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Summer Program participants experience Japanese home life

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October 3, 2018

Since late 2016, Tokyo Tech has been providing international exchange students participating in the Institute's Summer and Winter Programs with opportunities to learn about Japanese culture and connect with Tokyo Tech students through the Home Visit Program.

Different from a home stay, the Home Visit Program allows participants to spend a few hours at the home of a Japanese family connected with Tokyo Tech. Hosts for the Home Visit Program typically include local Tokyo Tech students who live with their families. However, because many Tokyo Tech students live in dormitories or in small apartments, staff members also open their family homes to small groups of program participants and Tokyo Tech students. A total of 11 Summer Program students and 9 Tokyo Tech students participated in the Home Visit Program in August 2018.

Though hosting guests in one's home is not a common practice in Japan, particularly in Tokyo, the program has received an enthusiastic response from students — both international and Japanese — who have been involved, and organizers hope to continue and expand it.

The following is a selection of comments by Summer Program students and their Tokyo Tech student hosts in the Home Visit Program.

Feeling "at home" away from home

Daniel Chang

3rd-year undergraduate, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

Sharing Japanese culture through food
Sharing Japanese culture through food

Home is always a changing concept as a college student, moving back and forth between school and your hometown and travelling to a different place during the summers. The moments when you truly feel comfortable in a home setting are the ones that I tend to cherish the most.

Being welcomed into Haruka's family's house with open arms and having the space to talk in a home environment was a great escape from the hustle of Tokyo's lively energy. It was also an introduction to a new home environment, one of a small family compared to my own and one that was situated in a smaller area within a big city.

Haruka Kiyohara

1st year, 4th Academic Group, Tokyo Tech

I learned the differences in our lives through talking about many topics with Daniel. It was a really nice experience for me. One of the most interesting things I learned was the difference in the systems of our universities, as you might expect. I heard there are so many languages taught in second- or third-language courses. That was when I realized the U.S. is a country of diversity. Learning of the gaps between Japan and the U.S. broadened my sights and was really fun for me.

Adriana Goodman

3rd-year undergraduate, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

When first arriving at our host family's home, we made onigiri, rice balls with fish, for dinner, discussing cultural differences between Japanese, European, and American colleges as we worked. We then sat down for a delicious, multi-course Japanese dinner, including bonito, squid, and macha cake. Dinner ended up lasting nearly three hours due to our very lively conversation and the large amount of new foods to try. Overall, the visit was a lot of fun; it was interesting talking to people from Japan about their culture in a casual and relaxing environment.

Rohan Sobha

3rd-year undergraduate, Department of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, Delft University of Technology

I loved the Home Visit program: after feeling a little homesick and lost, I felt part of a home once again. We had a superb dinner and drinks to celebrate it with. We also talked a lot about cultural differences that we experienced between our home countries and Japan.

Yumiko Ito

1st-year master's student, Department of Chemical Science and Engineering, Tokyo Tech

I felt this program was excellent to participate in, for not only international students but also local students, because we were able to have conversations and eat together in a more relaxed way at home. It was also a good chance to introduce Japanese lifestyles by having home-style dishes and doing traditional games, which would be difficult to experience at university or tourist spots. This visit motivated me to invite exchange students to my house, too, in the near future.

(from left) Ito, Sobha, and Goodman make rice balls
(from left) Ito, Sobha, and Goodman make rice balls

(from left) Ito, Goodman, Sobha and Naoki Kobayashi, a participating Tokyo Tech student
(from left) Ito, Goodman, Sobha and Naoki Kobayashi,
a participating Tokyo Tech student

Gaining insights into the lives of ordinary people

Aleksandr Granovskii

3rd-year undergraduate, Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics, Lomonosov Moscow State University

(from left) Katayama, Li, and Granovskii try a tea ceremony
(from left) Katayama, Li, and Granovskii try a tea ceremony

For the Home Visit, Meng, a student from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH), and I joined Yoshihiro of Tokyo Tech as guests at the home of a Tokyo Tech staff member and her family. Personally, I had been curious for a long time to have a conversation in this kind of personal environment and to receive a first-hand account of daily life in Japan. The house had been used to conduct tea ceremonies, and we got to try and make some tea the traditional way. Our host's grandmother used to be a tea ceremony master, so the family shared some insights with us.

Afterwards, we discussed various things, mostly about Japanese daily life, comparing it with our home countries as well. I learned that while Japan might appear very similar to other countries on the surface sometimes, the way people live and think differs considerably, with a lot of emphasis on mutual respect. I want to thank our hosts for their warm welcome, honesty, and hospitality. This home visit has definitely encouraged me to learn more about Japanese culture and even the ordinary life of Japanese people.

Yoshihiro Katayama

1st-year master's student, Department of Industrial Engineering and Economics, Tokyo Tech

We were able to experience Japanese culture through experiences that we usually do not have, so it was time well spent. I hope to take what I learned about Japanese culture this time and use it to explain Japanese culture to other international students when I study abroad in Switzerland this fall.

Developing new friendships

Carina Bliem

2nd-year master's student, Department of Architecture, Vienna University of Technology

From the beginning, I felt welcome and enjoyed our time together. I was really impressed by the friendliness, openness, and interest which were given to us. We spent the afternoon and evening chatting as we ate, drank, and played cards together. We got thereby a better insight into the Japanese culinary arts. The Japanese students were also super nice, and I'm happy to have made new friends. I get a smile on my face when I think about it, as I am very grateful for this time together.

I got a new perspective on the Japanese way of life and culture and could immerse myself more. Especially for me as an architect, it is interesting to see how people live and create their living space. The family that hosted us live in a beautiful house in a quiet residential area.

Moe Fukuda

3rd year, Department of Mathematical and Computing Science, Tokyo Tech

Though I've had many opportunities to interact with international students before now, doing so at someone's home was different, and I felt that the Summer Program students' level of satisfaction and the depth of our exchange was very high this time. I had experienced a home visit myself when I visited Singapore, and I remember the simple act of eating and talking together at the home as being very novel and fun. Compared with doing some kind of planned activity, I wondered if the more valuable memory for an international student may be that of just relaxing and taking in the life of a local family.

Cooking okonomiyaki, a popular Japanese dish
Cooking okonomiyaki, a popular Japanese dish

Participants enjoying the swings at the local park
Participants enjoying the swings at the local park

Contact

International Student Exchange Division

Email summer.program@jim.titech.ac.jp

Tel +81-3-5734-3785/3786

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