I had very few expectations for my host families. Having never had that kind of experience sent me into a whirlwind of confusion. Before arriving in Tokyo, the concept of host families alone was worrisome, but I soon realized how much of a complication the language barrier would be.
Upon meeting my first host family, I realized how difficult communication would be. I was a sweaty mess in the hot swamp of Tokyo, and my host mother and sister seemed very nervous to meet me. The hour-long train ride home was filled with silences and google translate. The doubts flew through my mind, but I was in too deep. We shared an awkward dinner and began our week together.
I learned a lot by observing my family and our struggles to communicate. So much of our communication was done through body language and hand motions, with the words serving to connect the dots. We bonded quickly, and I know that I’ve made a permanent connection with this family. By the end of the week, we were all in tears saying goodbye, and they told me I always had a home in Tokyo.
The next two weeks I had no hosts which was disappointing, but I stayed with a school’s vice principal for a weekend. She was so generous and excited to take us literally everywhere in her hometown of Otaru. She was ready and willing to give us her home and all amenities imaginable.
My final week in Tokyo, I had a host family the entire week. By the time I met them, I was so ready to be back having a host that I was practically fangirling at Kyodo station where we met. They had a special welcome party dinner for me and were very interested in documenting everything we did together. My host sister and I went everywhere together and were best friends by the end of the week. She was so cute and talkative which made it easy to connect quickly. We said goodbye in tears again.
I was so surprised by how generous everyone I met was. Not only did they provide me with food and shelter, but they gave me extra gifts and experiences to ensure I was making the most of my time in Japan. They were generous to the point of thanking ME for staying with them when in reality, I should have been the one profusely thanking them for everything they did for me. My host families gave me countless memories and homes in Tokyo. The pre-host fam nerves were totally worth the payoff, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my amazing time with my two new forever families.