My second host family, the Ban family, has been amazing. They have four kids. Three girls and one little boy. The older girls are closer to my age, so it was nice to be with some teenagers and see what they spend their time on. One of them likes to dance, like me!
The father owns a meat business with restaurants. We ate at his restaurant the first night and it was similar to the KBBQ restaurants that are so popular in Southern California. We grilled many different types of nice Japanese beef and it was delicious. In Japan it is called Yakkiniku. I even tried some beef shashimi that was very good. In addition, I think I ate some cow stomach? I’m not too sure but it was squishy and took a long time to chew.
Every meal has been very delicious and enjoyable with the Ban family. One of the nights we had a barbecue with 30 people. The cooks at his restaurant made Yakkiniku and Yakkisoba in their front yard and served it hot. We had fresh melon and Japanese style cakes for dessert. We followed this up with huge fireworks in their front yard. I didn’t know you could buy fireworks of that caliber from the store. I held a firework canon that shot out a firework that exploded in the sky. Fireworks are a staple of the Japanese summer and this was the third time I saw fireworks on this trip. When you tell Japanese people that fireworks are illegal in your city they think it’s crazy. Fireworks are another part of this trip that I will truly never have in Long Beach!
Host family days were incredibly fun! Here is what we did:
Friday- August 4th: The first day of this entire three weeks that I slept until 8 am! Wow! We got up and packed for our one night stay at the Toba Grand Resort & Spa. First, we went to the Toba Aquarium, which reminded me of home. We saw a seal show and a walrus show. Their aquarium is like Sea World mixed with the Long Beach aquarium in this way. The touch ponds were also more exotic then the Long Beach aquariums. They had fish that ate the skin off of you hands and eels that you could pick up! In addition, they had a room full of poisonous bugs, snakes, fish, frogs, and anything you can think of. The aquarium was another place that I saw the similarities of our countries and cities. Then the hotel was only 10 minutes away. Hotel is understatement when talking about this establishment. You had to take a bus between buildings! One stop was where our rooms were, one stop was the Onsen or Hot Springs, and the other was a building purely for restaurants and recreational activities. So we checked in and got on the bus for the spa. Silly me, brought a bathing suit. I was not prepared to be completely naked with my host mom, sisters, grandma, plus a bunch of strangers! Looking back I don’t know how I could have prepared. I was explaining to my mom that I have been well educated about every Japanese custom and event and nothing has taken me too much by surprise. Watson Sensei (Aidan & I’s Japanese teacher) does an amazing job of teaching us culture in tandem with the language. So we learned about the custom of the onsen in class, and I knew you didn’t wear any clothes. I was aware of the ritual but was not physically prepared when we got there! I realized there is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for being naked with a bunch of strangers in Japan. However, my motto for this trip is go with the flow, so I followed along. As I got used to it, is was very relaxing and fun. My host family are kind and funny and I wouldn’t want to experience the onsen for the first time with anyone else.
We then headed back to the hotel for a 10 course traditional Japanese dinner. It was delicious but I was full by the third course, with no idea of what was to come. After we took the bus to the recreational building, where we had a private karaoke room! You order food and drinks and do karaoke with just your friends and family watching. They call them music rooms and you set up your karaoke playlist on an IPad. It was so much fun! My host little brother sang Hotel California to me in Japanese. Then of course they made me sing it in English! The nights hits were “I want it that way” by the Backstreet Boys, “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, and “The Macarena” by The Sunshine Superstars. We then took the bus back to our building and listened to a Jazz saxophonist in the lobby. I play the saxophone so it was fun to hear some live jazz on the trip.
Saturday- August 5th: We woke up early and hit the Onsen again! I now highly recommend. We had a hotel buffet breakfast and then packed up the car. Toba is about an hour and half from Yokkaichi. We got home and had McDonalds for lunch. I was so excited because Marybeth and I have been saying we wanted to eat Japanese McDonalds before we go. They put rice in their burgers! The fries are identical to America’s and it tasted like home. Then we had some downtime before catching the train to the Yokkaichi Matsuri/ 四日市市 まつり. The 120th anniversary of Yokkaichi becoming a city is being celebrated by a multiple day festival. I got to see it in regular clothes before dressing up in Yukata tonight to attend.
The Ban Family speaks very little English and I am grateful for their effort in speaking English with me. I’m also grateful for their contribution to the betterment of my Japanese language skills. I’m so happy that I could practice my speaking with you, you are the best (and most understanding) teachers!
Thank you Ban Family for allowing me to experience wonderful food and fun with your family. I will never forget my time with you and I am eternally grateful that you opened your home to me.