Monday, July 25, 2011

A Year Living in Japan - by Becky Houran

Sakura blossoms

In my previous posts, I’ve frequently mentioned my time in Japan, and I feel it’s important to expand on my experience living there. My junior year as a Smith College student was spent in Kyoto with the Associated Kyoto Program. I lived in a     beautiful, quiet town, called Katsura, on the 
Dinner with the whole family
edge of the city, a five-minute walk from the Honkyu train that would take me downtown or to Osaka. My family, the Nakamura’s, are some of the very best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. My ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are patient, loving and trusting people; they provided me with support and guidance in learning the language and the culture. 

A typical winter afternoon
My Japanese mom (okaasan) is a wonderful cook, and I enjoyed everything she made me. We lived in a modernized, yet historical house, next door to their grown son, his wife and their three adorable boys. Down the road was their daughter and her family, and on the other side of Kyoto was their other daughter’s family. Together, we were a happy, awkward group of sixteen. I attended Japanese and English classes at the Imadegawa campus of Doshisha University with my fellow AKP American students (many of whom I am still close friends with) and some Japanese students. I quickly learned to love Japanese cuisine, both modern and traditional, more than any other food in the world. 
An ancient castle in Nagoya 
My travels, independent and with AKP, took me all over the beautiful country to Tokyo, Osaka, Shirahama, Takayama, Nagano and Hiroshima, to name a few. But no place in Japan is a magical or as romantically stunning as the old streets of Kyoto. An eclectic mix of traditional and modern mentality, ancient temples and homes stand side-by-side with contemporary structures of the modern eras. 

My typical weekends were peppered with simple family time – playing with the children, eating and watching NHK TV – or wandering the mysteries of the city with my Japanese and American companions. Those nine months were full enough to create a single memoir, and it would be impossible to fully portray the emotions and wonders of my experience in written form. The time went by far to quickly, and I still sometimes wake at night expecting to see the cherry blossom tree trembling in the wind outside my attic window. I may be a New England girl in speech, behavior and appearance, but my heart is in Kyoto.
Skiing in Nagano during spring break 
Performing nihonbuyo (traditional dance)
while wearing a special kimono

The land of the setting, and rising, sun

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