Updated: Nov 7, 2019
By: Glen Q
Published on July 25th
After staying here for almost 3 years, I was happy to finally get a chance to participate in a homestay programme organized by the Nara Organization. After hearing so many good feedbacks from people who’d participated, I was close to desperate in searching for one in my area as well. A chance to spend an entire day in a normal Japanese household don’t come by often
After settling all of the application online, they didn’t waste any time into assigning me to my host family, the Ikeda household. And it turns out I get to share my host family with a Brazilian mate, Daniele.
The gathering time was supposed to be 13.30 so I decided to head there half an hour earlier. The designated waiting place was the Nara Global Centre, just 5 mins away from the JR Nara station. Upon reaching there, there was already a French lady as well as a husband and wife waiting there. Not long after I arrived, I was introduced to my new homestay brother, Daniele, followed by my to-be host mother, Mrs Ikeda. After our brief discussion, we were left in the hands of our respective host families. Everyone proceeded separately with their own plans.
As for Daniele and I, our first stop with Mrs. Ikeda was the Nara Old Welfare Home. There we had a chance to talk to some of the senior citizens as well as playing with the children there. However, the highlight of the visit was probably my first time singing in a karaoke in front of a group of strangers who, despite was unfamiliar with the song I chose
(generation gap) still cheered me on. That was when I thought to myself, when you’re doing your best, being cheered on really helps even when you suck really bad at it. Next up, we went and borrowed some bicycle from the neighbourhood and head straight to a rather famous car manufacturer in Nara called Daihatsu. Our host mother was nice enough to make an arrangement beforehand for a tour around the workshop. After that, we head on to get some groceries as well as spending some time talking to the local florist, which despite meeting us for the first time, treated us like longtime friends. Settling our groceries, we got back to enjoy our dinner. That was when we met our host father, Mr Ikeda for the first time as well.
Following a long trip, Daniele and I head to the local bathhouse; just 5 minutes walk away. To be honest, that was probably one of the longest time I spent in a bath house. It was when Daniel and I really bonded with each other. Never had I ever imagined that I would spend an hour in a bathhouse sharing my life experiences with someone who came from the opposite side of the globe. Daniele was around a decade older than me so we where not that far enough but there was plenty of thing that be shared that have really made me think harder about life. After more than hour of soaking, we headed back to where our host parents were waiting for us with beers and snacks. From there it was just endless chatter between the Ikeda household and two foreigners who were strangers before today. We call it a day at around midnight and set up own futon. (By the way, apparently a typhoon past by the area that night that woke me up halfway)
By the time the sun rises, the typhoon had already passed by so thank god the sky was clear that day. Just like the night before, we were served with our breakfast the minute we woke up. Of course we felt bad for not being able to help preparing it but she insisted that we don’t. The least we can do was to make our own bed and keep her company while having our breakfast. The plan for today? First, we were off to Koufukuji (on our rented bicycle), a temple that is also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.. To be honest, I’ve been there for like 6-7 times so I wasn’t really that excited of that part of the trip but this time, getting a framed calligraphy scripture written by one of the temple practitioner was a first time for me. Then it was a trip to yet another old folk’s home called Taiyo no. This one was less spacious as the one before but apparently comes with an entrance fee for regular visitors (probably service charge of some sort). We managed to have our lunch at Saizeriya, located at Kintetsu Nara by the time the sun hits the roof. Our last trip for the day was yet an unusual one. We had to cycle quite a distance to a place called 防災センター Bouzai Senta which translates to [Disaster Protection Center]. There we had a mini tour on how to deal with disasters such as fire, typhoon, and even earthquake. However, the fun part was probably just getting the first hand experience with their simulation machine. We get to try out how does ’30 m/s typhoon’ and also ‘magnitude 5 earthquake’ which seems like the biggest takeaway of the tour.
Before going back, we stooped by a supermarket to grab some ice cream (again she strongly insisted since it was so hot), We went back to her place to enjoy our last few minutes together while enjoying the ice cream. Before sunrise, we bid farewell to each other as Danielle led me to the nearest bus station (since he was more familiar to the area).
I made sure to write an reaaaally good feedback reply on their questionnaire after the trip. But much more than that, I hope that I can get a chance to repay the favour someday. To me, there is something more to these two days than just visiting those places. My best wishes to Daniel and my host parents and can’t wait to see them again in the near future.