Meet the Family

I was more than a bit nervous about meeting my family, mainly because I thought they could be complete psychos or (even worse) not speak a word of English. I had nothing to worry about on both counts I discovered, as Yukiko, the mother, introduced herself to me in fluent English at the station.

Kousei (the father) was at home when I arrived, bathing the kids – Kentaro is five, and Daijiro is four. Both are very, very cute. There is also a Jack Russel dog who lives in a small pen in the corner and pees on the floor when he gets excited, which is basically whenever anyone goes to close to him!

Their apartment is in a large block a few minutes from the station and is one of four looking onto either a canal or a landscaped courtyard garden. The flat itself is lovely – it has dark wooden floor boards, an open plan kitchen and living room and a seperate room with sliding doors and tatami mats (most Japanese still have at least one room with tatami). There’s also a balcony which is crammed with plants, to the extent that you can’t really see out. My bedroom is big – probably two and a half times of the one I had in the ryokan. Once again I’ve got a futon, but unfortunately once again I have no cupboards or drawers so my clothes are in relatively organised piles on the floor.

The best room of the house is the bathroom. In typical Japanese style they have a bathtub and a low shower to wash yourself with, the point being that you wash first and bathe second. The shower has a small plastic seat, which is particularly good! The entire room is a wet room, sealed from floor to ceiling, which is great if you make like a whale when you wash. It’s all very hi-tech, and the hot water control panel even speaks to you in Japanese when you press buttons. They also have a loo with buttons, but I’ve yet (the emphasis being on “yet”) to find out what they do.

This map should show you where the flat (A) and college (B) are (and my Metro route, should you care!).

I get two meals a day at home. Dinner is traditional Japanese fare – rice, soup (sometimes miso, last night “consomme”), several vegetable dishes, a main dish or two and some kind of sashimi thing. It’s always an amazing spread and my thoughts of becoming size-0 like the locals have long been banished. The night before last we had home-made giant spring rolls, and last night Japanese style burgers and a savoury custard with mushrooms and chicken. Yum. It has to be said that the food is a real highlight.

On Tuesday I was served the legendary natto, which I was assured by several people before I left was disgusting. They were right. Whilst the taste isn’t so bad, the texture is revolting – when you pick it up slime drips down from it in little strings, unlike anything I’ve seen since I had plastic tubs of flourescent green gunk as a kid. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that I was sitting next to Daijiro who loves the stuff, and was shovelling it into his little mouth with gusto, strings of slime hanging all over the place. Yuckity yuck yuck.

Breakfast is a slightly odd affair. Yukiko bought me some cereal, three different types of cereal in fact, which I mix together. Japanese milk is entirely palatable, which I didn’t expect to be the case. She also serves a small bowl of salad, which is actually pretty cool as it gets one of the 5 a day nailed before 9am. I wash it down with green tea and a glass of vegetable juice.

Tomorrow, the family are going out at 8am. I am particularly excited about this as it will give me a chance to press the buttons on the loo. I may also try and upload these photos.

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