This weekend I am visiting my host family who I stayed with during my brief stint as a foreign exchange student during high school. They are the Kitamura family and they reside in a quaint little suburb on the outskirts of Fukuyama city in Hiroshima-ken.
A Who’s Who of the Kitamura Family:
Otosan (Dad) is like Benny Hill but taller and with less teeth. I spend most of my time with him working on projects on his farm as he jabbers about I am not sure what.
Okasan (Mom) is the head nurse at the city hospital. She is cheerful, rolly-polly and under constant stress over if I am getting enough to eat. She and Otosan met through an arranged marriage.
Ojichan (Grandpa) spends his days sleeping under a heated coffee table in the living room. At night he sleeps in a small room beneath the staircase.
Mami is the oldest child and is also a nurse. She is a bit of a Boo Radley and will only venture out of her room for work.
I shared a bedroom with Fumi during high school. Back then he was somewhat of a playboy but now has settled down with a wife and a kid in another part of town. His room is decorated like the set of Apocalypse Now.
Yuka is the youngest and my only conduit with rest of the family. She speaks English, rides a Harley and is usually chastising Otosan for changing his clothes in front of everyone or making fun of him for having a barcode (comb-over).
The Past 48 Hours
8:10 — I turned up in Fukuyama having stayed in a cafe in Okayama the night before. I was a little ripe.
9:00 — Slept for three hours. Was abruptly awoken by Otosan, who was very concerned that I had not eaten lunch yet.
13:08 — Painted a picture of a kappa (a Japanese mythical creature that looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle but with a Friar Tuck hairdo) for Fumi’s new baby. The title was “Ganbaro Kappa” (‘I will try my best’ Kappa).
15:30 — Dug irrigation trenches with Otosan on the family farm which is tucked away on a hillside about a mile or so away. Whenever I think of Japan, I think of this farm, which has been in the Kitamura family for four generations and looks like it was used in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. Ojichan’s house had been bulldozed since the last time I visited as he is no longer able to live on his own, which made me sad.
17:25 — Convinced Otosan and Okasan that I could walk back to their house on my own. I wanted to stay put for a bit to view the sunset. They were both worried and skeptical that I could make the fifteen minute journey back on my own, so Otosan insisted that I take down his cell phone and memorize the two turns to take to get back.
18:35 — Got lost.
23:40 — Slept.
9:50 — Woke up to an empty house. Everyone had gone to clean a grave.
10:12 — Informed that this evening that we will be driving to the sea to look for edible seaweed on the beach. Or we might be buying it. I never really know what is going on.
11:00 — Spent the afternoon planting apple saplings. It was refreshing to be outdoors and not be concerned about inhaling radiation particles – even if they are not harmful to your health.
19:48 — Decided to return to Gunma tomorrow.
21:10 — There is no hot water in the house right now so the family and I went to a public bathhouse (onsen) to get washed up. I got a massage but I was afraid the whole time that the strain of holding back my farts would exacerbate my already high stress level.