Friday, May 10, 2013

Japan : Day 3 and 4 of the 10-Day Summer Immersion Program

Wazzup Pilipinas!

DAY THREE: Spending time with our Host Family

For our third day in Japan, we left Kansai Center early to meet our respective host families at the Osaka International House. We were assigned to Horii Ryuzo and Horii Mitsu. They prefer to be called Horii-san and Mitsu-san, respectively.

The Horiis are actually former high school teachers. Horii-san was a Social Science teacher, while Mitsu-san was a Mathematics teacher. They have three sons, but all were studying in different prefectures in Japan, and so they were at the nesting stage in their lives.

For this task, I was partnered with Daniela-san of F. Torres High School. When we first met the Horiis, we were instantly at ease and felt at home. They were so kind, hospitable and warm, just like Filipinos. From the Osaka International House, we went to a grocery store first where we bought the ingredients to the food we were going to prepare for lunch. I had no idea that Mitsu-san had sashimi and California maki in mind. But I was glad she chose those meals because I can eat them, unlike other more exotic meals which I might have to politely turn down. I actually loved how our cooking session turned out.

It was very educational, and it was fun.

When we arrived at their house, we introduced our country and our culture, and had some time chatting with Horii-san about our immersion program, and about their work and family life. Afterward, Mitsu-san invited us to the kitchen, and we tried our hands in cooking miso soup, and in preparing for our lunch. Helen-san, their friend who knows English very well, arrived soon and helped interpret what each one of us was saying, since the Horiis know very little English. But even that was not much of a problem because we were well-equipped with the lessons fore-planned by our teachers. We also combined English and body language with our Japanese, so we understood each other.

After lunch, Horii-san left for a while. It turned out that it was a girl-bonding moment for me, Daniela-san and Mitsu-san. Mitsu-san invited us to wear kimono. We were so happy and excited. Mitsu-san studied the art of wearing and actually making a kimono for four years during her youth, so we were in the hands of an expert! What a privilege it is to be able to experience this!

The home visit experience was something I will never forget about the immersion program. In fact, it is my favorite experience. I cannot forget how kind and thoughtful our host parents are. They even asked us to call them their parents, as we were their daughters. Aren’t they the sweetest? 

DAY FOUR: Going around Kyoto for our field work 

My group-mates for the field work were Celine Calado and Reina Aladeza of Muntinlupa Science High School, and Mina Cejas of Taguig Science High School. I couldn’t ask for better group mates. They were very game, easy to work with, very cooperative, and we really complemented one another.

In Kyoto, we visited the Kyomizudera. To get to the venue, we had to take a very long and upscale walk. Along the way, there were various souvenir and specialty shops, and we took pictures of their products. The road leading to Kyomizudera was lined with several people, and with so many foreigners. We haven’t even reached the venue, but we were already tired and thirsty. It was a good thing that there were several shops that offered free food taste, and free drinks. I was so tempted to buy something for myself and for my family back home, but the prices were just so high.

Kyomizudera was even bigger than I thought. It also had several “temples”, and we posed for several pictures behind these temples. Celine-san also said a short prayer in one of the temples, while Minah-san and I experienced how it is to light up an incense.

The Japanese people believed that the smoke coming from the incense would purify you of all negativity and diseases from your body.

With all the walking we did, we ate our lunch at Kyomizudera. We did it in traditional Japanese style, meaning, we ate while sitting on the floor. We were served authentic Japanese udon and tofu, then went on our way to Nijoujou, or Nijou Castle. 

Nijou castle was the official residence of the Tokugawa shoguns. It was really interesting to visit the palace, for it had several stories about it. The castle was constructed in an unusual way, so that guests coming in would not be familiar with its ins and outs for the protection of the daimyo and the feudal lords. Unfortunately, we could not take pictures inside per policy of the government. But we took a lot of photos of ourselves in the gardens with our volunteer, Moeka Asai-san.

From Nijoujou, we proceeded to Gion hoping to find Maiko and Geishas. Unfortunately, they were already inside the theater house in Gion. We could not enter because of the very steep price of the entrance fee. So we just took pictures of Gion’s streets, and some interesting finds, like the katana swords used by the samurais which are on sale. We were shocked to find out that a single katana can sell as high as Php 45,000! 

On our way back to the Kansai Kokusai Center, we got lost! We actually made our way back to the Kyoto Station. But we got excited in riding our train bound for Rinku Town, that we forgot to take notice of the time. Trains in Japan arrive and leave for their destinations on time, but we rode our train too early than scheduled. It turned out that the train we rode in was to go around Osaka again and again, so instead of spending about two hours on the train, we spent almost four hours on the densha! 

In keeping with our Pinoy spirit, we calmly asked around for directions. Fortunately for us, several Japanese people came to our rescue. A mother and her daughter patiently explained where to get off, and where to ride. A man oriented us on which platform to take a ride so that we can get to our destination. 

By the time we arrived in Rinku Town, the bus service for KKC was on its last trip at around 9:20PM. 

Thank God we arrived safely!

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