I've been in Tokyo for a bit over 3 weeks now, and have completely skipped over discussing probably the most important part of my Japanese experience thus far- my host families. For that I apologize.
When I first landed at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Steven-sensei (head of the CIEE program) informed me that, as my host mother was on vacation, I would be living with another family for one week before moving into my 6-month home.
This first family was named "Saiko" (最古). They live in a smallish (for Tokyo) town near Funabashi, which is about 45 minutes west of Tokyo. Saiko-Okaasan is a wonderful woman who does alot of volunteer work, cooks AMAZING katsudan (fried pork over rice with eggs), and provides for her wonderful family. Saiko-otoosan is an engineering manager- like Poppy- for Japan Airlines. Yuu is their 16 year old son. He loves the ocean, Disney, and studying martial arts. Their elder son Natsuru studying in Australia, so I never met him. Although I lived there only a short time, I was able to experience things such as a traditional Japanese breakfast (fish, miso, rice, egg) and a real bathhouse. The bathhouse was an...interesting experience.
You see, Japanese bathhouses require really only one thing- naked bodies. Yes, that's right, stark naked. Of course, you're only put in a room with specimens of the same sex...which makes it both less intimidating and awkward at the same time. So at first when I walked in, I was a tad nervous (to say the least). But I'll tell ya what...after 5 minutes of sitting in that niiiiice hot tub with bubbles, I almost forgot my 6 inch courtesy towel! The steam room was a little hot for my tastes...every breath in felt like my nostrils had been lit aflame. If nothing else, the experience made it alot easier for me to do the same when the CIEE group went to Nikko and stayed at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn)...I know, I know I have yet to talk about that- sincerest apologies!
After a week, however, I had to move out and meet yet another Japanese family. I was torn, as I had grown close to Saiko-Okaasan and was very comfortable living with them. But all good things must come to an end (so they say), and so this did too. I will, however, visit their household throughout the semester. In fact, Saiko-Okaasan just sent me an email inviting me over when she gets back from visiting Natsuru in Australia!
My second host family is quite different.
Two weeks ago, I moved in with the Kato family. They live closer to the city center and this is easily recognizable in their mannerisms. When I first arrived at their house, Tomo (21 year old son) shouted in jubilation and gave me a big hug! He informed me that me that his father (Otoosan) runs a "free house" and is very accepting of different ideas. I've certainly witnessed this in many ways since- from the nightly "rock-out" sessions with American music to the weekly inclusion of Italian cuisine during dinner, the Kato household is an intriguing dynamic. It consists of the following:
Note: Mune is now 25 years old and no longer lives at home. He has followed in his father's footsteps, however, as both are graphic designers. Otoosan is the graphic designer for the magazine, Nippon Design. Mune does work such as designing menus, websites, signs, etc. He is engaged to Asako, who by the way, makes a very scrumptious Italian-Japanese fusion of crab, egg, and cheese!