The park was outspread and beautiful. The amazing cherry blossoms were in bloom all over. We moved quickly toward the woman selling the special crackers. We bought twenty-one little packages; three for each of us. I un-wrapped my package, slipped out the first cracker and moved slowly toward the cute, little, four-legged creature with two antlers carefully cut off. I came face to face to the first deer heading my way. As I held out my hand, holding the cracker to its mouth, it finally did what I had been waiting to see all week. Right before the deer took the cracker, it bowed its head twice as if saying, “Thank you” and quickly nibbled the cracker away. It was amazing to see this animal say, without words, what some people never manage to say. I looked around the park at the temple buildings, only to see more deer walking, on the crosswalks, to the other side! It was a very unique sight.
This wonderful day was one of seven that I spent in Kishiwada, Japan. The day before I left my “family” decided to take me to this amazingly beautiful park and visit a temple with the biggest Buddha statue in that region of Japan. Just days before I had also visited the technological central of Osaka, the Golden Pavilion and Rokuon-Ji Temple, Kishiwada High School, the Kishiwada Castle, the Kishiwada Danjiri museum where I learned about the famous Danjiri festivals, and was able to speak to the mayor of Kishiwada many times. These spectacular visits, along with many others, allowed me to experience the Japanese culture first-handedly. This was especially true because instead of staying in an Americanized hotel in Tokyo, I was able to live with a Japanese family of six in a small city like Kishiwada.
My Japanese “family” was the sweetest, most welcoming, kindest people I ever met. My “father”, Ryuhei, was one of the managers at a factory that produced biodegradable shampoos and bathing soaps. Although he was not always home, when we did see each other I could always count on an exciting conversation about baseball and Japanese-American baseball players. My “mother”, Kazue, worked at home and volunteered whenever she had free time. Thanks to her, my wavering taste for Japanese food progressed to “delicious.” She once told me that each household had their own version of miso soup. I quickly told her, her soup was definitely the best. I also had four “siblings”, Mutsumi (17), Tomone (12), Mitsuru (10) and Miyabi (7). Mutsumi was my older sister who had traveled to SSF two years before and lived with an American family. She had aspirations of becoming an international translator. Mistsurui and Tomone, my younger sister and brother were in grade school. Mutsumi was part of a youth leadership group and Tomone was focused on playing baseball and Wii video games. Miyabi loved playing with her parakeet, Lemon, and learning English.
I always wanted to start my traveling early and I am completely thrilled that my first overseas trip was to Kishiwada, Japan. I was especially happy that I was never simply a tourist but a guest in a Japanese home with a great family. I still keep in contact with Mutsumi and we have made plans to see each other this summer when she, Miyabi and their mother come to San Francisco. I have also made plans with my school mates that also went on the trip to travel back to Kishiwada after we graduate. It truly was an amazing journey.
Watashi wa nihon no koto ga daisuki da – I love Japan!!
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