Following is a report from Ms. Valerie Wong, who experienced the PPF homestay program in July 2008.
Through the PPF Homestay Program, I was able to stay in four different Japanese families, one per week, in June/July of 2008. The four families that I stayed with were the Oigawa family in Chiba, the Kudomi family in Gifu, the Kawai family in Osaka, and the Futakata family in Ibaraki. These families were very different from one another and I was able to experience a different life style from each family. Even though I was a total stranger to the families, they all treated me as if I were part of the family, which really enabled me to practice and understand their customs and life styles.
The first family, Oigawa family in Chiba, lives in a modern apartment complex. It was a typical city-like family where the parents go to work until early evening and the daughter goes to tutoring school after school several times per week. Because of school and work, the apartment was empty during the weekdays, and I took the chance to go to various places in Tokyo by train. Even though they were so busy, they were very caring and spent the rest of the time with me. For example, Mrs. Oigawa held a party and invited her daughter’s friends over to the apartment along with their mothers. Therefore, I was also able to meet other people and had a chance to talk to them.
The second family, the Kudomi family in Gifu, was very different from the first. Because all the family members were adults, they did not live together. Therefore, I did not just stay in the same home, but stay in two different homes during the week. When the mother had work at night, I would stay in the daughter’s apartment and vice versa. Gifu was very different from Chiba. In Chiba, I was able to go to Toyko within 30 minutes by train, where the train station was reachable by bus in 10 minutes. However, in Gifu, nothing was in walking distance. Therefore, the mother and the daughter always accompanied me. The family was very considerate and had planned out the week nicely so that I could experience different parts of Japanese culture; for example, learning about the tea ceremony, wearing the kimono, and visiting historical sites.
The third family, the Kawai family, was another busy family, where the parents were at work and the children were at school during the day. Therefore, weekdays were again free days for me to explore Japan. This time, I went to Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya when I was by myself. This family was very different from the others because the Kansai customs were very different from those of Kantou. It was very interesting learning, as well as comparing and contrasting the Kansai and Kantou customs and dialects. During the weekend, they also planned some activities and we had good times together. The children were also very lively and active and just treated me as their sister. I was glad to be able to talk to them and play with them as if we were siblings.
The last family, the Futakata family, was another family in a rural area. We spent most of the time together because local transportation was not very convenient. Despite their work, the parents still found time to take me to site-seeing places during the weekend. However, most of the time I was at home with the daughter, where I was able to learn what the daily life of a Japanese family. This family was also exceptional because during my stay, another exchange student from Germany was also present. Therefore, I was also able to make friends with the exchange student and learn about her school life in Japan.
This one-month in Japan was an invaluable experience to me, for I would never be able to gain the same experience as a tourist in Japan. I had a much better understand of Japanese people after this homestay program, not only their customs or life styles, but also how they treat others and communicate. All the families were very supportive and caring and I had great times with them. I am glad to have been a part of each of them and I hope to stay in touch with them as best as I can.
-Dec 2009 -Jan 2010