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Homestay (half a year with the Nakane family)

In the first fifteen months I spent in Japan, I lived in a double-bedded college room. After that, I lived with a Japanese family of four for half a year.  My "dad" was Masaharu san, the head of a Yamaha musical instrument store in a nearby town, where he usually worked from nine in the morning till 10 in the evening everyday of the week. My "mother" woke up everyday at 3:33am. In addition to leading the household, she taught piano and English at home. My "brother", Hibiki san is about ten years younger and my "sister", Mao san is seven years younger than me. They are both professional tap-dancers and had even impressively achieved great success at the World Cup in Germany. They both perform regularly as well as teach music and dance.For their website click here.

I have to admit that before I moved in with them, I was a little afraid of how it would be like to intrude into the everyday life of a totally unknown family. But this period exceeded all my expectations and brought me the most beautiful and most enduring experiences.

There was nothing with which I couldn’t turn to them, they helped me with everything in whatever way they could, and they treated me like a real family member from the very first moment.

But I also understand that not everyone can find such a common voice with his or her homestay family. However, in spite of this – and of course because of my personal experiences - I suggest that everyone should try out what it is like to live with a Japanese family. It’s not bad as a form of personal knowledge either :)

(Click on the photos for bigger images! See related videos below!)

1. -
Heart & Heart"this is the huge house
in which I spent about half a year in total, in the hospitality of the Nakane family. The words, "Music & Dance" and piano keys patterns were painted on the wall of the house, and all these indicate that music and dance are the centre of the family’s life.

2. - The kitchen is visible in the background of this picture while the dining table can be seen in the foreground. We used to have breakfast at seven in the morning on weekdays and half an hour later on weekends. Dinner was usually around seven-eight in the evening. My dad rarely came home for dinner, but we always had breakfast together as a whole family.

3. -
"Genre painting"
in the living room.
After washing, the clothes did not always get back into the closet. Sometimes my family dressed right from this pile.

4. - A detail of the living room with the massage chair in the foreground in which my mother would sit and nap for a few minutes in the morning after she finished her tasks because of the very long and tiring day for her, starting from 3:33 in the morning till nine or ten in the evening…

5. - The music and dance hall is on the ground floor where my brother and sister rehearsed and where dance classes were held too. This picture shows a detail of the music hall. My siblings, on top of being professional tap-dancers, are skilled in musical instruments too. My sister is a master of this keyboard, and my brother is a master of the drums.

6. - This is the dance hall where dance rehearsals and dance classes (tap dance, hip-hop, aerobics) take place. My siblings get up at 4:40am in the morning everyday, which they have been doing for years, and rehearse together for about two hours in the morning when booth of them are still home. In the afternoon, lessons were held here and in the evening, rehearsals again.

7. - Everything around us can help in the learning of the language – even this washing machine :D If you take the trouble to collect and look up on the words you did not know, you will be able to build up a very rich vocabulary knowledge in a very short time!

8. - This "huge" area was my humble little room – seperated with a curtain from the living room. The truth is, I only had a real room in the first three months as I had to share it with another homestay student later. Our family had seven members at that time: four Japanese and three foreigners!

9. - There was a brief period of time when I lived with a family in Sonobe near Kyoto. Their room were Japanese-style and spacious enough :)

10. - Yes, she is Harumi san, my homestay mother. I say, in the noblest sense of the word, that she is no ordinary woman. Full of energy for 17-18 hours a day, and on top of that, she teaches. She is the solid support in the background, to whom the whole family’s smooth "operation" owes.

11. - She always prepared delicious meals – I regretted that I did not got come to this family much earlier.

12. - This is Harumi san’s car. Music is so much a part of her life that there are notes even at the pedals of the car. I did not take a picture of it, but the car is patterned with music sheets on the outside :)

13. - The countless daily tasks were very exhausting. Harumi san often fell asleep like this in the evenings, sitting down with her head hanging over the chair…

14. - Mao san and Hibiki kun – my "brother" and "sister". They often participated at various events as professional tap dancers. You can watch some of their actions at one of the events by clicking on the video below (Nr. 40)

15. - In the company of Mao and HibikiThey are busy all the time from rehersals, teaching, learning and working.  Their sense of humor is present not only in their productions but also in their everyday lives too.

16. - Mao san can perform this posture easily after a little bit of warm up :)

17. - Woke up at 4:40 in the morning, followed by one-and-a-half to two hours of rehearsal, then "baito" (casual work. Mao san delivered medical equipments for hospitals) and breakfast. After that would be the preparation for the next performances and then teaching of dance lessons in the afternoon and evening. With such stressful weekdays, it is no wonder that she got very tired sometimes.

18. -
Germany – Riesa
, with Hibiki kun. I accompanied them to the 2008 tap dance world championship to help them with my knowledge in the German languge. The day of the finals coincided with the JLPT and so unfortunately, I had to come home two days earlier. They got into the best eight and I acquired the first level of the international Japanese exam, "THE IKKYŪ"

19. - Mao and Hibiki were accompanied by their grandmother to the championship in Germany. It was funny when Mao and Hibiki were on the stage because there were only three "fans" in the whole audience who were waving Japanese flags -- Mao / Hibiki, the grandmother and I :)

20. - Yes, this is Hibiki kun. He was sitting down to have lunch, but the tiredness got the better of his hunger…

21. - I really appreciated very much that, although their dad Masaharu san had to work all day long for seven days a week, but whenever his children needed help before a performance (like, transporting the equipment), he was always able to make himself free.

22. -
Masaharu san worked a lot.
I found out only a few weeks later that in fact, he had a weekly day off, but he would often go to work even on the day off. He rarely came home before ten in the evening when his family were mostly asleep by then. So I was his only conversation partner on a few occasions during his late night dinner…

23. - This picture was taken near our house at a barbecue. This was also one of the events where the whole family attended.

24. - Barbecue. On the picture Mao san and her two little students. Most of Mao’s students were from the ages of 3 to 14, but sometimes she taught adults and elderly people too.

25. - Mao san with "Anaru" (Annalouise) san at the barbecue. Anaru san is an American girl who was also a homestay student with the Nakane family. She was also my "sister" for three months. But of course, in the family, everyone spoke to each other only in Japanese, always. (see related video below, Nr. 39)

26. - Sometimes we went bowling with my homestay family and their students. On this picture are Masaharu san, Anaru san and Mao san.

27. -
The result of the bowling session: Masaharu san and Robi head to head :)

28. - And they are the little students of Mao san. Wonderful kids, I loved them very much.

29. - With Mao san’s four little students and Taiwanese, Ri san, who were also the "children" of the Nakane family for a couple of weeks, and therefore was also my "sister".

30. - This group photograph was taken after another bowling session. On the right side of the picture is Harumi san, and those little kids are her and Mao san’s students. The lady from Hong Kong to my left is called Doroti, she was also my homestay sister for a few weeks.

31. - Mao san and some of her little students. After each of their performances, they would create a memorial card like this, on which they wrote about their experiences at the performance in words and pictures.

32. - My homestay family performed regularly at charity events too. Every year in August - around the anniversary of the atomic bomb – a charity peace concert was held. This was usually organized at a hospital in the nearby Anjō city. This time, I also participated in two numbers – you can watch these videos in the "music" section.

33. - The "homestay-party" was one of my most memorable event during the period I spent with the family. Besides the family members, some of Mao san’s students were present too, as well as my closest friends. The picture was taken at the time of their arrival. (see related videos below, Nr. 37 and Nr. 38)

34. - On the picture from right to left: Shiyun chan (Singapore), Peter san (Hungarian compatriot), Jeannie (Singapore), Vicki chan (Hong Kong) and Rob – "ballet" in the dance hall of my homestay family. Apparently, all of us had a real good time :)

35. - As a closing for the homestay party, we lit some fireworks. (See related video nr. 36!)

36. - A video of the fireworks was filmed too.

37. - One of the most memorable parts of the party were when we interviewed each other. Everyone’s language skills were at different levels, yet we understood each other perfectly. That is why I tell my students not to be afraid even if they don’t speak it well, because there is something which is more important than the language skills -- kindness, the benevolence for each other and humanity.

38. - This memorable interview was made with Peter san, my dear compatriot. It was important for my homestay family to learn about my firends, so they were always welcome.

39. - This short little video was made at the barbecue.

40. - Mao san and Hibiki kun. They often participated at various events as professional tap dancers.

41. - The last video was made in an amusement park. The first part of the video was filmed on a giant ferris wheel whose cabins are naturally air-conditioned:). In the second part you can see one of the things which I thought it was better to just watch from the outside… And in the third part: even though I rode on the seemingly less "life-threatening" roller coaster, I would rather skip its steep fall which awaited for the passengers right after the first climax.

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