Monday, July 12, 2010

Week 3 - Meeting up with Richard in Omiya and Homestay

Pete here,

Two big events for week June 14-18; the first was meeting Richard in Omiya for kebab sticks (kashira) and a couple of drinks, and the second was a home stay with two families over the weekend. Erica had flown back to Canada on Tuesday (another sad day, but we made sure that we all met up for lunch before she left), and I had now moved into the intern apartment.

It was great to meet Richard in Omiya, which happened after my first Thursday in Nerima on my own, so goodness did I need an Asahi! We headed to a local eatery that was popular with salarymen, all of which gave us (well, Richard) a warm welcome. We sat and chatted about Wado, my first couple of weeks, and the plans for this year, all while chewing contentedly on ever-reappearing kebabs. Once filled and chilled we went for a quick tour around the glowing lights and attractions, stopping into a department store to be shown the (quite splendid) book section. I like Omiya, it must be said, and especially as it’s quite close on the train it looks to be one of the places I could stop by or visit on the weekend. It’s not touristy (which is possibly why I like it), nor is it a sight-seeing place, but as a hub of activity it’s a good one.

Home Stay Weekend!

The Weekend was a very special one, as I was to spend an evening with Sae (a Shiramizu English student) and her family, then the next with Rika (a classmate), then meet the rest of the classes family for a barbeque on the Sunday.

Sae’s family was amazing in their welcome, presenting me with some beautiful Japanese leisurewear (which, I might add, I am wearing at the time of writing), and plying me with a fantastic amount of cultural food, including tempura, sushi, sashimi, gohan, chicken, pork… it was a feast. After dinner we played with sparklers and checked out the ‘pets’:

Once Sae was in bed, Sae’s Mother, Grandmother and I talked and learned Japanese and English a-plenty. Key new words are: “muzukashi, desu ne!” aka “Difficult, isn’t it!”, “sugoi!” aka “great!”, and “Joozu!” which means “wow, you’re talented!”. The latter, when mentioned, is very charming, but in all honesty I didn’t feel ‘Joozu’ at all, more likely just a step up from ‘incompetent’. However, many a laugh was exchanged, which must mean some things get carried over in translation, right? Either that or I made an embarrassing speech error…

After an incredibly refreshing sleep, it was breakfast time. Were I to think that last night was the end to the vast amounts of food, then I was to be gravely mistaken. Filled to bursting with more food than I could possibly list (though special mention must go to Yakult yogurt, which has become something of a joke between the family and me), we enjoyed more conversation before heading out to meet the other families… over lunch!! By this point, I was starting to fear for my stomach, however I managed some lovely udon noodles and, thankfully, the meal was drawn out by lots of conversation.

The meal ended and it was time to go with Rika’s family. We stopped off at Joyful Honda (a local superstore that I had discovered with Louise a couple of weeks before) to have a quick look around and grab a new game, which we played at their house. It involves princesses and bald men- so why it hasn’t taken off in England is beyond me.

Almost thankfully, the dinner at Rika’s house was low-key, a simple table-barbecue that was remarkably tasty. After which, Rika’s parents and I watched the world cup through our eyes as Japan only narrowly lost to Holland, dictionaries in each of our hands, ready to tackle any language barrier!

The morning, after breakfast, was the big barbecue with all the families. Arriving at 11am, it was already hot and humid, and we wasted no time in getting the shade up and the barbecue on. Kaho and Saho’s dad had brought along some acrylic ‘guttering’ where we had Nagashi Soomen- probably the most fun way to eat noodles, ever. Cold water is run down a bamboo (or acrylic) flume, and cold noodles, Soomen, are added. People then stand by the side of the flume and try to collect the noodles using hashi (chopsticks) and dip them in their tsuyu sauce.

Eating too much food was the theme of the weekend. Layers of meat, vegetables, fish and noodles were offered and taken, and then worked off by playing games of badminton and catch.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such wonderful hospitality as this weekend, which has already become a highlight for the year. It was a wonderful weekend, finalized by collapsing in bed, stuffed with food and happy memories.

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