This weekend, I got to experience a Japanese homestay, along with another teacher on our program, Liza. We were so lucky to get matched with a wonderful couple, Sakae and Michiko.
It was a fabulous break from our busy schedule. We relaxed, ate a lot, and just hung out and got to know each other. Other than a few differences, it felt just like being at home. They live in a beautiful spot, right across the street from a lake.
It is typical in Japan to take off your shoes before entering the house, and they had an entryway just for that. Liza also slept on the traditional tatami mat, while I slept on a bed. They had both in their house.
Their house had a lot of the same things that an American house would have, but it also had a few shrines. Michiko wakes up every morning and puts food on the alter, and does a little prayer.
Just like American families, sometimes Sakae and Michiko cook at home, and sometimes they go out to eat.
The bathroom situation was a little different than most American houses. They have three different rooms — one for the toilet, one for the bath, and then another where there was a sink and laundry. The sink room was kind of like an entryway for the bathroom, but the toilet was in another part of the house, near the front door. I got to experience the traditional Japanese bath, where you wash yourself outside of the tub, and then take a soak in the tub. It is traditional (and environmentally sustainable) for everyone in the household to use the same water for the night (kind of like a hot tub). It’s also convenient that while one person is bathing, another person could be using the toilet or brushing their teeth!
One highlight of the homestay was getting to go out shopping in the places where the locals go. We went to the grocery store, dollar store, bookstore, etc. It was really neat to see what’s for sale in the non-touristy shops!
Overall, it was a fabulous experience. Sakae and Michiko were so welcoming and really made us feel at home. Hospitality does not require speaking the same language, though we were lucky that Sakae had studied English. We really enjoyed sharing a bit of American culture with them also.
A homestay is a great way to get to know another culture. If you ever have a chance to do one, definitely try it!