Home Stay Families

While we were in Japan we got a chance to stay with our own Japanese Families in both Tamano and Toyota Cities.

The first home stay was in Tamano City and I stayed with the Katayama family. There are four members in the family Katayama-san (dad), Kimiko (mom), Shiho (17 year old girl), and Naho (13 year old girl). They were so incredibly kind to me and if I could change one thing about the trip it would be to stay with them for longer. As soon as I got to their house they gave me a bag full of presents which included, a Japanese towel fabric thing (kind of for decoration), fan earrings, Japanese snacks, Japanese toys, a fan, and little magnets. After I had opened everything they decided to put me in an authentic kimono for dinner so that I could get a full Japanese experience. The funny part was that they had invited a bunch of their neighbors/friends over to come see their ‘American girl.’ Dinner was unbelievably good. They just kept feeding me and feeding me all kinds of authentic Japanese foods (sushi, chicken, fish, rice….the usual). Then once dinner was over the whole crew sat down and played cards games. I got to teach them ERS (egyptian rat slap) and they thought it was so much fun. Day 2 with the Katayama family started with me walking Naho to school and then returning to them after a long day at Hibi Elementary. Of course when I got back it was dinner time, but tonight it was just me and the girls so they taught me how to actually make takoyaki and roll sushi. After dinner we put our Japanese pajamas on (another gift they gave me) and did small fireworks in the backyard. It was a great way to end my stay with the Katayama family.

My other home stay family in Toyota city was with our Tea Ceremony Master Kimi and her family. It was a little harder with them because only her daughter could speak decent English, but I loved it anyway. Kimi had two daughters and one of them had two sons Tom (3) and Sam (almost 2). They were by far the cutest little Japanese babies I’ve ever seen and they loved being around me. I would play with them and dance with them, and just seeing their cute little smiles brought me so much joy. It was the first time I ever felt like a complete mom… None the less, most of my time with Kimi and her family was spent just hanging out very low key at night and getting to show them pictures of all the things I do back home. Which was relaxing and I needed some down time.

I loved getting to know each of these families and I will certainly remain in contact with them for as long as I can!

Katayama gals and me …Tamano City


Me and Naho


In Toyota City… Everyone with their home stay families

11351454_833930936656001_2785565404689720734_nMe and my Toyota City family (Kimi in black, Tom in striped shirt, Sam in yellow)

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I feel like one of the number one question I’ve been asked by people in Japan and in the US is if I liked the food…and my answer is YES!! The only problem with Japanese food is that they have very little variety. I mean every restaurant you’re going to find rice, noodles, tempura, and raw fish. Which don’t get me wrong, I loved it. Once we finally got the trains and places figured out, we found some American/Italian/Mexican places and it helped us keep on track for that long. In Tokyo at a place called Uoshin I had the best sushi of my entire life… I will be so spoiled now because no sushi will ever be able to compare. I mean the dudes working there were wearing rubber boots and throwing around freshly caught fish like it was Pike’s Place Market. I actually saw the fish I was eating all scaly and what not before they chopped it all up…now THAT is fresh. Other things I tried were gyoza: like a veggie/meat dumpling looking deal, Shomai: a chinese dumpling full of deliciousness, Okanamiyaki: noodles/egg/lettuce/crab or beef/sauce/crepe looking thing, yakitori: grilled chicken on a stick with delicious yakitori sauce, takoyaki: fried octopus ball (actually learned how to make), and so many more types. The only bad food I will advise every American who doesn’t want to throw up is not to eat natto…fermented soy beans…aka nasty.

Finally American food


Disgusting natto…don’t know how they’re eating it


Sushi being cut and made in front of us

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What okonamiyaki looks like!


Making takoyaki at my home stay and the final product! and takoyaki street vendor


Black sesame ice cream…soooo good


So many activities

Also while in Japan I got to actually do a lot of cool things which once again I feel would be best shown through pictures and describing them!

the To-ji Flea market…been around for hundreds of years

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Boat/fan festival in Saga Arashiyama… There were performers on traditional boats, but on one of them the queen of the festival (a very poised geisha) would drop fans in the water and if you were on a boat you could row as fast as you could and grab the fan out of the water.

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My “moderately good” fortune


Cruisin on the Seto Inland Sea of Japan


At a master potter’s house/studio (we called him sensei)… he was so generous and gave us some of his works along with helping us make our own. Not to mention he had a real katana that I got to hold!

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Such an awesome day at Hibi Elementary. These kids are a part of what’s called the “Hello America” program, so they’re trying to speak English… They looked at me like I was famous and it was the cutest thing ever. I love Japanese children!

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Thought I should throw this one in here… My rail pass that was attached to my hip took me anywhere and everywhere in Japan. We rode so many trains that I actually lost count in the first week!


Making a Japanese Style flower arrangement in Toyota City


Checking out robots and motorcycles at the Honda Building in Japan.


Feeding the extremely friendly deer in Nara. They would even bow to you just to get a deer cookie…really funny to see11377242_10205948821498310_2464383555054345326_n

A shrine in the Kiyogakko school where I learned to play the taiko drums with the kids…i didn’t get any pictures of me actually playing uploaded onto my computer though…


At a huge aquarium in Osaka… They had a giant whale shark i could have watched swim around for hours

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Big Smile Rafting! the whole crew rafted down the Hozu River


Being the huge Harry Potter fan that I am i was so excited to get to go to Universal Studios Japan and see the rides/attractions they had that were different than the US


I got to dress up in a Kimono that was so pretty (pronounced Kawaii in Japanese) and these ladies in Toyota City were so kind… the whole crew got dressed up as well!

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Kyudo archery…I’m not that great


Traditional tea ceremony with the tea ceremony master Kimi (who just so happened to be my homestay mom)


Cultural Sites

I swear I’ve seen more cultural sites in Japan than most Japanese people. Stapp took our group all over kingdom come to see everything, but I’m so glad that he did. I saw everything from Golden Temples to Mount Fuji…they’ll best be described through pictures I believe…

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)


Miyajima Tori Gate at sunset and the summit of Mount Misen on Miyajima island


Inari Tori Gate Shrine. Basically thousands of tori gates line up together all the way up the mouton trail 13282_10205906959731792_7718953853243573339_n

Biking through the Bamboo Forrest in Saga Arashiyama


Very detailed temples and Shrines at the Tokugawa burial place


Todaiji Temple… 500 lbs of gold for the Buddha..biggest in the world

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Ritsurin Garden


Kegon Falls


I climbed Mount Fuji!


With the Zonta International Club Tamano City – Women empowerment


Himeji Castle


Hanshin Tigers Baseball game! Definitely not like american baseball


Hiroshima Peace Park… picture of the A-bomb Dome



Let’s Get down to business:

Most people say that studying abroad is really “playing” abroad, and while we definitely had our fun, we actually got serious plenty of times to learn from Japanese companies. Each company had their certain differences but all in all they followed very similar principles that were interesting to observe.

They Japanese look at business as a long term ordeal. Basically “how is this going to benefit my company in the long run.” Unlike Americans who are so focused on getting rich quick and making a ton of money, the Japanese don’t idolize money as much as we do. For instance, if a Japanese worker’s company took a dip in the market, you bet your bottom dollar that employee would take a pay deduction and tack on more working hours just to help the company out. That’s because they know that little deduction from them will help the company be prosperous in the future.

A few companies that stood out for me was Toyota, WalMart Japan, Daiwa Steel, and The United States Embassy/ Japanese Diet visits. I wish I could pick one favorite but it’s too hard because I learned so much from every company.

Toyota was incredible. To see their “just-in-time” process being executed first hand was really cool. I don’t know how they could possibly be more efficient… They actually can build a complete Toyota car in 17 hours! Also their robotics and assembly line is just lined with efficient techniques I was lucky to get to see.

Living in Fayetteville near the heart of WalMart and going to the Sam M. WALTON college of business, I already knew a ton about this company and how they operate. It was interesting to see how the Japanese embraced the WalMart ways, with the company Seiyu (which was bought by WalMart). What amazed me the most was their supply chain processes. Their inventory turnover was 20 minutes. Products literally came in and shipped out within 20 minutes. Not to mention the amount of inventory they actually have is tiny! They have enough safety stock for slight increases in demand but other than that, this place looked some empty compared to what I would see in America.

The part I enjoyed so much about Daiwa Steel wasn’t so much their manufacturing facility (which was still cool), but the well spoken CEO who talked in depth to us and the fact that I got to hang out and get to know their “freshmen.” These people were my age, had just finished college/still working on their degree, and were training to be full time employees at this company. It was so great to hear about their lives and what they’re doing since I’ll be in their shoes in two years. Also just another group of people I now have connections to in Japan.

The last business visit that stuck out in my mind was the day we got to check out the US Embassy and the Japanese Diet. At the embassy, my group finally got to ask questions that might have been a little controversial had we asked a Japanese person and it was so nice to receive straight factual answers, but yet from an American living in Japan perspective. The three people we got a chance to talk to delta with everything from defense to trade between Japan and America and they were very insightful when it came to the TPP which I was very curious about. When talking to the Diet members (Japanese Congressman, how awesome) they too touched slightly on the TPP, but for confidential reasons they weren’t allowed to answer the question I had which was, “What are the reasons Japan is holding back on the TPP? And what are the two countries negotiating in order to make both sides happy?” Obviously that’s a little nosy but I was jus curious because I felt like the phrase “Japan still has hesitations” was so vague…which I guess is how they wanted it.

Most companies didn’t allow pictures of the facility for obvious competitor reasons but this is Paulina in the Toyota Kaikan (left) and us with the managers from Seiyu (Walmart Japan) outside the sushi restaurant they treated us to. (right) 1779671_10206093097185112_3068285397496669180_n unnamed-1

Me with two freshmen from Daiwa Steel. Awesome new friends!10501591_10206178302235185_4260487620452023619_n

Our group at the Japanese Diet with the congressmen in front. unnamed


Instead of listing what I did every single day I decided to pick certain places and experiences to share. Perhaps One of the most important places I went the entire time is was in Japan was Kameoka. Kameoka is where our dear friends E-Chan, Nobuyoshi-san, and Nagata-san all live. Kameoka felt like our Japan home base because it was small and we were there so often.

While we stayed in Kameoka our hotel was the pony hotel…aka our first and last taste of Japanese hotel culture. By no means was this a luxury hotel, but it was fun and I made a lot of memories there.

This is the way Kameoka is written: IMG_1143

This amazing food Nagata-san would make us! IMG_1240

At Nagata-san’s restaurant! IMG_1253

Me and Nagata-san throwing the “pi phi wings” He is a real character. So generous and fun loving… I will never forget him!


JAPAN 2015 (Some People)

Now that I finally have some consistent WIFI, may the blogging begin!


After a day or so iIMG_1104n Hawaii it was time to hit the road to Japan. W e boarded a 777 Japan Airlines plane in the quickest way I’ve ever seen (maybe just a little dip into Japanese efficiency I suppose) and it just kept getting better. The seats were actually comfortable and each one had their own personal screen with all new movies (I watched Mordecai, The Theory of Everything, Kingman) and a bird’s eye view from a camera on the front of plane. It was cool to watch us take off and fly over Hawaii. The most unreal part of the flight though was the service they had on the plane. After giving us small warm towels to wipe our hands we got a free meal and all free beverages, which included alcoholic beverages. That’s how I knew we were definitely not in America anymore. Once we landed in Osaka Kansai Airport we went through a very quick and again not very strict customs and worked our way through the rail system. At this point my energy level hit a wall and I slept most of the train ride. Funny story about the second train ride though, me and Alex were woken up and kicked out of our seats by some old Japanese man who wanted to sit where we were at. Anyway, once we got to our stop in Kameoka, E-chan, Nobuyoshi-san, and Nagata-san were already waiting for us with big smiles (Nagata-san was also filming us capturing the big moment). The Pony hotel we’re staying at is very different than an American hotel. I’m rooming with Julianne and Paulina and in my room there are three twin-sized beds that are very low to the ground, each with only one small rice-pillow. The bathroom is just interesting…not bad, just interesting and can only be described through pictures most likely. We have a little balcony that looks down the street connected to the train station, and of course we have a little tea set and robes. E-chan being the gem that she is brought us snacks and drinks because she knew we’d be hungry after all of that traveling. We had the snacks in the tatami mat room, which is where a few of the other girls are staying. This is the traditional Japanese room where you take your shoes off before you enter and sit on mats around a short table. To sleep, the girls just pull out these big cushions and blankets and just lay them on the floor. It was the longest day of traveling in my life and I’m so thankful for a bed that I can finally spread my legs out on.