I am looking forward to taking a class about Tohoku Culture and continue studying Japanese this semester. Anyways for this blog post, I would like to talk about my trip at Hokkaido with my relatives this past winter break.
On my last blog post, I mentioned that I came to Hokkaido by ferry from Akita with two other students. The ferry brought me to the Tomakomai port at Akita, and I then transferred from Tomakomai to Sapporo train station by riding a shuttle. At Sapporo train station, I met with my Japanese relatives at the west entrance and I stayed at their house for most of my winter break which was about two weeks.
The first night I stayed with them, I was very nervous to talk with them because although I studied Japanese for about three years, I was not comfortable speaking the language. I felt that my relatives would be disappointed with my limited vocabulary or grammar because I thought that they would assume my Japanese would improve dramatically while studying Japanese at Japan.
Despite my fears, my relatives were far from disappointed, and they treated me with great hospitality by providing me with my own room, and they taught me a lot of Japanese customs that most foreigners do not learn unless they stay with a Japanese host family. My Japanese uncle taught me how to eat sushi properly because apparently, a lot of Japanese people do not correct foreigners that eat sushi incorrectly by dipping the rice inside of the soy sauce. Whereas my Japanese auntie cooked for me and washed my dishes.
Here are pictures from their house. Before coming to Hokkaido, I thought that all Japanese houses were tiny, but when I arrived at their house, it was a lot bigger than I imagined. Their house was two stories tall and it had a garage for two cars. At their house, I could bathe like a Japanese person because before entering the bathtub, I had to take a shower. Apparently Japanese people reuse water when taking a Japanese style bath.
|The room my relatives provided me|
|The tub is filled with water|
Most of the time when my relatives spoke to me in Japanese, I could not understand them. Despite that I was able to understand the meaning of their conversations, and gradually I became better at Japanese. My relatives barely spoke English, but they had a Japanese-to-English dictionary with them so it was convenient. According to my relatives, some of my responses were unclear because I only answered either "yes," "no," or "okay" when I answered their questions and I did not know what to say. Therefore my relatives had to call their Japanese daughter who spoke proficient English and was going to school at America to help translate sometimes.
|The front door of my relative's house|
|My relative's yard|
|Food my auntie made that I do know what it is called|
|A Japanese style bento my aunty made|
|Delicious food from Sapporo my aunty did not make|
On Christmas day, my relatives had took me to dinner at the Sapporo Park Hotel. At the dinner I got to eat great food, and I got to practice speaking Japanese with them. This was my first Christmas I spent without staying at my parent's house at Hawaii.
|Sapporo Park Hotel is located within Sapporo Park|
|Christmas dinner with my relatives inside of the restaurant at Sapporo Park Hotel|
|Christmas tree at the lobby of Sapporo Park Hotel|
After Christmas, my relatives had brought me to the Costco in Sapporo. At Costco, I was unable to take a lot of pictures because the Costco shop attendant told me in Japanese that I was not allowed to take pictures from Costco.
Shopping at Costco was interesting because I was surprised how popular it was. Before coming to Japan, I heard that a lot of the Japanese people do not like to buy big things, but a lot of the Japanese buy a lot of big things from Costco because of how cheap everything is at Costco.
|Parked cars at Costco|
|Inside of Costco|
|Cake from Costco|
After shopping at Costco, my relatives brought me to Chitose by car where I was able to meet my Japanese uncle and speak to him in Japanese. Like my relatives, he was also impressed with my Japanese and he was happy with the gifts I brought him from Hawaii and Akita. I brought him spam from Hawaii and a Namahage Statue from Akita.
|Outside of my Japanese uncle's apartment|
|Sitting with my Japanese uncle|
|Me and my Japanese relatives from Hokkaido|
On New Year's eve in Japan, my auntie made a special dinner for that night and my uncle tried to explain to me about the Japan's new year's tradition called Oumisoka. Apparently on New Year's Eve a lot of the Japanese try to pay their respects to the dead and eat a special type of soba called tokikosi-soba for New Year's Eve. In addition, in order to prevent other people from waiting, it is important that customers eat their noodles as fast as possible. At night, my aunty allowed me to listen to the sounds from the Japanese bell that is played 108 times before the start of the new year at night. Besides the sounds from the bell, I noticed that compared to Hawaii, there were no fireworks at Sapporo on New Year's Eve.
|Special type of soba called tokikosi-soba for New Year's Eve|
On New Year's day, my relatives woke me up early and brought me to this nearby festival at Sapporo Dome where they introduced me to a temple where I could pray to show my respects, donate money, and receive a fortune telling from a Japanese piece of paper called an omikuji. My paper mentioned that I would have good luck and good fortune so according to my aunty I was lucky.
Later that day, my relatives and I Skyped with my mom, grandma, and dad from my grandma's house in Hawaii and wished them a Happy New Year. It was my first time seeing my grandma in-person since I left for studying abroad so my grandma was happy to see me. My grandma spoke to me and both of my Japanese relatives in Japanese so she was impressed to hear how much my Japanese improved.
My mom also tried to speak to some of my relatives in Japanese and mentioned to them that today was her last day at work, so she is looking forward to retirement. My dad retired a few years ago, and is currently enjoying his retirement. It was nice talking to my family on New Year's day at Japan and at that moment I learned to appreciate the importance of family because if it was not for my family, I would not be there at my relatives house learning Japanese within Japan.
A few days later, I was worried about my return trip on Monday, December 7, so I did some research with Google Maps and Hyperdia and managed to figure some sort of plan for how to get from my relatives house in Sapporo to the port at Tomakomai. I also used this program called Rikaichan to decipher kanji I did not know on Japanese websites. After figuring out my plan, I had problems trying to figure out how to get from my relatives house to the Sapporo train station so I talked to my Japanese auntie about this. According to my auntie there is a bus I can take from Sapporo train station to the ferry so her and my uncle were willing to take me to the train station by car.
On the weekend before my return trip, my relatives did their best to make sure that I enjoyed the last few days of my trip. My uncle had brought me to the Okurayama Ski Jump and the Sapporo Skywalk on Saturday, December 5. The Okurayma Ski Jump was one of the locations used for the 1972 Winter Olympics at Sapporo. At the Okurayama Ski Jump, I got to see Japanese people participating in a skiing competition. After that we went to the nearby Sapporo Winter Sports museum, where I got to participate with several skiing stimulations and watch a video about athletes that participated in the Olympics. In addition, my uncle brought me to this restaurant where I could eat goat meat. The goat meat was delicious, but I am not sure how to describe it.
|A skiing competition at Okurayama Ski Jump|
|Inside of the Sapporo Winter Sports Museum|
|I am trying one of the skiing stimulations|
|This slide was used for a professional ski competition the next day|
|At Okurayama Ski Jump I could ride a cable car to get a better view from Sapporo|
|Goat meat that my uncle was cooking at the restaurant|
Later that day my uncle brought me to the Sapporo Skywalk where I could ride a cable car and take multiple pictures from the view of Sapporo. Shortly after returning to my relatives house from the Sapporo Skywalk, my relatives brought me to this all-you-can-eat yakiniku place and then let me eat desert at their home.
|View from the Sapporo Skywalk|
|This guy's name is Moris.|
On my last day at their house, my relatives brought me to this rural area on Hokkaido called Otaru where I was able to eat food at multiple restaurants. At Otaru, I ate fried chicken, sushi, and delicious pastries. When I was eating sushi, my uncle told that the proper way for Japanese to eat sushi is to dip the fish into the soy-sauce bowl by flipping the sushi over with my chopsticks. Usually when foreigners eat they dip the rice into the sushi, but the Japanese people do not correct them. When I returned to their home, my uncle allowed me to drink sake that was 43% alcohol that my parents brought for them when they dropped me off at Akita for studying abroad. The sake was very strong and compared to my uncle I could only drink a few sips from the sake before I had to quit.
|Great food my relatives treated me to|
|This fried chicken tasted better than the chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken|
Finally on Monday, December 7, I had to return to Akita by ferry so I had packed the night before. My uncle dropped my aunty and me at the train station during his lunch break whereas my aunty lead me to the bus stop that would take me from the Sapporo train station to the Tomakomai ferry at 4pm.
Unfortunately my auntie had read the information wrong online because there was no bus that leaves from Sapporo train station to the Tomakomai ferry on that day. Therefore she met with some of the staff from the train company at Sapporo and made a map that showed me how to get from Sapporo to Tomakomai by train and how to transfer from the Tomakomai train station to the Tomakomai ferry by bus.
With my aunty's help, I was able to transfer to catch the ferry from Tomakomai to Akita, and I was able to figure out how to get back from the Akita Port to AIU. I was nervous returning to AIU by myself, but somehow with the help of my relatives and my limited Japanese, I had done it.