Homestay, Japanese style, part 2

 ... a two-person effort at cementing friendships

Bernadette Mahoney


This is the second and final chapter in Bernadette Mahoney's personal exchange program through the Friendship Force, with her traveling companion Beth. The pair are staying in a private home outside Nogoya, Japan.

When we got up Monday morning, it was another dull day as it had been on Sunday and humid too, but we did not seem to mind. Segeyuki, Yoko, Sumako, Beth and I went to a coffee shop for an American breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and coffee. Yoko and Sumako went home in Yoko's car and we went to Shegeyuki's office. From there, Aiko (Shegeyuki's secretary), Miyo and Haru (our translators) took Beth and me to Nagoya on the subway.

We saw Nittai Ji Temple which was the biggest and most beautiful temple we had seen so far. It was constructed in l904 as a repository for the ashes of Buddha which were a gift of the then King of Siam. It is a nonsectarian Buddhist Temple of international stature. The Temple's name stands for "Auspicious King" in honor of Buddha and Japan -Thai for friendly relations between the two nations.

A large caldron in front of the temple had grey smoke coming out of it. As I understand it, if you bring this smoke towards you, it will bring you good health. There was also a trough and ladles in front of the caldron so you could wash your hands before you approached the temple. We ended up a wonderful day of sightseeing by going to see Toganji Temple and Gardens and the Osokannon Temple.

Shegeyuki met us, took the girls home and then he took Beth and me to a lovely Japanese restaurant to meet his sister, her husband and three children - a six-year old boy, a four-year old girl and a baby ten months old. During the dinner, Yumayho, the four-year old, tried to teach me how to slurp my noodles, but I did not seem to have the breath to do it.

We went home and had our usual shower, hot tub and time with the family. There were two couches in the living room and Sumako usually sat on the floor in front of one of them. She did not attempt to use any English words but we got along just fine. She is a grandmother and, as any grandmother would do, she got out the family album. The pictures told their own story. Later, when we were asked if there was anything we wanted to see, I remembered pictures of the family at the Botanical Gardens and Zoo.

After breakfast on Tuesday, we went with Segeyuki to see huge men practicing sumo wrestling. It was interesting and I was surprised at the number of people who came out to see a practice. Just Miyo and Haru went sightseeing with us on Tuesday. We took a train to the subway and then went to a part of Nagoya called Meiji-Mura to visit and walk around an old Japanese village. It was a fascinating place. It was opened on March l8, l965, as an open-air museum for preserving and exhibiting Japanese architecture of the Meiji period (l868-l9l2). Meiji was a period in which Japan opened her doors to the outside world and laid the foundation for modern Japan by absorbing and assimilating western culture and technology.

Then Aiko and Segeyuki met us and we visited a fertility shrine for women called Ogata. Again, Shegeyuki took the girls home and then he took us to an end of the month festival and shrine which presented the traditions of Japan in a very colorful manner. It had booths set up with icons or symbols at which people would stop and pray or wish for the things they wanted. They had food and games like our festivals as well.

Wednesday was the day we went to the Nagoya Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Garden which is affiliated with the Los Angeles Zoo as a sister zoo. It was a beautiful sunny day and the gardens were spectacular. The zoo covered a large area and had quite a variety of animals. All the animals had spacious enclosures and looked well-cared for. There were a few exotic animals that I had never seen before.

Aiko and Shegeyuki went back to work after lunch and Miyo, Haru, Beth and I went to Heina Cemetery Park and watched the high school athletes strengthen their legs by going up and down the stairs there. They have no room for an athletic field. We had gone so many places and seen so many things in the week we had been in Japan that it was pleasant to just sit and talk together.

When we got back to the train station, we had to say goodbye to Haru and it was very sad. Miyo took us to where Shegeyuki picked us up and he drove her home and we had another very sad goodbye. We had had such an amazing time we were sorry to see it end. Miyo and Haru wrote us a lovely note, and Aiko gave us good luck coins, five for each of us. We got postcards of Japan from Miyo and Haru and Miyo gave me a shopping bag of greetings from her English class.

We stayed home on Thursday and got packed for our tour of Japan on our own. Later, Kohoyko, Shegeyuki's sister, four year old Yumayho and ten month old Koh came and we all went to a lovely old shrine and village. This place was very large and seemed to have most of the elements of the other shrines, icons and symbols plus millions of strings of origami cranes (for good luck) and bibs (thanks for babies). We had come to this particular shrine so that Kohoyko could give thanks for her baby Koh. She let Beth hang a bib to add to the thousands of bibs that were already there.

We went to lunch and then Yoko went shopping and Beth and I went with Kohoyko and her children to her home. It, too, was a typical modern Japanese home that was comfortable and cozy. We visited a small shrine near her home where we met an elderly priest. He made copies of the history of the shrine which was written in English and Kohoyko's husband brought it to Shegeyuki's house that night.

When Kohoyko brought us back to Shegeyuki's house, Yoko had a friend visiting. Her friend had a few questions written down that she wanted to ask us regarding life in the United States. The main question was about married women so I let Beth try to answer them. She answered them the best she could. Yoko had a stained glass window ornament that I admired. It turned out that Yoko's friend had made it and given it to Yoko. They insisted that I have it and Yoko took it down and gave it to me.

We had a lovely dinner with Yoko and the girls. I might mention here that we saw little of Shegeyuki's daughters during our homestay because they were still in school (School vacation in Japan is only forty days). They were gone when we got up and had had dinner and were studying when we got home at night. Having seen a picture of Yukari playing the organ in the family album, I did get her to play for us. When I asked her, she disappeared and, when she came back, she had on a denim outfit and played rock and roll. She was fabulous and we loved it.

Later, when Sumako and Shegeyuki came home, we had wine and a delicious cocktail. Certainly, this was a once in a lifetime experience. When I wrote the letter, I never dreamed that all my wishes would be granted and more. Beth and I will be forever grateful to Shegeyuki, Yoko and Sumako for their hospitality and kindness, and to their families and to Miyo and Haru, all of whom made our trip so memorable.

Friday was a rainy day. Segeyuki, Yoko, Beth and I went out to breakfast, a very unusual breakfast. We had a beautifully designed ice cream sundae for dessert.

Shegeyuki stopped at a business office and from there we went to the hotel where we met with the six members of The Friendship Force who were going on tour with us. It was time for sayonara to Shegeyuki and Yoko.


In the Kitchen.

at the botanical garden.

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