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My Japanese Experience
On October Seventh 2010, I boarded a plane in Muskegon, and roughly twenty-four hours later I was in Omuta, Japan on a cultural based home stay with nine other people from Muskegon Michigan.
Before I even got ready to go there many people were telling me what to expect instead of letting me build my own perspective of what could happen. They were telling me about how old and small the houses were, how the food wouldn’t be very good at all and that I needed to learn how to say no with a smile. They also told me about how I should expect the Japanese people to treat me and that I should wear dress clothes to school, no jewelry, or nail polish. In truth, I got something totally different, which made me extremely eager to tell those people how wrong they were.
Key points in these myths were as follows:
-The Japanese say ‘thank you’ quite a lot and they bow even more. The Japanese ‘thank you’ that was most commonly used was arigato gozaimasu. My brain has that phrase etched into it and I even bow more now.
-The Japanese are quite generous. I was going to pay for my things I had wished to purchase and my host mother refused to let me, and I’m dogged so I refused to let her pay. I’m the one who wanted them, so we kind of argued for a minute or so, until she closed my wallet and gave the cashier the money. From then on I had to sneak and pay for my things when I was sure she wasn’t watching. It's actually humorous to reflect back on.
-The food was delicious. I enjoyed the curry my host mother made more than any other meal I ate while there, and the noodles and tea weren’t bad at all!
-It was definitely humid there, and the mountains were so beautiful and close to me!
-They seem to be more high tech than the where I come from. The toilet seats were heated; they had options to have the sounds of running water, and to play music and to even spray your behind! As weird as that seemed to me I realized how brilliant of an idea it was. Also, they have these super nice cell phones; my host sister and I plus a friend took pictures at a photo booth ("purikura") and she was able to get digital copies on her cellular by sticking her phone under some port or scanner thing.
-They are very animated people; they love Hello Kitty, Doraemon and just the idea of anime. They also love when you know some Japanese because they like to say su-goy! which means ‘good job’.
-They drive really fast.
-The last is that Japan is very fashionable. So when we were told not to bring jewelry or wear makeup and nail polish I felt very pale (and I’m definitely not pale) next to people with bracelets, rings, and colorful clothes.
Here are some places I went and things I’ve done:
-I ate various types of genuine noodles and their version of pasta (which was noodles with sauce on top and not stirred like what I’m accustomed to).
-I traveled to shrines and learned that they have many large shrines and little small churches (where we have large churches and small shrines) and got fortunes for myself.
-I went to a Ninja convention/show type thing. I got to learn and explore feudal era Japan and see entertaining Ninja shows and even throw shuriken, shoot a bow, blow in a dart gun thing and shoot a gun. Out of them all I did the blow gun and shuriken activity the best.
-I went to an old castle. It typically was off limits in certain areas, but it was tall and expensive. The ceiling were high, but the doorway I had to duck under.
-I went to their dollar store. It was easy to find gifts for true dollar prices (which is one hundred yen). I went there often. It was almost my favorite place to be.
-I went to Omuta high school; the other four students and I went to one class then we were picked up to go somewhere else which was out to eat or to a castle.
-I went to an elementary school; they were the cutest, silliest kids around and plus they danced for us. They were short of being ninjas with the want to please us foreigners. They said ‘hello’ like ‘hallow’, and it was so very cute.
-I did karaoke. I sang a lot of songs with my colleagues. That was the place where I got to see the Japanese host brothers and sisters let loose, and that was where we got really close to them.
-I also ate all different kinds of Japanese foods. I enjoyed about eighty nine percent of everything I tried. I had fish that was quite salty, udon noodles (fat noodles), ramen noodles (the kind I’m used to with better flavor), Anko (a sweet been paste inside of a sweet breading), Pocky (chocolate on a cookie stick, I actually learned that they are in America), Toppo (basically inside-out Pocky), curry (so good I’m not even sure how to describe, I just remember rice and some type of spicy-like soup-like combination), a Japanese crepe (with cream cheese whip, frozen strawberries and a lot of whip cream), and green tea pound cake (which is almost as literal as it sounds). Then there was green tea, which I had with nearly every meal.
-I took pictures and made videos though I still have yet to get them sorted out.
One of my favorite things from Japan was a treat called Pocky. It was a cracker/cookie stick dipped in chocolate. I was told that in was also in the US but it was my first time trying it so it’s origin, to me, is Japan. Another is the family that was my host. There were four of them and they were very funny. Now, they were work oriented and educated, but they joked around and laughed with me and at each other all the time. It was a complete joy. I learned so much from them, and not because we sat down and learned in their history books, but by their mannerisms and gestures; they bowed and opened up doors for me, they were kind and informative, but most of all, they were respective. It allowed me to mature in a way only foreign places could allow me to grow; I learned simple lessons by the way they ate, or by the way they helped out strangers if need be.
By the time it was time to go in the morning on October fifteenth, I felt far too attached to leave. I am still keeping in contact with all of the friends I have made in Omuta, Japan. All in all, Japan was a very welcoming place and most comfortable. I am definitely going back, such a place is too amazing to only experience one time. Until that time comes, I’ll say Ja ne which means “see you later” in Japanese.