Tag Archives: host family

School visit and BBQ with host family

Magnus with his extended host family
Magnus with his extended host family

Hello everyone, My name is Magnus Krumbacher and I’m from Norway. I have been living in Tokyo on my gap year since I graduated from high school last year.

Now that I’ve introduced myself, I would like to talk about my day and what I got to experience. It started off as usual by waking up at 7:00 AM. I went downstairs to eat breakfast together with my host family. I have to say, I’m not really a morning person so I’m always half asleep while eating. Today was no different. Luckily though, they are quite the same so I felt comfortable with just sitting, eating and occasionally talking a bit.

After breakfast my host father drove me to Takematsu elementary school where I met up with the other World Campus participants. After everyone had arrived we walked inside and sat down in an empty classroom, waiting for the principal. Astonished by the sight of so many foreigners in one place, the elementary school kids quickly began to gather outside of the classroom and started staring at us. I didn’t feel uncomfortable being stared at because I think that children anywhere in the world would stare out of curiosity when seeing a group of people that don’t look like people they’re used to.

The principal finally arrived and we were taught the history of Takematsu elementary school. After also having explained some things we were not allowed to do, such as taking pictures of children and publishing them on social media, it was time for 書道, calligraphy in English. After going to the gymnasium and briefly introducing ourselves, we sat down with the children and started writing Chinese characters. I chose to write 嵐, meaning “storm”. Although I was pretty bad at it, the children helped me enough that I ended up with a presentable result. Then the children cleaned up after us and we were introduced to some typical Japanese games like 剣玉, literally translated “Sword-Ball”.

After about 30 minutes we returned to our classroom and waited for the kids to prepare for school lunch. We were sent into different classes and got to interact with the children while eating the school lunch. I made a small group of friends during that time so after we finished eating, they dragged me outside to play with them. On the way out one child had the idea of asking me for my signature and when the others saw that, it completely took off. All of us were surrounded by school kids asking for our signature for at least 10 minutes. When we finally made it outside, my small group of friends suggested we play tag. Of course I was the one who had to catch them and it wasn’t exactly cold on that day either so after we were done, I was drenched in sweat.

We then proceeded to clean the classroom with the children. This is actually part of the education at Japanese schools. They have to clean their own classroom, toilets etc. The children had a hard time believing that in Norway we have people who clean after everyone leaves the school in the afternoon. Anyhow, after having cleaned the classroom it was time to say goodbye. I really felt bad because my small group of friends I had made seemed quite sad that we were all leaving and they had to return to their daily school routine. We then moved to back to the Shorinji Kenpo Dojo we had been earlier that week and practiced for the upcoming Thank-You-event at the end of our stay in Omura.

Our host families came to pick us up and I just had enough time to take a shower before they took me to their daughters place and we all had a rooftop BBQ. The daughters children were pretty scared of me in the beginning but that went away pretty quickly when we started playing various games. The BBQ was also delicious. I discovered that I really like fried tofu. When it got dark outside we went inside and it turned out they had made a cake for me to “welcome me to the family.” I thought that was very sweet of them. Then I went home with my host family and we watched some TV before I went to bed. Overall it was a very successful day!

Magnus Krumbacher (Norway)

Joyful interaction with school children and the spirituality of Japanese archery

Helena about to shoot a Japanese yumi bow in Omura
Helena about to shoot a Japanese yumi bow in Omura

This day started with me not being able to wake up, even though I slept for 9 hours! Which is probably the last time I can sleep that much during the program as I am a counselor.

The breakfast was so delicious I suddenly realized why I wanted to wake up. After quick preparation and hurrying with my host mom, I got dropped off next to Nijinohara school. My host mom happens to work in the school that stands next to the one we were going to visit that morning, so I was glad I didn’t take time from her usual morning.

We met in front of the school and the activity day could start. This school is a bit different from the other schools we visit with World Campus Japan. It’s a school for children with special needs and that was recognizable from the beginning. For me it meant a huge joy. We lined up and the children high fived us while entering the school and even that was a wonderful experience. We were given a chance to see how excited these kids can be and how much they can give you just by smiling. The whole experience was really emotional for me as I really love spending time with happy people and these kids are just glowing with joy.

One of the teachers lectured us about how the school works and what not to do around the kids. We even had a tour around the school and I must say: how much creativity they use to teach the kids is really impressive. Every kid has the attention needed.

Next, it was our turn to introduce ourselves and perform for the kids. Even though we practiced just a little bit the day before and our positions changed, it went well. The amazingly performed Alele by Daniel was an even better icebreaker.

After dividing to 3 groups we were assigned to a specific classrooms. I was with the 3rd years. On the way to the classroom two of the kids wanted to hold my hand and walk with me. I couldn’t feel happier. The teachers took like thousands of pictures of the three of us. I made new friends right in that moment. The class had its own program for us and everything was fun, mainly watching the kids being sooo excited. Their joy was almost visible as waves of energy in the air. But I would prefer not doing the whole “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” four times in a row and singing it with a microphone while doing so. The tempo of that song was changing in a weird way but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

Lunch was the last thing that awaited us in that school. My group was eating in the cafeteria and the system of Japanese school cafeteria is just amazing. Almost every system like that is really well done in Japan. Maybe this system was a bit adjusted for the kids but that makes it even more amazing. We ate curry and drank milk. The portion was so big I just couldn’t finish all of it, so I gave the rest to someone else. Together with my jelly. Even while eating, the kids were coming to us and introducing themselves. They always tried their very best.

Then we said our thanks and were headed to a dojo for Kyudo. The dojo had a tradition to follow when entering and leaving which was the first sign of the spiritual nature of what was about to happen. A very well done lecture about Kyudo was given by the masters and then they helped us getting in the traditional clothes. We looked so cool in those. I felt really confident while wearing it.

Kyudo has exact steps to follow before and after shooting the arrow. Following them has a spiritual meaning to it and some of us really enjoyed this part of Japanese style of archery. I enjoyed the feeling that it’s not as hard as it looks. After a short practice without the arrows we were able to shoot. Not once. Not twice. Multiple times. I couldn’t hit the exact target anyway. But still it was really interesting and rewarding. Literally. We received an award for hitting a balloon, or in my case, for trying hard. And also other gifts. Japanese people are too kind.

When we left we had some time before our host families would come pick us up so we went for ice cream! What a nice ending of a long day. Even more so thanks to the deliciousness of the ショップドチョコレート (chipped chocolate) flavor.

For dinner with my host family we went to a sushi place and of course it was also delicious. It really felt like a dinner with family. Everyone was exhausted but still enjoying the presence of one another. I always try to remind them that they need to sleep more but they never listen!

We sang together on the way back and were welcomed by a loud “wan wan”. Honey, the dog, barks all the time. It’s like a little black sheep trying to gain some respect. After taking a shower I went to my room and now I can enjoy a nice sleep in this huge bed.

Helena Raichartová
(Czech Republic)

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)

New arrivals, welcome to Session 3 – 2017

Day 1 was spent travelling and meeting our new host families. Me and most of the continuing participants from Session 2 met up in the lobby of our hotel after breakfast and checked out, and after gathering up we walked to the train station (I should not have packed in a backpack). Luckily the train ride to Tokyo station was quite short.

In Tokyo station, we met two of the new participants, both nice and from the Netherlands. We were also dragged to the stores to get some food, but were instead absorbed into the character stores, where my wallet mysteriously got a lot lighter.

After taking a train from Tokyo station and travelling for a while, we met the new participants at the station they had come to from the airport. We changed to a very small Japanese school bus, and drove for a while until we arrived at Keimei high school. A huge U-shaped building with a field in the middle, including tennis courts.

Here we stashed our baggage and quite quickly started the welcome ceremony. We introduced ourselves in country order and sat down with our new, and for many participants, their first host families.

After a few speeches and something small to eat, the ceremony was over and we all went to our new homes. The rest of the evening was spent talking and eating with my host family, which was made a little difficult by our communication limitations. But with body language, google translate, drawing, some English and some Japanese, it worked out and was a very cool experience. I went to sleep sharing a room with the oldest brother a bit too late, and suddenly the first day of a very fun week to come was over.

Isak Hjeltnes (Norway)

Host family day with Pokémon

“Enjoy your day off with your Host Family”, they tell us the day before, and so I did. Both me and my host mom agreed on that sleeping in on this day was a good idea, so the day started slow. After we all had eaten breakfast and gotten ready for the day, we left the house to pick up a friend and her family. It had become quite clear to my host family before that I really liked Pokémon, so our destination was the Yokohama Pokémon Center.

The ride was quite long and with 4 young children in a car, this could have been very tiresome, but luckily there were DVDs to watch, and so we watched a Doraemon movie on the way to Yokohama. I might not have understood everything they said, but I did understand that the evil guy that came from a century later than Doraemon did not win the fight in the prehistoric times. There was also a unicorn.

Having arrived at Yokohama, it was quite clear I wasn’t the only Pokémon lover among us, whose family had noticed, because in the Pokémon Center we encountered Irina and Sam and their host families. After thoroughly browsing the Pokémon Shop and other shops and trying my best at (and winning) a small game they offered, we went to get some lunch, to check out some more small games and a Pokémon pop-up store. After we were all satisfied with having played the games, doing Gacha-Gacha’s and having bought the things we wanted (a Pikachu shirt in my case), we went home tired but satisfied.

But the day didn’t end there, because that evening a local shopping street organized a festival and we were all invited to come, in yukata’s (the summer, festival edition of a kimono) if possible. And so, a lot of us showed up, some in normal clothes, some in yukata, and even someone wearing a Jinbei. When we arrived there, we got a surprise. We were apparently volunteers to work at the festival booths, but nobody had told us in advance, so this caused some stress for some of us. But after all the shifts ended, and when the bon dancing started we were too busy dancing and saying goodbye to worry about it anymore. This Saturday was the last day of session 2, the Sunday was departure day and since some people left early, this was the last goodbye for now.

Thank you everyone for this fun festival and amazing session!

Sabine Boom (The Netherlands)