When Taylor and I woke up, we were both a little reluctant to head downstairs and greet our homestay family for what would be a very busy and tiring day. Although Taylor seems to enjoy homestays much more than me, I think we both knew that the day would be exhausting.
We went downstairs and greeted our host mother and sister, who had prepared a huge spread for breakfast. A whole fish, salad, miso, rice, sausages, eggs, and tea took up a huge chunk of the table, and that was the meal that each of us got. We didn’t get the chance to share any of this huge amount of food, so naturally I couldn’t finish it all. I struggled to pick apart the hard fish with my chopsticks, though Taylor did it expertly. I later heard my host mother laugh in a light-hearted way that Taylor was quite good with chopsticks but that I obviously found them difficult.
True, mama. True. But nothing works better than practice.
After breakfast and some small talk, our host sister Urumu took us outside to walk around the house and check out the neighborhood. She explained that her father was a fisherman on the ships down the street and that her brother works there too. She took us down to a pier in front of her house to show us the Hirado strait, telling us stories of how she swims and fishes off of the pier.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we had to meet back with our group, so we returned to the house to meet our host mother and make the short trip down to the bay to meet with sensei and the others.
At the strait, I reunited with my peers and made myself comfortable in the bus that would be driving us around all day. Our tour guide, Suzuki, was a man of, shall we say, MANY words. A lot of them.
We began by listening to his historical information about Hirado Castle, and we also toured it briefly. His information was helpful and he was quite a cheerful and energetic guide, but at least for the castle, I preferred to wander around on my own since the information was familiar to me. Because I am interested in military history (particularly that of Japan), I already understood how the castle was structured to function in a battle.
After we’d finished climbing Hirado Castle, we spent the rest of the day looking at churches. LOTS of churches. Everywhere. Apparently, Hirado had a large population of Christians, so we visited church after church until we were brutally exhausted.
In a way, I felt bad, because Suzuki did notice that as the day was going on more and more of us kept dozing on bus even though he was talking. I managed to stay awake, but there was certainly not a moment of silence that day!
For lunch, we were welcomed into the home of some of Suzuki’s friends for what I must admit is THE LARGEST meal I have ever seen. Because of Hirado’s reliance on the fishing trade, I knew we’d be getting some seafood. What I didn’t expect was the huge spread set before us, personally caught by the husband of the family only a few hours before. Clams, sea snails, sushi with fish, biwas, boiled egg soup, and a multitude of other seafood was laid before us, the honored guests.
The smell of salt water was delightful and filled the entire room.
After I’d managed to stuff myself with all the food I possibly could, the host gave us some rice balls filled with sweet bean paste and wrapped in biwa leaves. She’d freshly prepared them as we were sitting there, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so pampered!
After the lunch, we were free to walk for a short time on one of Hirado’s beaches. I’d hoped everyone was willing to stay around long enough that I could hunt for some crabs, but alas, we were all so tired that no one really cared to stay on their feet longer than they had to. Now that much I understand!
After the churches, lunch, and beach, we made a brief stop at a small shrine hidden in a bamboo forest. It was a beautiful place…if you’re willing to brave the almost blinding swath of spider webs to get there!
We also stopped for a short time at the Dutch trading post in Hirado, probably because Suzuki assumed that we were all Dutch because we came from a Christian college with a large Dutch population. While the post was interesting, at that point, I was quite ready to be done.
If I have any complaints about the day (which I do, in fact), I’d have to say that what frustrated me most of was Sarah (a different one than the previous posts). She really, truly enjoys photobombing (that is, getting in someone else’s picture or waving her hand in front of the camera when someone is taking a picture). I suppose that a lot of people find this cute. KNOCK IT OFF. The odds that I will see some of these places again is virtually zero, and I don’t want a picture with your stupid arm in it. You want to photobomb some of my pictures? Cool. Do it when we’re at a huge temple and I can take more than one picture. If I have two seconds to take a picture of a real geisha that happens to suddenly appear out of a building? GET OUT OF THE WAY! That, my friends, is not the time to photobomb.
And that’s what she seemed to enjoy doing the most. Irk. To the max.
Despite that fact, whenever someone would mess up her pictures, she’d get angry. Fancy how that works.
My only other complaint, which probably stems from how much I’ve traveled, is this: no one seems to know how to travel and be aware of other people around them. Some (not all) of my fellow travelers are constantly in the way of others walking by, can’t seem to get their luggage out of the way…those types of things. Most times, they’re not even paying attention to try to do so. You can’t travel and be oblivious – that leads to problems (like Sarah being left on the train). Why, just today, Sarah (the same as above) almost got hit by a car when she decided to run across the street without looking in order to get a picture. Oblivious = bad.
I understand that being attentive while traveling is somewhat of a cultivated skill (as I had to learn about it myself in Australia and New Zealand), but how about we start cultivating sooner rather than later.
The day was long and exhausting, partly from the huge amount of things that we did, partly because of Suzuki’s (entirely well meaning) verbosity, and partly because of the frustration of dealing with oblivious peers. Regardless, it was still a fantastic day. Despite that, I was glad to return to my host family and sit down on the tatami. Urumu switched on the TV for us while we relaxed, and host mama came to sit with us on the floor. We got to know the two of them better, and they got to know us. For this first homestay, it was great to have Taylor with me. That way, when our Japanese seemed to be failing us, we could piggy-back off of each other for ideas or grammar constructions.
I was learning to love my host family, but a part of me was still ready to be back in a ryokan. I just think that hosting is not the perfect fit for me, but I’ll never regret doing homestays!
Host mama got up to make dinner, so Urumu changed the channel to some sort of Japanese game show.
Oh, let the fun begin.
Has anyone ever seen that short-lived American TV show called “I Survived a Japanese Game Show”? There’s a reason that Japanese game shows require “survival,” not “participation.”
I have no idea what the name of the show was. All I know is that it involved a man trying to get a lemur out of his jeans and a woman dressed up like a lioness to try to get a lion cub to follow her. It also involved some attempts to get said lemur to eat cockroaches off of said woman’s face. Survival of the fittest.
Despite the supremely entertaining game show, host mama insisted that Taylor and I take showers before the rest of the family so that we could relax after such a long and tiring day. I opted to go first and just be done with it, so I slid the door closed and washed up.
In all honesty, the shower was no different from American showers other than the fact that I wasn’t standing in the bath tub. I was standing on a floor with a drain next to the bath tub, which was not full.
I was a little unsure of just how long to shower – part of me thought that I should take my time, as my host family would be reassured to know that I’m clean. But the other part of me didn’t want to do any damage to their water bill, so I opted for a relatively short shower.
After the shower, I relaxed on the tatami mats with Urumu until dinner, which was an incredible bit of host mama’s cooking: curry rice, raw octopus with green dressing, salad, and shrimp. My host father was so excited about the octopus and kept urging me to eat more of it. It was delicious, but I was so stuffed! Despite continuously telling my host mother “いっぱい! [ippai; I’m full!],” she just kept shoveling food onto my plate.
Such seems to be the way of the Japanese mama.
After I finally convinced her to stop giving me food, it was a short bit of relaxation before bed. What’s in store for tomorrow? I have no idea.