediate level Japanese. It was so wonderful learning so many new things while still having the comfort of getting help if I didn’t understand.
My host father had to leave on Monday for a business trip, so I wasn’t able to spend as much time with him as I could with my host sister and host mother. However, when I was doing some baking that afternoon, my host dad had texted my host mom and told her how it felt like he had a third daughter and he was really happy. When my host mom relayed the message to me, I couldn’t vocalize an answer right away because I was doing everything in my power to not tear up. I was so, so happy to be welcomed in this family with open arms.
I honestly feel a little homesick for my host family now that I’m living in Tokyo, but they are not super far away, so I am still able to visit them once in a while. It’s comforting to know I will always have somewhere where I feel safe and loved, even in a foreign country.
So, thank you, Kojima family!! My Japan trip would not have started out very well without you.
And with that, I will see you in the next post!