Getting Used to Life in Japan

two women eating at restaurant

Hello internet. I have been living in Japan for quite some time now. I have been so submersed in all things Japanese, it has been hard for me to sit down and write a good post. There are just so many things to do and so many people to see.

Upon leaving the U.S., I was both sad and nervous. Saying goodbyes to all of my friends and having to hug my family one last time for three months was hard. But as soon as I stepped into Narita Airport, I knew all my worries and sorrows would soon go away.

In my first homestay, I was fortunate enough to live with an English teacher named Sumi, and her two children, Hiro and Aya. They were very welcoming, and it was convenient that I was able to live with the woman who I would be teaching English lessons with. I was nervous about the whole idea of teaching English, because English education is not my intended major. But now, I am more open to the idea of teaching English, though at an international level.

While living with Sumi in the small city of Honjo, I was able to transition and assimilate easily into Japanese culture. The people of Honjo were friendly and welcoming, and most kids were eager to see a foreigner with bright purple hair. I thought it was amusing that even kids would call me “kawaii,” even though I’m a 20-year-old woman.

In my homestay in Honjo, I was able to create a great relationship with the family I was staying with. They warmly welcomed me with a greeting party with some friends and family, and they introduced me to many things involving Asian culture such as public baths, Japanese music and television, food, shrines, and the typical family set up and daily life of Japanese people. It was nice to experience Japan on a smaller scale before exploring Tokyo on my own.

The typical work day in Honjo was relaxed, yet relatively vigorous. I began most of my days by either going to Sumi’s father’s factory to help out with labor, or by going to a nursery school to teach kids English lessons. I had never been in a setting like this in America before, let alone Japan, so this was a good learning experience for me.

After morning work, Sumi and I would enjoy lunch together while the kids were at school, and plan for the afternoon’s private English lessons. The classes for the English lessons averaged around three people per lesson, and each lesson was engaging and intimate. Luckily I am a fairly confident and open minded person, so I was able to talk with kids and play with them fairly easily.

On weekends, Sumi would have me participate in local events such as Sports Day. This is a day devoted to neighbors and friends creating teams and competing against each other in various games. Sumi signed me up for two events, and our team ended up winning the entire competition. It was really interesting to see the sense of community and inclusiveness generated by these people. At the Sports Day events, about 200 people participated, so it wasn’t just some backyard get together.

I was sad upon leaving Honjo because my first homestay was so incredible, but I knew Tokyo had great things in store for me as well.

About the author

Olivia Pucciarelli

Konnichiwa! I am Olivia Pucciarelli from Fredonia, NY and I am currently in my fifth semester at JCC. After much thoughtful consideration, I am still unable to decide on a specific major, which is why I took the year to be involved in internships abroad. Currently, I am finishing my work on an individual studies degree in Japan and Spain, and I plan on transferring to Brooklyn College in August of 2018. My hobbies include reading and relaxing in parks, skateboarding, drinking copious amounts of any type of tea I can get my hands on, spending time with my friends, and attending concerts. Hopefully my adventures will peak the interest of others and inspire other people to find their path in life through travel and exploration.