Oh, I haven’t had so much fun for a while. Well, I always have fun. Perhaps being with the Katos transport me back to when I was sixteen – young and carefree. It’s a different kind of fun. But I think it’s mainly because the Katos are my favourite people in the world – they are so kind to me.
Kindness, positivity and love have no language barriers. Its’ the same smile, same sparkle in the eyes and same gestures all over the world. And you could really treat a stranger like your own family. That’s what they did to me and I’m forever grateful.
1. Hang out with the Katos!
I lived with the Katos, my foster family, when I was an exchange student in Japan. I think AFS really did a good job to find a family which suits your personality – we just clicked! I loved my time there and promised that I will be back.
A few years ago, when there was a major earthquake in Japan, I called and Okaasan said in the little English she knows “I will wait for you!”. So glad I finally get to visit and see most of everyone again! The first night, we went out for sushi. I had really fresh ones at Tsukiji fish market and enjoyed two Michelin star sushi a few days after, but I think this is the best sushi experience ever!
2. Check out Otoosan’s farm
Otoosan wakes up 4.30 in the morning to work at his vegetables farm nearby home. There’s carrots, tomatoes, gourd, white radish, tomatoes, chives, sweet potato and heaps of other vegetables. He’ll bring them home and Okaasan will cook and make pickles with them. Isn’t it wonderful? Subarashii desu ne? Next time I’m here, I must help with gardening!
3. Visit my old school with Okaasan
Here is where I studied my hiragana, Japanese calligraphy, Japanese archery (Kyudo) and Japanese zither (Koto). Unfortunately, all the old teacher are gone. I was hoping to see Okimura Sensei and give her something I bought. She was so kind to me; taught me tea ceremony and gave me handmade Japanese dolls. Sigh!
Kiri is the funniest and most energetic girl I’ve met. She climbs about everything she sees, so I call her Saru (monkey). She also very creative. When her parents refuse to give her some yen to get toys from a Gashopon (vending machine dispensing capsule toys), she made one with paper and candies.
Her brother Kiichi is such a little gentlemen. I’m so smitten…
The boy who stole my heart, Kiichi
He played Doraemon in the car because he heard that I like it, offered me the only candy he has, gave me the last firecracker, laughed at my silly (slapstick) joke, always ask if I wanted to do something, learned to asked for my fav colour in English because he wants to buy a present for me and the first to try what I cooked then tells me that’s delicious.
Like many Japanese boys, he rarely smile; but when he does, its gold. So cool yet so sweet. If I have a daughter and he asks for her hands in marriage I’ll say yes in a heartbeat❤️
Kiichi, for you I’ll learn more about saka ⚽️
5. Dip in the onsen, naked, under the full moon
We used to go out to popular public communal bathhouse and be naked with strangers everyday (!). That’s the biggest culture shock ever. Now the Katos don’t do that daily anymore (my Japanese is too bad to understand why). But since I mentioned, Okaasan and Otoosan took me, Kiichi and Kiri there. I was so lucky – we dipped in the hot spring under the full moon (mangetsu)
6. Dressed in a kimono for a family road trip to Kanazawa!
Okaasan dressed me up in the kimono her mother gave her at her wedding. How sweet of her! In the morning, everyone came to my room to help me put it on and do my hair. Also, I didn’t expect a family trip. In two cars, we drove out of Komatsu to Kanazawa. It was hours away. We stopped by convenient store and restaurant. The kids were entertaining me.
They tell me things they spotted like “Umi!” (sea), jumped on me and we’re playing biting game “Kiri oiishi desu ka?” (Is Kiri delicious?). I thought to myself why would a 9 and 11 yo kid enjoy this game, then I remember I’m 30….
7. Enjoy matcha (green tea) and wagashi (traditional japanese confectionery) at Gyokusen-Inmaru Garden.
I think I’ve never seen a garden so beautiful. We drank tea and ate wagashi (dessert made of rice flour) the traditional way. I think it’s the most delicious wagashi I’ve tasted (better than the Tea Room in Tokyo that we queued for 40 minutes even)
8. Check out Gokayama
I’ve been here with Ojiisan who is unfortunately not around anymore. This time, with kids it’s so much fun! Kiichi will spotted something and I was like “Nani?”, Masaki Oniichan will translate, and it’ll be followed with “Doko?”, and then we’ll run to see bee hives (hachinosu), frogs (kaeru), spider (kumo) and all kinds of living things. If I wasn’t in a kimono and clogs, I’ll be chasing after everything at the mountains! Tanoshi! 楽しい!
9. Old town in Kanazawa
Check out an old town in Kanazawa
10. Enjoyed my home
I think this is one of my favourite place in the whole wide world! (There’s only a handful). The Katos live in a traditional Japanese house which is attached to a temple.
I loovee waking up on a futon, step on tatami mat, going up and down the narrow staircase(s), getting lost sometimes, being in the kitchen, hang at the living room, looking at things at home, etc.
I think I love seeing people around the house moving about and doing their thing – occasionally asking them “Nani shiteru?” (What are you doing?).
11. Learn tea ceremony
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is an art. I think many younger people don’t know how to do it anymore. It’s not easy. Every move in the Japanese ceremony is so precise yet graceful. Truly an art. I’m learning to fold the tea towel properly. Muzukashi!
It’s the largest temple in Komatsu. Very beautiful.
Obaachan lives right opposite the temple. She’s so independent. She lives alone, and cooks all three meals by herself. Oh, when I ask what she likes to do during her free time, she says “Yomu” (read). I see heaps of books in her room. She’s also always smiling. So lovely!
On the last day at Komatsu, the Katos bought some fireworks. They made a party out of if. Awww. We place a candle on the ground, and start lighting them one by one…under the moonlight
I had so much fun I didn’t want to leave, and was tearing from Komatsu to Haneda, Haneda to middle of Tokyo (?). I must really like this place and the people. I will be back!
To-do when I get back:
- Make pickles with Okaasan and Obaachan
- Help Otoosan to farm
- Cycle around town with Kiichi and Kiri
- Have family purikura (think Makoto likes it)
- Study Japanese at home
- Learn more about Japanese buddhism from Masaki
- Drink beer, eat maguro and chit-chat
- Perhaps if I go during a festival, I can watch Kiichi’s play/ kabuki. Or maybe enjoy cherry blossom together.
Oh can’t wait to improve my Japanese so I can communicate better with everyone!