My week in Karumai has been fantastic and fascinating beyond compare. Now I was finally doing what I loved– staying with locals not in a capital city but in a place that was more analogous to the small city life I’ve been used to.
The household is multigenerational, with Kyoko’s mother and father living with her younger sister, her aunt and uncle, Her grandfather, and grandmother. Most of the time I’ve been here has literally been spent eating. Obasan (respectful term for middle-aged women, so I actually use it for both Kyoko’s mom and her aunt) spends a lot of time in the kitchen cooking for the whole family, and everyone here thinks it’s fascinating that I can 1) speak any Japanese at all, 2) manage to eat and enjoy everything they throw at me (literally they’re on a mission to find something i don’t like), 3) handle more wasabi and spice than they can (which to be honest is not a lot), and 4) use chopsticks.
And Yuuki took me to the beach on two occasions to try surfing.
The first time, I didn’t care to try. The water was freezing cold, and someone had just died the previous day because of the currents. But I was perfectly content to swim in the shallow part and film Yuuki surfing.
The second time was much worse. I got to borrow a wetsuit from Yuuki, but I tried walking out into the water and cutting through a wave (like guys this was seriously 15 seconds into the water) and it hit me full force, dragging me backwards with the surfboard, until I was forced onto the ground where my arm had been extended and I displaced my shoulder completely. That was the end of that.
One day, we went to an art exhibit in Hachinohe that was pretty neat.
Words can’t explain how incredible grateful I am to have had this opportunity. I’ve been dreaming of coming to Japan for a very long time, and now I’ve been here, living with a family that doesn’t speak English, learning more than I could possibly imagine.
“Why did you come to Japan?” Ojisan asked me over dinner one night.
“To learn culture and language,” I said, which was the same reason I visited every country.
“Culture, huh. Culture? What did you learn?”
“Food,” was my immediate answer. He laughed.
“I don’t know all the words I need. Um… Manners, life, character, kindness, quiet. And Obon, religion. Nature. Mountains and mist, and the sea, and trains. All culture.”
Apart from the temple and drives through the mountains (“This is where we grow tobacco, and that’s the stuff we make beer out of, and that’s wheat…”), most of what I did for a week was just readjust to family life. We watched baseball on the TV (baseball is increasingly popular in Japan and many high schools have their own teams which compete nationally), cooked and ate, cleaned, and sat around talking to eat other all day.
On Saturday the 15th, Yuuki and I left with heartfelt goodbyes to head back to Tokyo for my last few days in Japan.
“Come back!” Everyone said. Obaasan (the elderly woman in the house) said shakily, “Be careful and I hope you come back to make more pie.”