The weekend after spring break I finally met my home visit family! Now, a home visit family is different from a homestay family. The home visit program is only available for those living in a seminar house/dorm. This way, those living in a dorm can experience having a family in Japan and see how family life works in Japan. Due to spring and winter break, I wasn't able to meet my home visit family until two weeks ago. It was great to finally meet them!
Before officially meeting everyone, I met my home visit sisters in Umeda station in Osaka. Riko is a fellow Kansai Gaidai student. In fact, all the home visit families have one student from Kansai Gaidai. Riko is a sophomore here. She has a little sister, Rui, who is nine and a younger brother, Sho, who is fifteen. Riko and Rui were there at Umeda station to meet up with me.
After about 15 minutes in trying to find each other in the train station, we finally meet up with each other and head towards Hep5, the shopping mall with the ferris wheel on top that I talked about in the beginning of my blog posts. Here, we ate a little dessert at the Gutatama Cafe, or Lazy Egg as it's known in the States. Riko and I both had this delicious cake, while Rui had a hot chocolate with a design on it.
After our little sweet break, we moved on to the Sky Bridge Buildings across the street. The two buildings are connected via two escalators. It's pretty thrilling! On the roof, there's a magnificent view of Osaka.
It's now time for dinner! We take the train for about an hour to the local train station. Riko's mom met us there and drove us to their house. It's a lot smaller than my house back home, but it's perfect for Japan. Out of necessity, most houses are small. After taking off my shoes, they showed me their living room. Instead of a couch, they have a heated, plush carpet type mat. The dad and brother were sitting there waiting to met me when the mom was just a couple of feet away in the kitchen. I sat down and tried my best to talk to the rest of the family. Sho and Riko are the only ones who really know English, with the mom and dad knowing only a few words here and there. Rui is still too young to learn English in school.
In Japan, the culture revolves around gift giving. If you go on vacation, you are expected to return with a gift for friends, family, and even coworkers. That's why a lot of the stores in Disneyland had boxes of food and souvenirs, or omiyagai. So to follow this gift giving culture, I gave my home visit family two gifts. One was a tin of chocolates from Disney Sea. I knew that if nothing else, Rui would love it. The second gift was much more special. I give them a little carved bear from Dollywood. It's a link both to my family, since my Papa To (grandpa) was a carpenter, and to my home, since it was from Dollywood and a black bear. I tried my best to explain this in Japanese, though Riko jumped in a couple of times to explain better.
After giving my gifts, we had dinner. Mom, you're going to be so proud. I had a salad and ate it all. I really don't like salad. In Japan, it's extremely rude to not eat everything on your plate. This led a wonderful conversation about salad dressing. They use Japanese mayo for dressing. It's a little different than our mayo. The family was shocked when I said we use honey mustard for salad dressing. I mentioned McDonald's to describe what honey mustard was. This then led to a everyone trying to mimic how I say McDonald's for about five minutes. In Japanese, McDonald's is pronounced almost like it's MacDonald's. So everyone around the table just kept on trying to say Mc instead. We also talked about my family. While talking, the food was so good. It was really nice to have a homemade meal that I didn't make. There was even a dish with potatoes! The mom asked what I liked and was very impressed when I said I liked basically all Japanese food, including raw fish.
Following dinner, I was invited upstairs to Riko's room. I was very surprised, because traditionally, you don't invite people up to their rooms. I was very honored. The four of us, the kids and I, entered the room and played card games. They wanted me to teach them some American card games. Me, being the big gamer I am, was thrilled!! So I taught them the number one card game in America, Go Fish. It's a simple game. Since my Japanese is not good enough to explain, I ended up explaining in English with Sho and Riko understanding, and then translating for Rui. We all had fun with the classic card game! I found out that they call Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, by numbers such as 11, 12, 13, and 14. They then teach me so Japanese card games and also perform a magic trick for me. It was fun sharing games from each other's cultures.
I had such a fun time meeting my home visit family. They were so opening and welcoming for me, which I very much appreciated. I can't wait to meet them again this coming month!!