I’ve been putting off making this post because just like all the other stuff I’m trying to backtrack and write about, it happened too long ago to get all the details right. But I’ll try anyway because this particular day was amazing.
So I had only met Kazu once before going out to see his family. Unfortunately, he speaks Kansai-Ben, which makes it a lot harder to for me to understand him. His english is great so we mostly use that to communicate. I know a lot of people are probably wondering why I wouldn’t take the opportunity to speak Japanese to an actual Japanese person. But it’s a lot easier said then done, and like I said, he speaks a lot of slang. Compare it to a non-native English speaker going to an area where there is a really strong dialectal accent and a lot of colloquial slang after learning English from teachers who speak standard textbook English. You get some of it, but it takes time to sink in.
So I had planned to meet Kazu at Hirakata station so that he could make the trip with me. I can navigate the trains now after the fact because I’ve taken them a few times by myself, but at that point I hadn’t so I was grateful he was there with me. I was really nervous about the entire thing. It really was an interesting experience to be sitting in a room of people who don’t really speak English. It definitely forces you to put your Japanese to the test.
After we had taken the train, Kazu’s mom Fumi picked us up in the family car. That was interesting enough on it’s own, because I spent the 10 or so minutes it took to get the house thinking that we were going to die. I’ve only been in a car here one other time and while it was crazy too, it wasn’t quite like this. It’s kind of like slamming your foot down on the gas, flying around corners, and only stopping when nearly colliding with other cars. Her and I talked the whole way to the house because other than Kazu she is the only other family member who can speak English. But we switched back and forth from English to Japanese since she speaks much less Kansai-ben than Kazu.
When we got back to their house I was stunned. Kazu kept saying it was old and not nice, but it definitely wasn’t at all. The architecture of this house was amazing. They had old family heirlooms and pictures of ancestors everywhere. I wanted to take pictures of everything, but I didn’t want to be rude. I’m hoping I’ll be able to take some next time I go there. We all sat in the most modern room of the house where the TV is and the family came in to talk to me. I got to meet Hirokazu, Kazu’s father. He was probably the easiest to talk to, even though he knows no English and my Japanese isn’t at a high enough level to properly communicate sometimes. He talked to me about my life back home and what hobbies I had. He told me about how he used to play baseball and all the awards he received for it. He even knew about the Detroit Tigers, since the team the Hanshin Tigers here in Japan are the sister team.
We spent a lot of time just talking about random things. There were a few moments of awkwardness, but nothing too bad and during those moments we’d all just laugh because of the barrier we hadn’t broken yet. Once food was ready I got to meet Yaeko, Kazu’s grandma. She was incredibly nice. Even though she knew less English than everyone else she still tried to talk to me and kept making sure I had enough food all throughout lunch. The entire family in fact made it a point to ask me what I thought of all the food and if I wanted anything else. Kazu’s friend Kin came to have lunch with us at that point too. We sat in the nicest and most traditional room in the house. I knew that they didn’t eat in here all the time, it was mostly for guests. I felt really honored that I got to sit and eat in that room. The food we ate was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had, which is saying a lot. We had Sukiyaki, which I had never tried before. During lunch Hirokazu keep refilling my beer and sake glass. At one point we started laughing because I told him if drank more I’d get too drunk. I think he was happy that I drank with him though, since when he asked if I like either beer or sake I said I liked both and he was surprised. Kazu told me later that his dad was impressed I liked both.
After dinner we sat around the table and talked. Kazu is part of the Kansai Gaidai debate circle since he wants to major in Economics. So he went over some of his debate arguments with me. For only being a freshman, his vocabulary is pretty extensive and impressive. At that point, I was so full from the lunch but they had brought out homemade mochi with adzuki. I’m glad I ate it even though I was full because it was some of the best mochi I’ve had.
Kazu, Kin, and I played some video games and watched TV after that. Hiroki, Kazu’s younger brother, came downstairs and proceeded to destroy all of us in almost every game we played. I did manage to beat everyone at smash brothers more than a few times though. We started watching some of the game shows that were on TV. Some of time I knew what was going on and other times I didn’t.
Even though we had eaten only a few hours ago everyone decided that we should order pizza. Since coming to Japan my appetite has significantly decreased for some reason. So after the large lunch we had, I would have been okay without eating for a really long time after that. But this was my first chance to have Japanese pizza, so I went with it. It ended up actually being phenomenal and I ate a few pieces.
We continue to play for video games for a while after that and talked some more with everyone. Since it takes some time to get to their house from Hirakata I ended up taking the last train home. Before I left I said about a thousand thank you’s to the family and they told me to come back soon. I realize that the experience I had with them isn’t something they normally do. But I was extremely grateful they went through all the trouble. I see Kazu every now and then on campus and we’ve chatted on and off these past few weeks. I’m going to see them again soon. On the 31st, there is a festival the town is having. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again.