First off, let me start by saying that I feel so incredibly lucky to have the Yamada family taking care of me. Their entire family – Masahiro, the dad; Yuko, the mom; Arisa, the older sister; and Mao, the younger sister – is incredibly nice and extremely accommodating. From driving all the way to the airport to pick me up the day I arrived to doing my laundry (which my parents don’t even do!) they have gone above and beyond what I thought a host family could be.
I’m also very glad that I fit so well into their family: Arisa is 19 and Mao is 15, so at 17 I feel right at home. And although I speak very little Japanese (I barely remember anything from middle school), their English is pretty decent and the two girls have a fantastic Japanese-English dictionary, so we communicate surprisingly well. They also have two dogs, which is great because I love dogs! Leon, the older dog, is ten, very tranquil, and always smiling. The younger dog, Sky, is decidedly less calm. Abandoned by his previous owners, Sky is only two years old and slightly afraid of me. However, I’m determined to become friends with him by the end of my homestay, even if it means spending lots of time sitting on the floor and trying to feed him treats.
The Yamada’s also found out pretty quickly that I love Japanese food and have been wonderful in making sure that I experience as much of it as possible while in Japan; so far I’ve eaten sushi, soba, tempura, horse(!), onigiri, miso, takoyaki, and much more. I’ve also had lots and lots of tea, most of it from huge bottles stored in their fridge. On the very first day with them, Mrs. Yamada told me, “If you ever want anything from the fridge, don’t be shy, just take it yourself!” While that might seem like something she would say just to be nice, I soon discovered that she really meant it – and that’s only one example of the family’s generosity and caring.
The day after meeting me, Mr. Yamada took the day off from work so that the whole family could take me to Kamakura, a city a couple hours away from their house that is filled with Buddhist and Shinto temples. Especially famous for its Great Buddha statue, Kamakura was a wonderful new experience for me, and I’m so thankful that the Yamada family sacrificed a whole day of their time to take me there. I really could go on and on about just how wonderful they have been. Just as an example, right now I am sitting with rice covered with paper stuck to several places on my legs: I have some mosquito bites from my stay in Korea, and when Mrs. Yamada saw them, she told me that she had the perfect traditional Japanese treatment to stop them from itching. This treatment, apparently, is rice. While I’ll admit that I feel pretty silly right now, I’m going to trust in Mrs. Yamada and the treatment that she learned from her grandmother and has so kindly administered to me. I am incredibly excited to see what the next couple of days with the Yamada’s will bring, and I really cannot say enough good things about how fantastic my time with them has been so far.