I’m finding it hard to decide what to write when thinking lately about my cultural exchange journey in Japan. I had so much wonderful memories, places I saw and people I met that give me such a difficult task because the options are too much overwhelming. I pretty know much that when I start to think about it would definitely take me back to that experience. It’s like a time capsule, yet, I know it won’t ever happen again and it’s only through memories, writing and the photos that I can feel that again. And it always gives me an impression of wanting to go back to this beautiful and interesting country where culture is preserved and modernity is welcomed. Finally, I made up my mind. I know I’m still going to recall quite a lot about Japan but I’d like to begin with the most heartwarming one – my homestay with the lovely Japanese couples in Osaka. I met Morisue and Toshiko during my homestay in Osaka Prefecture. They live in their semi traditional Japanese house together while the rest of the family members live and work away from home. Their age must have grown older, but they seem to be stronger and cooler than what I thought. They are one of the sweetest and most authentic people I’ve ever met. I had an awesome gastronomical experience during my stay in Japan and our Japanese foster parents were part of the contribution to that experience. I remember our first day when we made Onigiri (Japanese rice balls)with Toshiko while waiting for Morisue from work. And that Japanese pancake topped with Aonori – dried green seaweeds (if I remember, it’s called Okonomiyaki), yet I wasn’t able to eat it all because I couldn’t have that much of seaweeds. Toshiko said not to worry if we can’t finish it. And then there was Shabu-shabu, which has been available in a Japanese restaurant in my hometown yet had only tried it for the first time in a dinner during our homestay. I like Shabu-shabu for
two three things: (1)it’s truly oishii, (2)it’s fun way to eat it, and (3)you get to dip the meat to a freshly mixed egg white and yolk and it really tastes good! And there were also Japanese takoyaki, ramen, gelato, and some cakes and sweets that Morisue and Toshiko made us try. Although I have not been to Dotonbori, I was already having Kuidaore moments. Kuidaore literally means “Eat until you drop.” Accordingly, Kuidaore in a deeper sense means a great enthusiasm and appreciation on food, which Osaka people are known for. There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Dress (in kimonos) until you drop in Kyoto, eat until you drop in Osaka.” We’ve been to interesting places, too, mostly cultural and historical sites. I was thinking of a midnight stroll in a place like Dotonbori but it would be then too much to ask, they’ve been really great to us. They even told us that they could’ve taken us with them to Kyoto if we only had much time left. Who wouldn’t like to see Kyoto? …and geisha? Above, Center – A portrait of Morisue’s wishful thinking pose at the top of Kishiwada Castle We wandered in places like Kishiwada Castle, Kishiwada Danjiri Museum, and Daisen Park. Ario, a particular mall we’ve been for groceries and some food to eat. In Kishiwada Castle, we had a snapshot with newly married couples in a Japanese tradional wedding outfit, which reminds me of the wedding posters on the wall inside the castle. We’ve been told that the castle is a famous spot for a castle wedding in Sakai. The Kishiwada Danjiri Museum, nevertheless was teasing; you wish it was the time to celebrate the Danjiri Festival. And Daisen Park where a Japanese traditional garden was built is a place where you can be with nature (we saw some Japanese people in the park doing free-hand drawing). You wish it was early Spring time, the park would absolutely be filled with spectacular colors and Sakura flowers. And oh, would I ever forget when we wandered around the neighborhood by ourselves with a sketch map from Morisue and Toshiko to guide us to Otori Shrine? And Toshiko’s wonderful calligraphy masterpieces, something that you really have to work hard if you were to make it a hobby. I couldn’t even understand any symbol of it (even Toshiko takes her time to familiarize all symbols). I see Toshiko much of an inspiration of perseverance to achieve something you really want like how she learned calligraphy as well as her persistence in learning how to speak and write in English. She’s also very open and expressive. I remember then when we bought flowers from the neighborhood market as a mother’s day present for Toshiko and she was deeply overwhelmed that made her wept. And when we said our good-byes later on, we all kinda wept,too! I try not to be attached too much from the emotions, but going back to memories like this I can’t help but miss the feeling and experience and such beautiful people!
I wish I could give some Osaka travel tips but only few insights of the places I’ve been and the food I tried that you might also want to. Everything in this trip was mostly organized, fast and quite contained due to busy itinerary and program policies; I wasn’t even able to track the expenses as much of our activities were hosted by the programme and our homestay hosts (though I still have with me the Walking Map around Sakai City with information on destinations including admissions and schedules). THE FIVE THINGS I WISH I DID while in Osaka City and Sakai City (a.k.a. a Town of Craftsmanship and the Venice of the East) were – (1) attending a Tea Ceremony at Nanshuji Temple where a tea house was built in a style preferred by Sen no Rikyu Jissoan (the founder of the Sen schools of tea ceremony and considered as the top master of the tea ceremony), (2) bathing at a Japanese onsen (an onsen anywhere in Japan will do), (3) strolling and trying out a variety of food in Dotonbori during the night (Dotonbori is a place associated by the term “Kuidaore” and is a famous spot for entertainment, shopping, nightlife and of course, gastronomic), (4) staying or visiting an Osaka cube hotel, and (5)cycling in the streets of Sakai (there is also a bicycle museum in Sakai City and the only museum of that kind in Japan where anyone is allowed to ride on replicas at the Bicycle Plaza in Daisen Park during national holidays and every 2nd and 4th Sunday). You might want to consider these.
Above – A portrait of Morisue and Toshiko in Daisen Park
This journey has been made possible through the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths Programme.
I’m thankful for the beautiful people in the world like you.
Beautiful faces are those that wear a friendly smile that say, “I care.” Beautiful eyes are those that show, the kindness and warmth that glows below.
Beautiful lips utter kindly words that so the soul like the songs of bird. Beautiful people touch and bless; they inspire hope and happiness.
You will always be, beautiful to me.
– Aashka Thakkar