Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's been so long! My first day

Hard to believe, but I’ve been so incredibly busy since my last post that I haven’t had time to blog! I’m sorry!

First on the list of things to talk about would be my flight. The first flight, from Dallas to Tokyo, wasn’t bad at all. I had an entire row to myself and my plane had the whole individual-touch-screen thing going on, which I am definitely a fan of. Even more exciting was that they had four episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm on-demand. I also watched The Devil Wears Prada twice. Obviously I hated it.
It was a really strange flight, because even though it lasted about 12 hours, it didn’t get dark at all! I’ve never flown that direction before, so it was kind of unsettling. Thanks to my sleeplessness the previous night, though, I slept for a good four hours. When I arrived at Narita (~1:30 PM), I was still experiencing my nervousness and excitement, but this time I was feeling a little more helpless since everything around me was in Japanese. I actually had a bit of trouble finding my connecting flight, so after mustering up courage for about half an hour, I finally asked someone for help. I approached an official-looking young lady and probably looked really helpless, because she said, “I speak English. What can I help you with?”

Airplane sushi: Pretty much tastes just like you'd expect...
The flight from Narita to Chuubu lasted about 45 minutes. During those 45 minutes though, I got to gaze out the window and look at the beauty below me. Rice fields for miles, deep blue water (with Godzilla and Cloverfield in mind the whole time), and little houses and schools. About halfway through the flight I saw a huge, sloping mountain emerging from the clouds. The people who were sitting in front of me were looking at it and taking pictures, so I figured it must’ve been important somehow. I took about 5 minutes to muster up courage and recite the line in my head over and over again, but I eventually leaned forward and said, “sumimasen ga, Fujisan desu ka?” (Excuse me, but is that Mt. Fuji?) The lady in front of me nodded, and I was so excited that I had just communicated in Japanese, even if the answer I got wasn’t really verbal. I was floating on that experience for the rest of the flight.

Arriving in Nagoya had my heart pounding. I was so nervous to meet the family that I’d be living with for the next four months! After I got my bag from the baggage claim (57 lbs, oops), I made sure I had myself all put together so that I looked graceful and mature when I first met them. I later discovered though that they were watching me the whole time I was struggling with my three bags. I should’ve known they would recognize me, since I not only was the only blonde probably in the entire airport, but I also towered over everyone there by at least five inches.

Despite my extremely awkward arrival, I was received very warmly by Mihoko and Youichi Fukami. They had a sign with my name on it, and as I approached them they smiled and shouted “Youkosou!!” They both immediately offered to carry my bags, which I actually really didn’t expect and of course turned down. Mihoko was very happy to see that I was dressed very Japanese (tights and shorts?) and said that her daughter, Maiko, who had just left on a journey to Boston the same day from the same airport, was wearing the same thing. “Oshare!” The drive to their home in Toyota-shi took about 45 minutes. I had been dreading this moment for months. Luckily though, my host parents are very talkative and apparently have done this many times before. I’m actually very lucky, because I later found out that, in the entire CJS program, the Fukami family has hosted the most students. Mihoko actually gives workshops at Nanzan on how to be a good host. Their experience really shows, because I’ve been very happy and comfortable here. They’re very understanding. From what I understand, Okaasan (Mihoko) and Otousan (Youichi) run an after-school program and both teach. I think Mihoko actually teaches English. Usually I hear from people that it’s bad to get an English teacher as a host, because you’ll often use more English than Japanese with them. Okaasan really seems to know what she’s doing though, because she always uses Japanese first, and when I inevitably don't understand, she’ll gradually translate what she just said for me.

The Toyota-Shi station (yes, Toyota like the car) It's perfect because it's at the end of the line, so if I fall asleep it's ok!

Arriving at the house was another event that I’d been worried about for months, visualizing in my head everything that could go wrong; I’d forget to remove my shoes, I’d accidentally say “tadaima,” my bag would be too big to fit through the door, I’d break something or knock a photo off a shrine, the list goes on. Thankfully, the only thing that went wrong was that I failed to notice the slippers that Okaasan had waiting for me on the step into the house, so I stepped up in bare feet, which is apparently a no-no. Also, it took both Otousan and I to get my bag up the stairs, at which I was thoroughly embarrassed.

I’m staying in the room that belongs to Maiko, my host sister, who I mentioned before is away in Boston. It’s an adorable room, everything is very neat and organized, and I’ve heard from family and friends that I’ve mailed pictures of it to that it looks “very Japanese.” Since energy is extra expensive in Japan, I’m only allowed to use the air conditioner for one hour a day, while I’m sleeping. Coincidentally it’s the hottest year that Japan has experienced in 130 years, so it rules. Okaasan said that they usually stop using the air conditioner by now, so this weather is extremely abnormal. Women here dress extremely conservatively, which means not even exposed shoulders. In that aspect I’m being very American, because I refuse to cause myself that much discomfort just to fit in. I am carrying a parasol at Okaasan’s insistence, though. There’s actually supposed to be a typhoon tomorrow, so hopefully that’ll bring in a cool front!

Me being totally Japanese in front of my fan!

I’m afraid that I’ll start boring my readers, so I’m just going to gradually update on what’s happened so far, and I’ll end this post here! Oyasumi nasai!


  1. Hi Sydney,
    Sounds like you're having an amazing time in Japan so far. It's great that you get to live with a host family. You'll really become immersed in the culture.

    I want to invite you to guest write for PinkPangea.com, the first online community for women travelers.

    Pink Pangea's goal is to make travel easier, safer, and more fulfilling for women of all ages. We are looking for adventurous and eloquent students who are studying abroad to document their experience, while discussing issues that are relevant to women travelers. It would be great if you could post about your experience in Japan, providing anecdotes and photos from your time abroad.

    I look forward to reading more about your experiences abroad!

    Hope to hear from you soon,

  2. towered over everyone? how tall are you, girly? you seem so teeny~

    glad to hear your host family knows that they're doing. now you can just enjoy yourself and stop stressing about everything :P

    btw, don't worry about your two big bags. i had two bags that were exactly 50lbs each -_- idk what i'm going to do when i have to come home.

    keep updating! it's so fun to read this :D

  3. Dude ohmygod ahhh I remember all those awkward moments! I did the slipper thing ha ha ha ha ha.

    My friend who studied at Nanzan made it sound like the good host families are super-tight knit.. I really wonder if you'll run into his old host mom! I'll get their family name and see, ha ha. I'm so happy you got an awesome family! I also had an English teacher for my host mom and even though everyone seems to make it sound like a bad thing, it works out even better I feel like, as long as you push yourself to use Japanese.. Which it sounds like you are!

    Ohmyyygosh!! I'm so excited to hear about EVERYTHING! :) がんばって~ははは