Gifuken, Japan
 

My host family members and I at Chubu Centrair Airport, Tokoname
3 ~ 16 April 2005
 

Chin Soon Lee
 

中島家族へ、

いろ
いろお世話になりました。本当にありがとうございました。ホームステイはあっという間に終わってしまったけど、いい思い出できました。 一緒に下呂にいったり、万博へ行ったり、いろいろな活動おしたり、とても楽しかったです。「超−かわいい」や「わからん」など、おもしろい言葉を教えてもらって、ありがとう。かっこいいと思ってます。

中島家族、ヒツポファミリークラプの友達と会えて、よかったです。いろいろどうもありがとう。皆さんのこと、私は絶対に忘れないよ!また連絡する。

莉ちゃんより

Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience
Japan has always been my dream country. It was not until the 3rd of April, 2005 that I finally set my foot on the land of Japan.

It was my first time joining a homestay and cultural exchange program. When I first came across the homestay program organized by Titan Planet, I jumped at the idea as it appeared to be the best way to make personal interaction with Japanese natives, and do things which you do not get to do from a normal tour. I never regretted this homestay. In fact, it has a great impact on my thinking and life thereafter.


First day, First Impression

I went with 4 other Malaysian friends and arrived at the newly opened Centrair Airport in Chubu, Nagoya in the morning on 3rd April. I was welcomed by my host father, Nakashima Fuyukisan, who drove all the way from Ikedachou, Gifuken to Nagoya. He was a rather quiet and reserved person. I was slightly nervous and at the same time, tired. We chatted for a while and then I was half asleep throughout the rest of the journey.

After more than 2 hours, we finally reached home and I saw a woman with smiling face hugging a cute little girl, waiting for us by the side of the road outside her house. Yes, she was my host mother, Nakashima Michiyosan, and the girl was my 3 year-old host sister, Kurumichan. As I am writing this, I can still remember clearly that moment when I first saw them. My host mother was more talkative than I had thought and I felt so relieved. Soon after my arrival, we had to rush to Ogaki station immediately to send my 11 year-old sister, Momokachan off, as she would be staying at her friend's house over the weekend. Momochan was shy on the first day and did not dare to talk much. After sending her off and lunch, we went to a famous spot (Unjo no sakura) to view sakura. According to them, sakura blossom was slower than usual. Therefore, I only managed to see branches of tree without flowers.

At night, my host father invited me to drink Japanese sake (chu-hi) with him at home. I loved the alcoholic drink very much, which tasted sweet. We chatted about Japan and Malaysia while drinking and eating.

My first time trying ofuro on the first night was so amazing and unforgettable. I could not believe they would bath in hot water at 42 C! I managed to keep my body immersed in the hot water for only one minute. Being born in a country with hot climate, I could not get used to it at first. But in a cold country, I had come to love the hot bath and the bathtub very soon. It was indeed relaxing.

At bedtime, it was yet another discovery. I slept on a mattress, on the floor with many layers of futon. What amazed me was that the mattress came with a heater. I could adjust the temperature as I like. It was indeed very comfortable sleeping on a warm bed like that.

Just Like Family
The rest of the days we spent time together just like a family. I joined Momochan's friends to her school to feed rabbits. I went to Kuruchan's pre-school exercising activities. My mother brought me to temples, Ikeda yama (mountain), sakura viewing, picnic and Expo Aichi. I joined their various Hippo club activities, where I met more friends. I went with the whole family to Gero Onsen to pay my host grandmother (I called her mummy) a visit. There, I was dressed with kimono and photos were taken at a famous hotel and at Gasshomura (a famous tourist spot). We went to onsen (hot spring) and tried a famous local food there. I also got to try different types of Japanese food in restaurants and in their friend's house. In short, we spent time and had fun together just like I was their daughter or sister.


Language and Cultural Exchange

We conversed most of the time in Japanese. If there were some words which I did not understand, my host mother and sister were always patient to look into the dictionary or explain with all their might. They even taught me some local words or phrases which other places do not practice. In return, I taught them some simple Cantonese which they found interesting. It was really a fun way to learn a foreign language. After two weeks in Japan, I even find myself can understand better when Japanese speaks with each other.

Other than language exchange, my host mother taught me some basic manners of a Japanese lifestyle and vice versa. I also taught my sisters how to play congkak and they seemed to enjoy the game very much.


Most Unforgettable Experience
The best experience (and also the worst) I had in Japan was onsen. I went for 3 times; once in Gero onsen and twice in Ikeda. It was embarrassing at first but very soon I got used to it, even loved it. The third time I went was soon after we had dinner together and I just had sake. The water was hotter than the previous two places. After I got out from the hot spring, I felt very dizzy and on the verge of being knocked out. My host family became so nervous and luckily, my host mother was an ex-nurse and she quickly asked me to drink water. I felt weak and lied at one side half-naked. The rest of the people in the room could not help but to stare at me. It was the worst moment ever. Fortunately, I got better and we went home to rest. My host mother blamed herself for that but it was not her fault. Kuruchan, though barely 3 years old, was so caring that she helped her mother to place a towel on my forehead and even kissed my cheek twice and lips once so as to console me. I was very, very touched! The only regret was that this moment was not recorded. But I will never ever forget. By the way, Kuruchan is a very smart and strong kid who has never stopped to amaze me. Thanks to Kuruchan.

Homestay - Best Decision Made

Two-week stay with a Japanese family is short but nonetheless the best experience I have ever had. I will definitely visit Japan again, and perhaps, through homestay program. It was through this homestay that I get a clearer picture of a Japanese family's lifestyle in a small town - simple yet interesting.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to them here, for their kindness and hospitality. Thank you very much. I will never forget them. Until now I still keep in touch with them and I hope our friendship will never end.

by: Chin Soon Lee, Pharmacist
Petaling Jaya, Selangor