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2 days with Okkasan. My home stay experience.

03:19Mia Durano


One of the best parts of this whole trip is the HomeStay. We participants are grouped and assigned to live with a Japanese family for 3 days and 2 nights. This was a whole new level of immersion into the culture.  6 other girls and I were assigned to Okkasan (Mother in Japanese.)  Our Okkasan has 2 children that both work and live in Tokyo, so really, it was just her at home. She had the most amazing organic vegetable garden!  Okkasan spoke no English which sort of made communication pretty tough especially when we had to help her with dinner, but I guess with our broken Japanese and sign language, it got easier.

Our first night with her, she asked us to help her with picking fresh veggies from the garden and picking persimmon from her tree.  I also helped in making some sort of pasta-salad crossover. It was pretty fun to be helping out in the kitchen at dinner. I had to help her cook Japanese rice, it’s like regular rice but with sea salt mixed in. She also took out some beef, squid and hotdogs to grill after that. We had one crazy feast! One thing I kept thinking about is how in Japanese culture its considered rude to not finish food that’s prepared for you. But my groupmates and I just couldn’t anymore! There was just too much! We ended up trying to finish it anyways (hello, 10 extra pounds on me when I got back), helped clear the table and washed the dishes and got ready to just spend the rest of the evening bonding with our mom.
Another very different experience is the sleeping on tatami mats. Tatami mats are the traditional Japanese beds. There’s just something about these mats. I snuggled into one and just dozed off right away!
The next morning everyone from the program met at Oyama rice terraces. we explored the place and took a sushi making class. That’s going in another post J
That afternoon, we got taught the art of Japanese Calligraphy. It is, (as Okkasan makes it seem) supposed to be easy. But I don’t have a single artsy bone (or a musical or dancing bone) in my body. I ended up just copying the stencil and patting myself on the back for trying.  We helped make dinner after that, but it felt more like we were preparing another hefty feast. Japanese is pretty meticulous, taking long hours to prepare every dish and side dish. But only minutes to eat! We slept late that night, just chitchatting and bonding with everyone.

Everyone from the program had to get up early and prepare for our parting ceremony the next day. Everyone had a presentation ready and I was part of it as a host. There were a bunch of dance numbers and a cultural presentation (see why I was hosting. Haha) After all that, we were asked to say goodbye to our families. It was pretty sad and heartbreaking to say goodbye  to our mom. I mean, personally, I’m not big on emotions and I’m pretty guarded. But I guess spending two full days with a woman who opened her heart and her home to us, made me melt. I gave her my warmest hug and thanked her for everything.

Our Okkasan didn’t speak our language and we didn’t speak hers. But I guess, if you try hard enough and open up. You learn and understand a language that tugs your heart.
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