Staying in beautiful Numazu, Japan, for 10 days was an unforgettable experience. Having the opportunity to embrace the culture through food, dress, and the extraordinary people who live there and helped make it possible for this amazing trip. Numazu is a sister city of Kalamazoo, which means that we are linked together for cultural experiences. During our study abroad we celebrated the 56-year friendship between Kalamazoo and Numazu.
I had an incredible time with my host family who took care of me and taught me many new things, as well as awesome tour guides who planned activities. While preparing for the trip I was most nervous about was staying with a host family alone. I didn’t know how I would communicate with them. I didn’t know what I would be eating, or what I would be doing while I was there. Knowing that I would be all alone with another family other than my own who didn’t know how to speak English scared me.
Others may have enjoyed the food or the activities most, but personally, for me, it was getting to know the host families and spend time with them. Having the pleasure of staying with the Hosaka family was an unforgettable experience. The mom, Motoko Hosaka, is a cardiovascular examiner for adults, and her husband, Fumitaka Hosaka, is a cardiovascular doctor; they both enjoy their jobs. Kohta their 12-year-old oldest son loves soccer and is learning how to speak English. He is going to be in Canada for a week to learn English, and he was one of the main members of the household communicating with me during my stay. Tomoya their youngest son is 9-years-old. He also likes soccer and enjoyed comics.
They are a lovely family and staying with them was an education. As I am working to become a heart surgeon and seeing the passion and love they had for their jobs in their medical careers was motivational.
People in Numazu were not strangers. Everyone seemed to know everyone in the city, and it made them a family. Being in Numazu makes you feel safe. Kids could walk everywhere by themselves, and parents do not have to worry like living in the 1950s. Parents always know that someone is always keeping an eye out for their children. My host mom lived right next to her parents, and they would help with taking care of her kids when she had to go to work or take me to meet the other group. Seeing how important family was to them was beautiful. Everyone took care of one another and helped out. They were almost always hanging out together and enjoying every moment.
In Japan seafood is a big part of their everyday life. Food huts would have takoyaki (fried octopus), fish, and many other foods that are not seen daily in Kalamazoo. One night’s dinner contained fish, chicken patties, peas, string beans, beef, potatoes, rice, and soup. Seaweed and green tea were enjoyable for many in Japan but it wasn’t my favorite. Rice was found in almost every meal and Tofu was also enjoyed a lot. Most of the time lunch was eaten as a group during our daily activities so buffets were the best choice. Unlike in America, slurping your soup is allowed. Slurping soup is meant to be a compliment to the chef. Although they had safe foods like chicken and fries, trying new foods was a must. My host mom insisted that I tried sushi. I had bever tried this before so I was very nervous. I also tried a lot of desserts, like strawberry cream ice cream treats. It was a little difficult trying seafood but most of it was not even bad. For most people, the most difficult thing was using chopsticks.
Another really enjoyable activity was a family day. This is when the families all went out and enjoyed the fireworks together at a festival. First, there was a Disney parade where we saw Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Following the parade were beautiful fireworks that lit up the sky. After the fireworks, the aromas of delicious food and the sound of laughter and joy-filled the streets. They had games and food for all ages to enjoy. During the two day festival, people wear Yukatas (Kimonos for men and women), which is the traditional dress. With the Yukata, you wear wooden sandals but many of us just wore normal sandals to reduce injury.
Numazu and Japan as a whole are like no other. The rich culture of Japan is one of a kind. The way they dress and the food they eat makes them who they are. Also how close all of the friends and family are. You could never get the full experience from anywhere else.