Well, here I am! My first day, or should I say night, in Okazaki-shi. The journey took roughly four hours in total. I left Matsumoto at 2 PM and arrived here around 6:15 PM. So, let's talk about first impressions of the family, the location, my living quarters...
The first thing that I noticed on the train ride from Nagoya to Okazaki was that it was very flat. I'm used to seeing hills and mountains as a result of living in Nagano-ken so this was the first major scenic difference that I noticed. A driver for Yamasa Institute met me at the station and was holding up a sign so it was really easy to spot him. He took me to a small building, where the Homestay Coordinator, Keiko, and I had nihoncha and she briefed me on the homestay rules, explained the local bus schedule, and talked about the general course schedule. At this point, I was already extremely excited and I hadn't even met my host family members yet!
My host otousan picked me up around 7 PM and I was really nervous and shy. Once I saw the warm smile on his face, and also noticed his attempt to talk to me right away, I began to relax a little more. Then we left to go back to their house, which is a 15-20 minute drive from the Yamasa campus. Okaasan greeted us at the doorstep with a big smile on her face. After bringing my suitcase to my "cottage" (I'll get to that afterwards), I gave the family their omiyage, which were some sweets from Matsumoto. Shizuka helped me pick them out, so I know that they're good! Then I met Ayako, who is twenty five like me and has studied abroad in Australia for a year. She is a quirky, outgoing girl who speaks English pretty well. She and her dad always seemed to be teasing each other and cracking jokes. For dinner, we had tenpura and it was so yummy! I always get excited about eating homemade Japanese food because it's not often that I have the opportunity. I secretly get excited whenever my Japanese friends invite me over for dinner, and always secretly hope that they continue to invite me over every now and then. Anyway, no complaints about tonight's dinner! I met Reiko, their eldest daughter, right as we started tapping into dessert. She teaches piano and had just finished her lessons so that is why she joined us later. For dessert, we ate the sweets that I had brought from Matsumoto, along with some coffee. We discussed my three week schedule, the family (especially otousan) cracked corny jokes, and they teased each other. There was a lot of laughing, "how do you say this in English/Japanese...?", and getting to know each other.
I found out that my host family has a lot of hobbies, namely my host mom. She likes yoga, calligraphy, teaches sadou, and does Japanese flower arrangements. Ayako and Reiko play the piano very well (Ayako plays jazz and Reiko plays classical), and they have a gorgeous Yamaha piano in their house. My host dad likes sports and plays baseball, volleyball, table tennis, tennis, etc. Their house is very nice and clean and I should take photos of it some time soon.
Okay, let's talk about my living quarters. I live in a cottage away from the main house. In a way, it's good for me because I have my own privacy, which I value a lot, especially since I live alone nowadays. My room has a baller toilet, you know, the one with all the crazy buttons and functions, I have my own shower, sink, stove, conventional oven (crazy, right?), desk, internet connection, air conditioner...yeah, I am golden. I can't believe how great it turned out. I am very fortunate to have the set up that I do. Maybe tomorrow I'll post some photos if I have time. Right now, I just want to soak it all in. I'm thinking a nice warm shower and a spot of Harry Potter sounds good right now...Oyasuminasai!