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Journals from Kanto Gakuin University, Japan

2011-10-13 What do Parakeets and Washlet Toilets Have in Common? My Host Family

These past couple of weeks have been very interesting because all of us study abroad students have been living with our host families.  Two weeks ago was the first time we had been separated from each other since coming to Japan.  Everyone felt very nervous and excited at the same time.  On the day that our home stays started, we were picked up one by one by our host families.  We all got more nervous as we watched each other leave.  Of course, being the dramatic college students that we are, it felt like the world was ending when we were separated.  Ironically, as we moved to our host families on a Sunday, we saw each other again at school the next day.

Life with my host family is never dull.  I have a 10-year-old host sister who is always lively and reminds me of my younger brother.  My host mother is very kind and fun to talk with.  Unfortunately, my host father had a job transfer and is working in Kyoto so I only saw him once during a three-day weekend.  It's only us girls in the house but we share many interests, such as a love for Korean music (my host mother and sister were thrilled to find that I knew some of their favorite boy bands).  My host family also has a pet parakeet, Ku-chan, that knows how to say Japanese words.  The only true words that I managed to catch it saying was "moshi moshi" which roughly translates to "hello", and is only used as a phone greeting.  Most of the time, Ku-chan squawks or babbles incomprehensibly in what sounds like an imitation of a Japanese radio channel with static. 

Speaking only Japanese was probably the most difficult transition to make and I find that I'm more tired than I ever was at the end of the day.  Communicating in another language takes a lot more effort than you think.  Thankfully, there have been no major misunderstandings between myself and my host family.  Any problem can usually be resolved by broken Japanese sentences accompanied by hand gestures with help from the handy-dandy electronic dictionary.  Luckily, my host family can understand more English than I had originally thought which makes things so much easier.  However, to my horror (especially since I'm an English major), I am beginning to find my ability to communicate in English is diminishing.  I misspell words more frequently and I mix Japanese with English.  

Another difficult thing, besides adjusting to life with a family that's not your own, was the bathroom.  Japanese showers are normally separated from the bathtub and even the toilet room.  The shower also takes up about half of the bathroom with the tub taking up the other half.  The entire bathroom is basically one big shower room.  It was really awkward the first night I showered since I had to figure out how everything worked and if it was all right to move the shower-head up higher (it's normally at waist-level).  Toilets in Japan are amazing and scary things.  My host family has two "washlet" toilets, meaning they are bidets.  Because there are so many buttons, they are located on a panel on the wall along with the flush buttons (yes, there's more than one).  I always have to think about which flush button to press as one is for liquid waste (designated by the Japanese kanji character meaning "small") and the other for solid waste (I'm sure you can guess which  character is used).  The toilet seat is always warm which is very nice, especially because it's already autumn and the air is getting cooler.

This is only a very small view of parts of my host family life.  I'm sure there will be many more interesting events to come.


-Katelyn Tamashiro 

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