A photo we took at the luncheon on Thursday.
The lady's apartment was really nice with two tatami mat rooms and since she lived on the first floor, she had a very gorgeous garden in the back. All the obaasans were very kind and sweet. One of them, I swear, looked like she was in her 60s, so when she told me she was 84, I was so shocked I couldn't even pick my jaw off the floor. What was also very cute was that all of them love Korean dramas and whenever the subject of said dramas came up, the atmosphere would pick up as they would all start chatting excitedly about this popular actor or this popular drama.
Also, here's a little tidbit about Japanese culture. There's a number of social obligations in this society and one of the most common ones is called omiyage, which basically means "souvenir" and is more or less the art of gift-giving. Whenever you go on a trip or go to some special event, it's expected that you return with some sort of gift. Since space is sparse in Japan, usually these gifts are something that can be consumed or take up very little space (like a cellphone strap), but preferably none. Throughout Japan, there are stores devoted to omiyage and as I mentioned before, Japanese people usually buy confectioneries. Before coming to Japan, my dad, who has lived in Japan for nearly 10 years, insisted that I buy omiyage for my host family. Usually when you buy omiyage you want to get something that's local to wherever you're coming from. So I got an "I <3 SF" t-shirt for my host dad, make-up and a traditional Vietnamese ao dai (my mom's idea -_-) for my host mom, a lotion gift set for my host sister, and a See's Candies box for my host brother.
Omiyage also applies when you're visiting someone's home, and again, people usually buy sweets or snacks for such an event. This is where the story that I alluded to in my previous post comes in. So when I told my host mom that I was going to E's for the luncheon, she reminded me that I should buy omiyage. She offered to go get something for me while I'm in school but I told her that I could just get it myself on the way back home from school. My brain was still jumbling about what I should get when my host mom said that she was going to buy flowers today and that she could get some for me. In my jumbled state, I made the mistake of accepting her offer. I'll tell you why it's a mistake.
Later that day when I came home from school, I saw a huge basket/bouquet of flowers next to TV, to which my host mom nonchalantly pointed to and said, "It's your omiyage." And to which I thought, 'Oh shit." And when I tried to pay her back, she wouldn't accept my money. She wouldn't tell me how much it cost so for five minutes, I just stood there awkwardly with 2000 yen in my hand listening to her saying no repeatedly. Me: 0, Host Mom: 3.
When I brought the flower monstrosity to the luncheon, they were shocked at the size of it and insisted to H and I that next time we come visit that we needn't bring omiyage, stating that since we were ryuugakuseis, they knew we weren't rich. But I'll be honest, even though they said that, I feel it'd be awkward not to bring anything as omiyage is such a common and important part of Japanese society. While non-Japanese are not expected to abide by these customs, since I'm fully aware of it, I feel like it's only polite and right that I participate in it.
Anyways, later that night, my host family took me out to eat yakiniku, which translates to "grilled meat" and it's where you basically cooking bite-sized meat over a gridiron. Really, it's the Japanese version of Korean BBQ, and it's deeeelicious.
The place on the right is raw liver.
Here in Japan marks my first time eating raw meat. Last week, my host dad cooked steak - very rare. Basically the outside was cooked but the inside was completely red. I was so surprised but out of politeness, I ate it anyways. I'm so glad I did because it was soooo good. When we went to the yakiniku restaurant, I was offered a dish of raw meat that was mixed with alfalfa and raw egg. And then afterward, there was a dish of raw liver. I know some of you are thinking, "Are you crazy? That's RAW meat." And I was really apprehensive of eating it because hey, I'm still young and would prefer it if my dog didn't outlive me. But then I also thought that since I'm in a completely different country, I should be trying as many new experiences as I possibly can, and really, I shouldn't back out just 'cos I'm a wuss. So I went for it. And it was fantastic. :D
And one more thing before I go, I also got my Alien Registration card yesterday from the city hall.
I look like a sickly clinical care patient.
There are these photo booths where you can take passport pictures or ID pictures for like 600 yen. The flash was so bright and I had forgotten to put on some blush that day so the flash completely paled out my face. Doesn't help that the skin under my eyes came out a little pink too.