These past few days I have been waking up late enough that I am the only one in the house. Everyone has left for their various occupations. On Saturday, this happened, though I did wake up much later than the rest of my host family, at about 10:00 a.m. My host brother came back a few minutes after I sat down in the kitchen/ dining room, but left soon after. I waited out much of the day before my host mother, host sister and I went to Kurume city to visit the grandparents.
The good thing about more rural areas in Japan is that they are really peaceful, with many rice fields and mountains in the backgrounds. It is a type of rural place that I would like to live in, as compared to the more rural places in America (just my opinion, not something to over-analyze). The clouds were white and puffy, and Thetes rivers sparkled in the evening sunlight.
The grandparents of my host family were very accommodating, and the Grandfather spoke English rather well, as he had traveled to the U.S. on numerous occasions. They took us out for Okonomiyaki, which was delicious. We ate Yakisoba as well.
Did I mention that Japanese people seem to like using a lot of mayo on things? My host father mentioned it one night when we were eating salmon, that Japanese people like mayonnaise. He had put what seemed like WAYY too much mayo on his salmon, practically smothering the fish. Anyways, most of the talking was done among the others in our group, as talking to me would be mostly one sided.
My vocabulary in Japanese was and is very limited. After arriving at their home once again, the Grandfather showed me pictures of him and his wife in the American Southwest, on their most recent trip. That day was good because I was not sad. I was worried that I would not be able to go gift shopping during the trip.
The day after, I went to Fukuoka Tower. It gave a wonderful view of the Sea, the mountains, and the outlying islands. I did not spend much time there, as one can only spend so much time staring at the view. Afterward, my host brother, his friend, and myself went window shopping in Tenjin, a commercial district in downtown Fukuoka. We spent the evening playing video games and eating karaage bento.
Any Japanese shopping center will have at least one or two stores that have products or signs in English that make no grammatical sense. It is quite off-putting, but I said nothing of it. My handwriting is almost as much as an affront to English as those places. I always find it funny when I see Japanese people walking around with nonsense english on hats or shirts, just as much as when I see Americans with nonsense katakana on their clothes.
I did not talk much that day, because I was struggling to understand what people were saying. With my vocabulary, it is a near impossible task.
On Wednesday I took a calligraphy class, which was stressful, but fun. Calligraphy is very meticulous and it is very easy to make an error. My hands kept shaking, but I managed to do well enough. We practiced using the character夢. We also made our own signature stamps, with kanji used to represent our katakana names.
After that, I went to lunch. I went around the corner to get something from the street vendor I call the “Bento Guy” because I don’t know his name. He is very popular with the students at the language school. He sells all of his items for the same price: ¥300. That is pretty cheap considering that the food is good. After lunch comes four hours of Japanese lessons, which can be pretty tedious at times, but I have learned a lot.
After class, I went to buy gifts for my family, and spent about 76 USD and am still not finished yet. They are good gifts though, so I am not worried. I did want to try the cafes and restaurants in the shopping center in which I bought the gifts, but it seems I won’t have time. There were so many other things I want to do here too.
Living in Japan is something that I realize would not be an achievable goal for a gaijin such as myself, nor is it something I particularly want to do. Visiting is great, but sadly, time goes by fast, and is soon becomes time to return home. My hosts have been welcoming and considerate of my language difficulties. I am also sad to be leaving my new friends, who came here from all over the world, and whom I probably will never see again. I am leaving my language camp tomorrow, and two days later I am leaving the country. I hope I can remember the events that happened in these past three weeks in a good light, and I am sure I will.
Aden Jibril is 15 years old and lives in Oakland, California. His goal during his language program in Fukuoka, Japan is to “learn to cook at least one Japanese dish, increase my language skill, and to interact well with my host family.” Follow Aden’s adventures in Japan on his weekly blog post updates.