tadaima (I`m home)

So as far as host mums go, Junko has to be the absolute best. Like I said in my previous post, her house is in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo and home to the Ghibli museum, Ghibli being Hayao Miyazaki`s animation studio, the one that produced Spirited Away, Howl`s Moving Castle etc. Definitely on my `to visit` list. Her place is also very close to ICU (International Christian University), which was founded by an American? missionary. Many foreign students go there to take Japanese language courses, or college courses taught in English.
The house itself is very pretty and is just across from Nogawa-koen, a huge park that shares borders with ICU. Inside, I noticed that the bedrooms were on the bottom floor while everything else were one floor up, probably to avoid the cold.
The decor is, well, unique to say the least. I like cats alot but Junko well…she`s a fanatic. Every room has pictures of cats on the wall, cat calenders or little cat figurines. She even has cat salt and pepper shakers, as well as a cat thermometer. But no sign of the real thing. Apparently she had a cat for twelve years and it died a few months ago and she doesn`t want to get another one because she wants to travel.
One of the rooms is a washitsu or traditional Japanese room with tatami mats and a kotatsu. There is also an alcove with a little table where she has her deceased husband`s picture on display (NB. this is normal), next to a stick of burning incense. Next, the bathroom has a small o-furo (bathtub), which Japanese people use to soak in relaxing hot water after a long day of work. The toilets have one of those handy dandy electronic toilet seats, buttons and all. The buttons are labelled butt washing, sound making (to cover up the sounds you make it plays music) etc and apparently, the manufacturer did not think this was clear enough so he decided to put pictures along side the labels to indicate *exactly* what each button does. Sweet.
Junko herself is about seventy years old but doesn`t look a day over fifty. She`s pretty awesome as far as old ladies go: she used to be a radio deejay, then she became an English teacher. Now she is what she calls a `dramatic reading` teacher, which means she basically trains people to be expressive when they read out loud, and sometimes even trains actors and actresses. Oh and she looooves Elvis Presley and has all of his songs on her iPod Nano (!), as well as a huge poster of him in the hall.
She`s also an amazing cook, and I`ve had something different everyday since I`ve arrived. We`ve had REAL sukiyaki and yakitori as well as homemade tsukemono and miso soup. Yum. The idea of eating rice or meat in for breakfast as the Japanese (and most Asians) usually do was kind of daunting at first, but it balances out all the other meals you have in the day, so its not a big deal and you get used to it.
All in all, I think my homestay experience will be useful as far as improving my Japanese is concerned since Junko only talks to me in Japanese. Sometimes she goes too fast and I only understand seventy to eighty percent of what she`s saying but hey, I`m learning.
In a few days I`ll be going down to meet the exchange student advisor at Hitotsubashi University.


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