In A Lifetime Experience. Great impact on my thinking
and life thereafter
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
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
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
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 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
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
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