This week of school was our first round of tests in our Japanese language classes. This made me realize how fast time flies by for it’s already been a month since I’ve arrived in Japan. It’s a strange feeling where somehow I feel like I have been living here for a long time yet not long at all, I hope that other students who’s also studying abroad understand what I’m talking about.
As the weekend rolls around I was excited to meet my home-visit partner. Kansai Gaidai has a program where students living in the dorms will also have a chance to experience temporary homestay. Some Japanese students’ families volunteer to host one or two international students once or twice a month. I think this is a great program and the families who volunteer are so generous such as mine was.
On Sunday, I met up with Misaki at Hirakatashi-eki, the main station where I’m staying. Misaki’s family lives in Sakai, which is an hour and a half and 4 train changes, so I was definitely thankful that she came to take me for I would have been hopelessly lost. We met up with her parents, who drove us to a Japanese garden nearby. It was my second time riding in a car in Japan and what I noticed that they’re all really good drivers, or at least parkers, since everyone backs into their parking spaces. At the garden, it was the first time I’ve seen ume, or plum flowers, as they started blooming. It was beautiful and it’s unfortunate that the sakura (cherry blossoms) take most of the spotlight as the Japanese flower, but I felt that the purple, white, pink, and yellow ume are most underappreciated.
After the garden, we went up to the highest floor of the Sakai City Hall building where you have an amazing view of the entire city, including the ocean. I was taken by surprise when I realized that the garden we went to was part of the famous Emperor Nintoku kofun, or burial site, that we’ve talked about in our Japanese Art in the Kansai Area class. It was a gigantic wooded area, which seemed so out of place being in the middle of a busy city, kind of like New York’s Central Park.
Before heading to their house, we stopped by this cake store to get some cake. Back at their house, I was introduced to Misaki’s older brother, who’s the age as me and we got some good laughs as Otousan tries to make him speak English to me. Misaki was the only one in the family to study English past high school so she helped translate quite a bit. Okaasan made okonomiyaki for our dinner as we sat, ate, and watched TV. Our conversation was sparse and I felt apologetic for not being able to have long conversations even though they were such nice and friendly people, but I guess both parties were still shy since it’s only our first meeting. At the end we took pictures, and I felt even more in debt when Otousan gave me a gift of some hinamatsuri candy and glass figurines. I really felt at a lost for their kindness and generosity. Therefore, I am planning to paint them a sumie painting as a gift the next time we meet, Yamanaka family, please wait a bit more!!