ただいま~

9/8/11   8:50

Well. I’m a bit late, but this first week of classes has been super busy. 遅くなってごめん。But anyway,  I feel like the homestay family deserves a full entry. And so, here’s an overview of the first impressions on life with the Otsujis.

Family consists of the host-mom 「お母さん」, the host-dad 「お父さん」, the resident grandpa 「おじいさん」, older brother Yuuya 「ゆうや」, and pet dog, Gen-chan 「げんちゃん」. As with previous people-descriptions, I’ll summarize them briefly. I’m sorry if I can’t obtain a picture of everyone, I’ll get them up sooner or later.

お父さん

He’s the one that picked me up from the university in his swank mini-cooper. Self-styled “hippie musician,” he has released two full albums in Japan. Older, maybe in his late 50s. He’s hosted around 30 exchange students so far. He likes Jimmy Buffet and Hawaii.

お母さん

She is a homemaker and works part time at a large department store in Osaka. Talkative woman. Excellent cook. Very nice and accommodating. Patient with my inability to read kanji and receptive to all my questions.

お兄さん

Late 20s but definitely looks like he’s 19 [It’s the damn asian genes]. Too cool to be home at all. Jk. He’s a company worker and I think he works late most nights. Always Osaka-ben. Always.

おじいさん

Early 80s. Always wears a robe and speaks in a way that I can’t quite understand [but my host parents do…] Asks me questions sometimes. Definitely holds no post-war resentment. I haven’t even asked if he participated in the war and I probably shouldn’t. [touchy topic…] But yeah. Really nice, even though I only see him at dinner. He’s usually in his room down the hall watching television and sleeping, probably.

げんちゃん

Fairly old dog and is commensurately large. Loves: Bread, belly-rubs, and this ratty old cushion he chews up all the time. Extremely friendly and eager to see me when I get home, which is nice.

[Mystery sister]

Name: ???. Host-mom keeps talking about her daughter that lives in Tokyo who I of course have never seen. Apparently she is getting married in a couple of months down in Osaka, so she’ll be living with us soon. Other than that, she is completely a mystery, hence: Mystery Sister.

And that’s the very nice family. Now on to the house. Er. Okay so it wasn’t the tatami and 和室 that all the pre-departure training tried to prepare you for. It is actually a very western household, which is probably how most homes in Japan are nowadays. Although it maintains its Japanese-ness in the following ways:

– No central heating.

– 玄関 [genkan] (n.) – sunken entrance where you take off your shoes.

– Combination Laundry-room/bathroom/shower-room/tub

It doesn’t have sliding shoji screens [as far as I know], the toilet is not a squat toilet, and the dining room/kitchen looks very much like one you’d see back home. Here’s a video because I’m too lazy to write a detailed description:

Word of the day: 予想 [yosou] (n.) expectation. You shouldn’t place too much stock in expectations. The way everything you read preps you for a home-stay experience in Japan is about all these traditional things that, although still existent, are becoming less and less ubiquitous. I don’t think my family even uses the bath they have, let alone having a specified order for people taking baths. [And this makes sense, because baths use a lot of water resources.] The fact that my family has hosted about 30 students before means that they know what they’re doing. They’re just a modern Japanese family and they’re raw. Real. And it’s awesome. The mom is very attentive and listens to all my questions about Japanese language and everyday life. Also, it’s Osaka-ben all the time with the guys in the house so I get to learn the local 方言. すげぇやん.

So it’s not the super-traditional [and also somewhat stereotypical] Japanese family. But what do you expect? It’s 2011. Not everyone is gonna live like it’s still the Showa period. The family lives more like they’re in a Haruki Murakami novel. And that’s really great.

Okay, honesty hour. The house is large, but a little old. My room is right next to the genkan and on first look, it was a little small. Probably the size of a small car. On first smell, it reminded me heavily of my grandpa’s house in the Philippines. A little musty, but I guess also a little 懐かしい [natsukashii] (adj.) nostalgic. It’s hot now, but I can’t imagine how cold it’s going to get in like 2 months. I have nothing to complain about, though. The food is amazing, everyone’s really nice and I get to practice Japanese whenever I’m home.

The parents really like sports, especially soccer. We were watching the world championship of track and field earlier and they could only talk about how that Semenya lady from South Africa looks like a man. They just couldn’t get over it. It was sort of hilarious. Right now, though we’re watching a Japan versus Uzbekistan soccer game. The Japan men’s team and the women’s team are doing really well. がんばれ日本! Now, I don’t even really like sports or soccer, but if you’re gonna be living with people that love it, you might as well join in.

~ ~

A note on 警護.

Everyone keeps tagging Japanese as one that’s hell bent on making sure you know your place with honorifics and polite/humble verb conjugations. This is true to some extent, but with keigo [honorific language], you gotta get a feel for the situation. Case in point: I prepared a huge introduction to my host-dad that placed him and his family on a pedestal and humbled my own position as a guest in their household. When Mr. hippie-dad came in to pick me up, I had to alter my plan a tad. I felt okay using normal polite forms until I got home, when they were receptive to me just using plain form with them. So I mean, if the people you’re dealing with are laid-back, your onegai-itashimasu will only serve to distance them. If you’re gonna be part of the family, then talk like it. As with any other language, English included, uber-polite language has its role in society. But so does casual language だよ.

A note on energy consciousness: So the toilet may not have super space computer controls [part of me is sort of happy about that] but it does, however, have this cool water-saving faucet on top of the tank. So the water you use to fill the tank back up can also be used to wash your hands afterwards! Eco-friendly! Hygienic! さすが日本!

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