Following is a report from Ms. Jamie Lee, who experienced the PPF homestay program from June 2010 to July 2010.
@ I found out about the Pan Pacific Foundation Homestay Program through my Japanese instructors and thought that the program matched my objectives of visiting Japan more than the EAP (study abroad) program that I was thinking about applying to. I studied Japanese as a foreign language for two years in high school and two years in college, but never had the opportunity to visit the country and experience itfs culture at all. I realized that there is only so much I can understand about Japan through textbooks and the media. The major goal I wanted to achieve if I went to Japan wasnft just to sightsee, but I wanted to meet people and become immersed into daily life in Japan. Fortunately, in the summer of 2010 I was given the opportunity to participate in this program after applying for it in the spring semester of my sophomore year at Berkeley. Through this program, I was able to go to Japan for the first time, visit various places, experience Japanese culture directly, and meet many wonderful people who I hope to continue to keep in touch with.
@In a short span of 14 days, (June 25~ July 9, 2010) I got to meet and live with three different Japanese families. Initially, I applied to go to Nagoya and Fukuoka, but in the end Nagoya didnft work out so I went to Osaka instead. My first stop was at Kishiwada, Osaka with the Kawais (who are really kawaii). They are a family of four, Mr. and Mrs. Kawai and their children Yuuki and Yoshikazu. They lived only five minutes away from a train station, so while the kids were at school and Mr. and Mrs. Kawai were at work, it was very convenient to take the train to visit different places in Osaka, such as Namba, Umeda, and Osaka Castle. Though I really enjoyed visiting these places, the highlight of my day was always dinner at 8. Mrs. Kawai would always prepare delicious Japanese food such as soumen, okonomiyaki, and temaki sushi. Aside from the food, we would watch Japanese TV shows or talk about anything and everything. Sometimes I struggled to understand what they were saying since they were speaking quickly and often used Osaka dialect, but they would always explain to me slowly when they saw my confused face. Our Japanese-English dictionaries also helped a lot. By the end of my stay, I even learned some Osaka dialect.
@Another day, I got to hang out with Yuuki, her friend Miku, and Mikufs mom who volunteered to drive us around even though it was her birthday. We visited various places in Wakayama, Kishiwadafs neighboring city where Miku lived. Coincidently, the two girls will be visiting America in August, so I hope that Ifll be able to meet them then. On my last day with the Kawais, Mr. and Mrs. Kawai took me to Nara to visit Kasuga Shrine, The Great Buddha Hall, and the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijyo-kyo Capital. At night, they also took me to a Yaki-niku restaurant where I ate yukke (raw sliced beef) for the first time. When we got home, Yuuki and I stayed up late to chat, even though she had class the next day. The next morning I said good-bye to Yuuki and Yoshi as they headed off to school. In the afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Kawai took me to the train station and helped me purchase my ticket as I left the Kansai region and headed for Hakata, Fukuoka in the Kyusyu region.
@The next stop was the shortest, as I stayed with the Kamuras for only three short days. (More like one day, since I spent the other two days traveling to and from Hakata. Nevertheless, it was a great experience.) The family, Mr. and Mrs. Kamura, their son Kosuke, and Grandmother Kamura, was very welcoming. Though it was only twice, I really enjoyed breakfast time with Mrs. Kamura and Kosuke when Mrs. Kamura would prepare a wonderful breakfast and wefd chat about different things.
@A few weeks before I went to Japan I was asked if I was interested in giving a speech to Japanese high school students about my experiences at Berkeley. I thought that this was a rare opportunity to meet Japanese high school students, so without delay, I accepted the offer and wrote a speech in Japanese (with the help of an instructor at Berkeley) as well as prepared a presentation to show the students what UC Berkeley is like. The school I visited turned out to be an all boys private school that Kosuke graduated from. Their newly constructed school building was so nice I couldnft stop taking pictures of it. The speech went better than I had expected, because though I was very nervous in the beginning, all the students and faculty were very attentive and supportive. Many of them asked questions in English and one of the classes even folded origami for me as a gift. It was such a privilege to be able to speak to so many high school students and meet the faculty. Ifm really thankful for the opportunity to do so.
@ After the speech, Kosuke took me to Tenjin, a major hang out place for young people in Fukuoka where we walked and shopped around. Kosuke took me to a ramen shop called gIchiranh for lunch, which turned out to be the best ramen Ifve ever had in my life. For dinner, Kosuke called up some of his friends and I got to meet some typical young Japanese people. At last, we visited Fukuoka Tower, which stands 234 meters high, overlooking the rest of Fukuoka. By the end of the day, I was tired but ecstatic. The next day Mrs. Kamura and Kosuke took me to the train station and even went up to the platform to wait for the train with me. Once again I said good-bye and was off to meet my third and last host family at Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture.
@I met the Somiyas at Nakatsu train station that afternoon. The family was just Mr. and Mrs. Somiya, since all three of their sons live elsewhere in Japan now. One thing that stood out about Nakatsu is its flatness and rice paddies. Again, I felt so privileged to be able to visit that place because it was yet another type of lifestyle in Japan. Mr. and Mrs. Somiya were also very welcoming. They spent the weekend taking me out to different neighboring locations such as a local shrine, an old town, Yumeootsurihashi (suspended bridge), and Yufuin town. Another day, they even took time off work to bring me to Akiyoshido, a limestone cave located in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Mr. Somiya went out of his way and helped me search up some places that I could go visit on my own on the days they had work. On the days where they were at work, I visited Beppufs gHell Tourh as well as rode their bike around Nakatsu city, visiting Nakatsu Castle, Yukichi Fukuzawafs residence (the man on the 10,000 yen and founder of Keio University), Yume Town and Jusco, local department stores.
@During my stay with the Somiyas, I also got to meet Ms. Morita and Ms. Kaoru who work at the same company as Mr. Somiya. They came over for dinner on July 7th, also known as gTanabatah and we had a great time making takoyaki. After that, Mrs. Somiya drove me to an elementary school gym where we watched Ms. Morita and her team practice a variation of volleyball called gsoft-volley.h The night before, I attended a tea ceremony by Ms. Moritafs mom with Ms. Somiya at the Moritafs residence, which was a 180 year old traditional Japanese home. We talked about many things and seeing that I had an interest in sports, Ms. Morita invited us to watch her (and maybe play) gsoft volleyballh team practice the next day. At the end, Mrs. Morita was also interested in hosting other students and asked about how they could apply to become a PPF host family.
@Previously, all my exposure to Japanese culture came from the media, but now I have come to understand Japanese culture from a first-hand point of view and have seen that Japan is more than what I see on TV or find on the internet. I find it surreal that I managed to communicate with so many people in my broken Japanese! Everyone was very supportive and that really helped me improve my Japanese. Through the help of PPF and the host families, I was able to experience Japan in such a special way that I would not have been able to experience else wise. I am so grateful to have been able to meet so many different people and talk to them about so many different things, sharing differing ideas, talking about politics, psychology, religion, relationships, Japanese, Chinese, English, traditions, being open minded, and much more. It was also a pleasure to share with people my own experiences in Taiwan and America. I am deeply thankful for the three host familyfs hospitality. My biggest regret is not being able to express my gratitude to my host families as well as to PPF in Japanese, and the most I can say is gItsumo wazawaza arigato gozaimashita!h Now that I have met so many people, I canft wait to go back one day to visit them or maybe take them around Taiwan or America if they every come to visit!
-Dec 2009 -Jan 2010