I recently experienced a homestay with a Japanese family in Handa City, Aichi Prefecture. It was a valuable and memorable experience to know and explore the lifestyle of a typical Japanese family, understand their culture and traditions, and also eat delectable home-cooked food.
I stayed with Obaasan (grandmother), and her daughter who lived nearby often joined us for food and sightseeing trips. Obaasan was an amazing host and cook, and she was like a mother to me during my two-day stay.
From my personal homestay experience in Japan, here are six things that I did and that I think you should do if you plan to do a homestay soon.
I made sure to interact freely and openly with my host family. People in Japan are extremely polite, generous, and kind. They are happy to talk to anyone and will answer your queries about life and culture in Japan. Even though I can’t speak Japanese fluently or the host family can’t speak English fluently, we still kept trying to communicate with expressions and gestures as they transcend words and language. We discussed our likes, dislikes, hobbies, cultures, lifestyles, travel experiences, and many other things over the dinner table and during our car drives.
I tried and helped my host family in doing daily chores. Although they were sweet enough to ask me to just relax and enjoy, lending a helping hand made me more involved and engaged with the family and their lifestyle. I helped them in the kitchen, cleaning, taking care of pets, and with groceries. I also shadowed them in the kitchen while they prepare delicious Japanese dishes like tempura, yakisoba, and tofu salad.
I captured all the memories by taking pictures with my host family and during our visits to the town and other sightseeing places. I also snapped good photographs of their house, with their permission, so that I could proudly share my experience of immersing myself in Japanese culture with my friends and family.
Before going on a homestay, I made sure to learn basic Japanese customs so that I don’t end up offending or hurting my host family in any way. For example, not to take shoes inside the house, not to eat before others, and so on. Knowledge of these basic culture-specific etiquettes pleasantly surprised my host family as it made them feel more comfortable with me and my presence.
I share about myself, my family, my hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc. This helped my host family know me better and started good conversations about my home country India, my decision to come to Japan, my life here, etc. I also discussed my travel plans, career ideas, other goals, and my future dreams and aspirations.
Japan has a wonderful custom of gift-giving and I thought of a meaningful gift from my country, a stone bracelet and a pair of earrings, to give to my host family for being gracious and kind hosts, and for taking care of me like their own.
For a true cultural immersion, why not do a homestay in Japan? I am sure my personal experience that I shared above and the things I did will help you plan your homestay and make it a memorable and enjoyable one.