Tag Archives: Japanese food

Personal day in Mito: Being a member of the family

I’ve actually managed to make myself to believe that I’ve adjusted to the heat here in Japan. As the day went on, I realized how wrong I was! The feeling you get isn’t that you’re sweating. It’s more that you start to get a gooey feeling all over your body from the heat. It’s like your skin is slowly leaking out the water in your body.

But enough about me trying to deal with a heat and humidity uncommon to Sweden. The personal day for has felt like some kind of sanctuary for me, since everything during this program has been outside the box for me. I’ve been panicking like crazy and felt like just disappearing into thin air. During Wednesday evening, that feeling luckily left me. Thursday was fine and today I’ve just been enjoying myself, the time with my host family and the time I spent on my own today.

After Oba-san served lunch for me and Taiki, the younger of the two brothers I’m staying with, we ended up folding origami together. I can’t communicate that well with Oba-san, since my Japanese isn’t good enough. I find this quite sad, since I would love to hear about the Japan she used to live in when she was young. After Masaki returned home from school, they gave me a ride to the climbing gym. That was a good thing, since it was a bit tricky to find the gym. They were so worried about me that they even called beforehand. After a brief explanation about how the facility worked I got to enjoy some great climbing. That was, of course, after convincing my host family that I would be ok with going to Mito station by myself. As I’ve been living by myself and traveling a lot by myself, I’m incredibly independent in a way. This is to the extreme that I sometimes feel suffocated by my host family and their care. So being able to at least spend some time on my own is a great vent for me during these occasions.

During my walk to the station I boosted my ego in Japanese language. This was because I got lost on the way several times. Did I mention that I have no internet on my phone except for Wi-Fi? Somehow my phone just hates Japanese sim-cards. Some people might find it crippling to walk around without any internet access on their phone. I, on the other hand, find it extremely handy. This is because I have to interact with people and actually try to find a way around some obstacles. I feel that this is definitely something to try out a bit more in Sweden. I also walked past some kids on the way to Mito station. They stared at me and were so happy to meet a foreigner. They greeted me in both Japanese and English. Sometimes it’s the little things that create memories for some.

Since I’m without internet, I got a bit worried at the station. Have the others gone on without me? Did we miss each other? Well, worst case scenario, I’ll just eat alone and bend the truth a little to ensure my host family that we were having fun as a group. As things turned out, we met up without any drama though and quickly went for an Izakaya. We ran into some minor problems though. Curse those minors, always getting in our way of consuming the nectar of the gods, known as alcohol! But we found a place where everyone was allowed and got to ordering. I feel a bit sad for the waiter though, since we couldn’t get our order straight in the beginning. You could hear that he got a bit frustrated at us too. I ended up taking care of the children, like a good uncle. This was fine for me since I’m restrictive with consuming alcohol while representing a company or an organisation.

When I returned home to my kind host family, I surprised the boys with a small gift. After eating an evening snack my host family surprised me with presents for me and my family. The world certainly needs more of this. Not the gift giving but the part where you’re mindful of others. As we sit down I start thinking about one thing. It must be a big step for my host family, letting someone in like this. It makes me think about my foster family and what a big step it must have been for them to accept someone into their family. That’s what my host family has done for me. They’ve accepted me into their family. This is such a humbling feeling for me. I can’t possibly find any words to describe this feeling, except that I feel a lot of gratitude towards them. I also feel a lot of joy for them being so relaxed around me, it’s like I’m a family member now. It gives proof to that family isn’t blood, it’s the relations you build with the people around you.

Oscar Tindvall (Sweden)

Maids in Akihabara! Isehara personal day

Today (20th of July) was a personal day! And if you live in Isehara for a week, it most probably means a trip to Tokyo. And that is what I did. And my plan was, of course, Akihabara!

So, after being awaken by my lovely host sister and having a delicious breakfast, I was delivered to the Isehara station. The train was not that difficult to understand as I thought it would be. If you know the line, station and you know how to read (romaji) then there’s no problem. You just need to figure out how to get to a different line at Shinjuku.

Anyway, after arriving at Akihabara the atmosphere hit me hard. That district is like another world. You never pass by a silent or calm place. There’s always music playing. Suddenly I was surprised to see so many foreigners. After two weeks in Japan, seeing a foreigner who is not part of the World Campus is kind of odd.

The first stop was a Maid Cafe. What amazed me the most was that one of the maids could actually speak a tiny bit of my language. But, of course, the kawaii food and drinks and moe moe kyun mantras (the food and drinks taste better if you say it, apparently) were amusing too. I even saw a pretty interesting live show of five maids dancing and singing. One of the World Campus Japan participants I was there together with seemed to be really into it. That might have been the most amusing part of the day. After that I was just exploring the strange streets, buying some manga and surprisingly even some clothes. It was fun but also kind of tiring.

After safely getting back to Isehara station, my host family picked me up and we drove to a baseball practice place. One of my host sisters is a baseball player and it was really exciting to see the kids in their game uniforms.

Next was the supermarket. That is always a fun thing to do in Japan, because you can see how much products you DON’T have in your own country. And thanks to that Mama wasn’t at home in the evening, we got to have ramen! It was actually my first time trying it. When we got home I helped prepare the ramen. And that bowl of soup and noodles is juuust delicious! I can’t even believe how responsible my 15-year old host sister is. I feel like a princess.

The day was fun. Every day at World Campus Japan is fun for me. But I am tired and I miss the rest of the people in the program! I wanna go to sleep so that I can see them soon.

Helena Raichartová (Czech Republic)

Climbing in the rain

Group picture by Oyama shrine with water evaporating from the shrine roof
Group picture by Oyama shrine with water evaporating from the shrine roof

Today was the first activity day of a new city, Isehara, which I also happened to be the city runner of! So, definitely no extra stress for me there, none whatsoever! My host family happened to live just 100 meters from Oyama elementary school, which we would visit in the morning, so instead of going 15 km the wrong way just to come back I walked straight to the school. I was earlier than the rest of the group, so I had time to talk with the principal before the activities.

I have to say, I was really nervous having my first proper morning meeting after 1st Session, and I’m sure it showed. But the group is very diligent and hardworking, so we survived and headed out for the activities with the kids. We would interact with the kids, signing dozens of forms accommodated with the ever-repeating cycle of “Hello! My name is _ What’s your name? Nice to meet you!” until we became deaf to the words we spoke. It was fun though, and the kids were really cute. Also, by my experience with Japanese elementary school kids their English was really good. Afterwards we tried to play a traditional game with spinning tops, at which I failed spectacularly, for the second year in a row. At least no-one but me was hurt. Anyways. Finally, we got kanji for our names from the fifth and sixth graders and then tried to write them ourselves. I was dubbed “the friend in heavens”. Charming, although could be interpreted as somewhat sad as well.

After the school visit we had a delicious lunch of tofu in various forms. The lunch charged our batteries enough so that we were ready to tackle the final challenge of the day, climbing Mt. Oyama! We put on traditional pilgrim clothes and climbed the approach to the cable car station. When we reached the station, however, the dark, rainy clouds of doubt descended upon us, quite literally. Luckily though, the LOC were not shaken by small drizzle and we continued up the endless steps along the mountainside. Halfway up the mountain the rain got worse and towards the end we were running up waterfalls. Also, who had the great idea of making a hiking trail that consists of 97% stairs? In any case, we made our way to the top, drenched, exhausted and with a lifelong hatred of stairs, but happy at our achievement.

We had some time to gather our thoughts and change before we were given a tour of the shrine. We learned a lot of interesting things about the shrine, Oyama, connection between Shinto gods and Pokemon, and much more. It was a great ending to this very active day.

Juuso Myller (Finland)

Visiting a sake factory, Akame watefalls including a ninja training

Today we visited a sake factory and learned about the process of making sake. It was very informative and intimate, as the factory itself was quite small. After watching a video clip on the process of sake making, we went to see the storage rooms where sake was fermented. Unfortunately, it is the wrong season for sake making so we didn’t get to see it actually been made. We did, however get the opportunity to buy some sake from the gift shop.

Later on we went to the Akame waterfalls where we were given a tasty lunch by the park owner. We got to learn about the Japanese giant salamander and some people actually got to touch a salamander. We learnt that the salamander is protected here in Japan.

I then went on the ninja training course where I learnt how to blow darts, throw shuriken and do a ninja assault course – which I proudly completed. The thing I enjoyed the most was dressing up as a ninja, it made the whole experience so much more special. Finally, we all took turns to cross a river, ninja style… Many of us fell in and it was really nice to laugh and have fun with everyone. I fell in on my first try but mastered the course on the second time.

After the training, I went with a small group to see the waterfalls. They were really beautiful and serene and I could see why the ninjas chose such a place to train back in the day. I wish we had time to see more of the waterfalls, as there were dozens of them in total! But, I managed to get some good photos before it started to rain.

In the evening, we had a pot luck party and the food was, as usual, amazing! We drank sake and interacted with the families which was really fun. I was sad that it ended so quickly.

Ceara Best (UK)

Shopping districts of Suita

Today some of us got to go to the JR Suita shopping district. Our mission was to evaluate what we like about the place, and how it could be improved in order to revitalize it, since the shopping district is in a declining state and needs help to get back on its feet.

We visited two craft shops (Terubonoya and PaoPao), a comic store (Kitamoto), a tofu shop (Kurata-syokuhin), an optician (Vision-Megane) and an okonomiyaki shop (Oishinbo). After the tour, we got together to try out some Japanese foods (including natto, tofu, umeboshi, takoyaki and okonomiyaki) and talked about what we thought about what we saw. We were also asked to write down our comments and ideas to improve the shopping district.

Visiting a traditional Japanese shopping district was very interesting, since in Finland we mostly just have malls. The staff in each store were very friendly and it was amazing to see the craft masters work on their products, since usually you never meet the people who make the product you’re buying. The food was delicious, especially tofu donuts and okonomiyaki, and the staff had a great time watching us eat the different foods.

It was a lot of fun to take part in the improvement of an area. Together as a group we came up with many ideas, such as clearer maps and trails to make it easier and more interesting to explore, decorations to make it more pleasing to the eye, and utilization of social media in advertising. I hope our ideas will really help them out and that in the future it becomes a flourishing shopping district once again!

A big thank you to Suita shopping district staff for letting us take part in this experience!

Veera Hasala (Finland)