My first week in Tamana was an absolute blur of places, people, names and food! (So much food, help me I’m getting so fat!) I was with my host family for two nights and we somehow managed to cram in so much in that time.
The first night, after the little eikaiwa, we had a cheese and wine party which was AMAZING. I’d said my favourite food was cheese and my host family went all out to provide me with what I love. We had a bit to drink and talked about what would be happening in Tamana over the next few weeks. The big thing everyone was excited about was hanabi taikai (fireworks festival) which was on Friday. I mentioned that I’d worn kimono before and loved it, so my host mum dug out a yukata and asked if I wanted to wear it to the festival. Of course I said yes, and so we had a dress up session to make sure it would fit. Shockingly, the length and width of the yukata was fine, the only thing that needed tweaking was the length of the obi to fit around my waist (shame, shaaame on me!) I was surprised the yukata fit in the length and around my waist because the yukata had originally belonged to my host mum when she was in high school, and then both her daughters had worn it at various times, and they are all very petite ladies in the best Japanese style. Luckily they’re quite flexible pieces of clothing! Once we’d worked out that it would fit, we were sent to bed because it was very late and I had to go to work the next day, bright and early!
The next day, my host father dropped me at work which was very kind of him. He walked me to the right area of the BOE just to make sure I didn’t get lost which was probably a good idea. I’m not sure exactly what we did on our BOE days, but most of them are a mist of Japanese study, form filling, trips to get bank accounts and phones, and talking to the other ALTs. I consider myself lucky that in Tamana we have 6 ALTs at our BOE. Each ALT has a Junior High and either one or a selection of elementary schools. It’s really nice that there is always someone to talk to about work or just life in general and the senpai ALTs have been really helpful about translating and talking us through the hundreds of forms we have had to fill in. As it was my first “official” work day I wasn’t sure what we’d have for lunch, so my host mum made me a bento. It was so delicious and she even wrote my name in katakana on the omurice! I ❤ her a lot.
That evening my host family collected me and first we went to do some purikura and then we headed back to my host family’s house. My host mum is an expert at making matcha and has done it at the annual iris festival in Tamana. She gave me a quick lesson which was really interesting (I was pretty bad at it..) and then we all went out for sushi (yay!) The restaurant was called Edo Sushi but I have no idea where it is because I was driven there and it is down an absolute maze of back alleys in central Tamana. Google might help me find it again in the future I suppose. The food was fantastic and there was no much of it. I think it’s definitely one for me to try and visit again. My host father shocked me by eating his entire tempura prawn – head and all! It sounded far too crunchy for me…
After we had sushi, my two host sisters and I went to a local onsen. Tamana is famous for its hot springs and while it might sound odd to go to an onsen while the weather is sweltering, there is nothing more relaxing than a hot bath. I have onsen’d plenty of times before so I am not at all bothered by the concept, but I know it can take some people plenty of getting used to. The onsen was a private onsen and it had three baths, two outside and one inside. We sat and talked for a while before getting out and sorting ourselves out. Earlier, we’d bought some beautiful cakes from a local cake shop so we had those as a midnight snack and then headed to bed. We slept really well that night!
The day after was the day of the fireworks festival and also the day I would go to my new apartment (I’ll do a separate post about that later). After a mad day at the BOE heading back and forwards to my new place to get the gas working and (more importantly) the air con fitted, I was picked up by my host mum, given the yukata and then kindly driven back to my house. Luckily my apartment is within very easy walking distance of the fireworks festival, so I wasn’t bothered about getting home afterwards. My host mum started to dress me for the festival, and then the doorbell rang. This of course filled me with panic but luckily I had my host mum for moral support. It turned out the gas man was back with a new piece of hosing for my gas hob because the other one was old and broken. This meant I should be able to cook over the weekend (hurray!). After he was done we finished getting dressed and my host mum dropped me off at the local cafe where I was meeting some of the other ALTs from Tamana-gun (like a district). It was nice to meet more people and I’ve hung out with them a lot since because they are all wonderful people.
After a meal we went to the fireworks festival which was spectacular. I have no decent pictures really, I was too busy trying to hold my beer and my lightbulb drink and my fan. It was really hot but it wasn’t too bad in the yukata. I had my first experience of someone trying to measure my height by reversing into me. I maintain I won – he had about 2 inches of bleach blonde hair on the top of his head which definitely doesn’t count!
After the fireworks festival I wandered home. I had been a little worried in case I forgot the route, but it’s actually very straightforward so no problems were had. I think my favourite part of the entire night was watching the little children stare at me in yukata. They were so cute in their own outfits and when we said “konnichiwa!” their eyes would get even rounder. The fireworks were magnificent and my favourite part was when they played Beauty and the Beast music while golden fireworks rained down.
The next two days were the weekend and were mostly spent in a sweaty mess as I cleaned the apartment, went food shopping, went cleaning supply shopping, went towel shopping.. You name it and I bought it! I didn’t have a car at this point (and still don’t.. Fingers crossed for Monday..) so everything had to be lugged back by hand. It’s character building I’m sure. I really wanted to do a deep clean to prevent bugs getting in and causing me problems, and so that I only really needed to do a top up clean every week. So far so good on the cleaning front.. My host family kindly came and drove me to a supermarket so I could get some heavier things like rice and pots and pans, and afterwards I went out for dinner with my host sister. We had okonomiyaki which was deeelicious and is one of my favourite foods. My host mum had come by a voucher for free beer (yay!) which I got to use because my host sister isn’t old enough to drink yet.
Altogether a very busy first few days in Tamana but very productive ones!