My Host Family and Himeji's Taiyo Park

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Back in 2011, just a few months after the earthquake/ tsunami/ nuclear reactor meltdown combo, I went to do a three week all-women's university summer program in Japan.

The all-women's university was Mukogawa Women's University in Nishinomiya, and I got placed with a host family that lived in Akashi.

Every morning it would take me an hour and 40 minutes to get to university at nine in the morning, which meant being on the train at 7.20AM sharp.

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After classes ended at one-ish, we were free to do what we liked or had the university take us to 'cultural' places around the area.

Even though I had worried about the effects of the earthquake/ tsunami/ nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in the months prior to going (some people pulled out of the program, and the British girls that were supposed to join in on the program also pulled out), I decided to take the plunge and go anyway.

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In return, I got some of the best memories of my university life. I also got a lovely host family who put up with me for three weeks, and strangely enough still wanted to see me after having to live with me for so long *laughs*.



Two years on, I told my host sister that I was coming back to Japan, and that I'd love to see my family if they'd have me. Things certainly changed a lot since 2011 for her. In the time period I was in Japan this year, she had married, was eight months pregnant, and had her own house.

What had not change, however, was her telling me that I was always welcome at her home *beams*.

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So on the 5th of November, I took the train down from Kyoto, and went hurtling towards Sannomiya, before switching to the Hanshin line and going towards Akashi.

With my smartphone and Google Maps, I was a regular pro at trains in Japan for sure. Thank you, inventor of GPS and the like.

MY SAVIOR FOR SURE.

Once I reached my host sister's house in the evening, we spent an hour or two just chatting before we got started... on the okonomiyaki party! :D

On nom nom nom.

My host sister knew I love (LUUUURVEEEEEEEEE) okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and the like, so for my sake my host family (father, mother, another sister, a brother, and a couple of tiny dogs), my host sister's best friend and husband, and a couple of people I hadn't met got together in the house .... and my host parents set to making the batter and stuff for the okonomiyaki and takoyaki.

They even asked me what I liked to drink, and when I said I liked umeshu, they went out to the grocery store to get it, even though I protested that if they didn't have it I'm fine with water.

I remember thinking ages back about 'Why are they so nice!' and it still holds true, until today, even though I suck at communicating with them because my Japanese skills have now gone from bad to worse.

Sigh.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the 'batter party' as my host sister terms it.


Batter mixed with ingredients to make okonomiyaki once grilled. :D


Tadah! Japanese home-cooked love. :')


My piece of okonomiyaki from the grill.


Hello, I'm your okonomiyaki, and I'm happy to see ya! <-- get the reference?! Disney fans should.

Itadakimasu! This was my first okonomiyaki after touching down in Japan, made all the more special because it was made especially for my arrival. *happy face*

Since I was bad at Japanese AND ESPECIALLY JAPANESE IN THE KANSAI DIALECT, I just basically listened to everyone talking and chimed in from time to time with the most basic of sentences. They asked me about Malaysia, about what I do for a living, how many languages I know, why I learned Japanese, etc. I tried my best to answer, even though I faltered a lot. >_>/ <_<

I need to go back to Japan and study Japanese so I do not put my teachers' efforts to waste (and, also, the HIGH university fees needed to learn Japanese in Australia).

Anyone want to sponsor me?

Anyone at all?

Anyone?

No?

Okay.

:(

Moving on.

The next day my host family continued to prove that they were definitely the best host family ever and I was not just seeing them through rose-tinted glasses.

I thought I'd take the train and bus to this attraction in Himeji named Taiyo Park with just my host sister. She asked me what I wanted to do, and I named Taiyo Park and Himeji Castle, thinking that Akashi was located near Himeji and that Himeji was small enough. My host sister even agreed ,saying that she went to Taiyo Park before for the day - so I thought it was an hour away by train and bus or so.

Turns out, it took us 50 minutes just by car to get to Taiyo Park. How did I know it takes 50 minutes to get to Taiyo Park by car? My host mother and host sisters drove me there - that's right, the girls in the family came out to hang with me for the day.

All together now - nawwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

 As soon as we got there, I was not allowed to pay for the entrance ticket, or for my lunch, either. Actually, for the whole day I did not have to fork out a single yen, because as soon as I waved my wallet around someone would stop me. I just quit trying to get my wallet out at dinnertime and for karaoke afterwards, settling for just thanking my host sister's in-laws profusely instead.

That's right, this time, it was my host sister's in-laws who treated me to dinner and karaoke, despite never meeting me before - I repeat, NEVER MEETING ME BEFORE.

Why are all of you so nice to me I don't deserve such niceness but THANK YOU ~ :')

Taiyo Park's attraction were 3D artwork inside the castle, as you'll see later, and a rock area we did not explore much due to it being a lot of walking to check out replica stonework from all over the world. I mean, we did have an eight month-old pregnant woman among our group, and I certainly don't know how to deliver kids should the baby be like "Okay I'm coming now catch me okay".

I know it's highly unlikely and all, but JUST IN CASE, YOU KNOW?



View of the castle from the bottom, as well as a brochure of Taiyo Park. We had to take a monorail to get to the top. If you're planning to visit Taiyo Park, it's really best to come with someone else or a group, because of all the pictures you will want to take with the fabulous 3D artworks on all 7 (I think) floors of the castle!

Taiyo Park is pretty isolated and not well-known, so there'll be very few people. It is a nice place to spend a couple of quiet hours just thinking of funky poses to do with the artwork, though, which was perfect for our group of four.



Oh this was sort of creepy. The face in this Mona Lisa replica picture would look at you no matter which angle you looked at her, which sometimes gave rise to creepy facial expressions. Like in the picture.

Mona Lisa be like "Hello child. I'm watching you. Alwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaays watching." <-- Pixar reference this time.

*shudders*

Luckily the rest of the 3D art was way better - and less scary. >_<



Yes,yes, I admit it... I'm actually a fairy. With good taste in fashion. I also over-water my plants and kill them. Hi!

What, you don't believe that I am a fairy? Here's proof.


I'm tiny! Also I mosaic-ed my host sister's (family's) face because I think members of my host family are fairly private, like most Japanese people.


Even though I'm tiny, I can be human-sized when I want to/ need to be heroic. Heroic and fashionable and cool hair and kicking it in boots (that honestly, killed me after too much walking SIGH FOR THE SAKE OF FASHION AND NOT LOOKING LIKE A MIDGET), what more can you ask for?


And artistic. Don't forget artistic.


I guess I do have some flaws though - like being afraid of heights. Get me down! T_T


While heights may daunt me, tigers and fire do not. A woman has to make a living in whatever way she can, you know? Watering plants and saving damsels in distresses are nice and all but they don't pay. Painting pay?

HAHAHA NOT ACCORDING TO THE WORLD, OKAY.

Unless you're Damien Hirst and you chop off the Pegasus's head and let it fester and call it art.

I don't so...


Magical creatures hanging out together. Sup.


Some magical creatures aren't as nice as others, though. Here's me being heroic again. All in a day's work, people.


Genie was fairly impressed with my work, and said "Do you want to fight evil djinns in my land?" I'm like okay so off I go now, bye!

My fictional life is so much cooler than my real life.

After Taiyo Park I went to dinner and karaoke. I was really impressed by how much my host family could put away. First we had yakiniku (barbeque), then steamboat, then desserts, then snacks at the karaoke lounge.

I totally gave up after the first bowl of steamboat.

Then again, they have superior Japanese genes that don't let them put on any fat, so stopping after feeling totally and utterly full was justified on my behalf.

I only spent two days one night in Akashi/ Himeji, but I'm glad I went to see my host family despite the time constraints. My host sister and her husband even told me that I was welcomed back anytime, with my host sister saying "My house is also your house!"

OMG too much kindness I cannot fathom it since I am mean as... as... something mean, but thank you all so much for the kind memories.

Need to cry tears of happiness from the memories, be back in a few days with my final post on my 2013 Japan trip. Toodle-pip!

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