At Home in Japan
homepage start feedback resources site map credits

Module 9.1

Finally . . . Growing Up


Moving into cultural adulthood confronts you with a hurdle that seems daunting–because it requires a shift in the way your family "sees" you. You may feel like you'll never escape being treated like a child. But remember that managing this hurdle can't happen until the groundwork has first been laid. You can't become an adult until you've already shifted out of your distant soto guesthood, begun to take on some responsibilities in the family, and begun to establish a relationship of trust with them. All of these are crucial steps that will move you gradually toward uchi.

But after this, how do you finally manage to come "inside" the family? Once the groundwork has been laid, the shift to adulthood may take place in a number of ways. It may be incremental, one of a series of small shifts that end up in your "adulthood". Or something may trigger a gestalt shift—that catapults you suddenly into adulthood. You will usually have a part in facilitating these shifts. But something unforeseen may also happen which requires you to respond in such a way that, if you manage, you are instantly seen as a cultural adult. All the cases below depict ways in which a cultural child successfully manages the hurdle of "growing into adulthood".

1.The cases below show guests and their hosts navigating the sometimes bumpy shift(s) to adulthood.
  • Why did Molly decide to cook a meal for her host family? Why did Stuart?
  • Think about the progression that you have seen in Molly's homestay (See Gallery for Molly 1—6) and compare it with what Stuart says about the state of his homestay before the dinner. How did the differences in the progression of their homestays affect the degree of their "shifts" into cultural adulthood?  
  • How did the presence of the counselors contribute to the outcome of Stuart's dinner?
2. Each of the following cases depicts a "crisis" impasse that catapults the guest into adulthood, as guest and hosts move into gear.
  • How is Devita's "test" like Stuart's dinner?   In what way are the results of both similar? Why?
  • What mistaken assumptions on Janine's part led to the misunderstanding about the stove?
  • How was the misunderstanding between Janine and her host family actually resolved? Can you relate this resolution to the discussion on cultural bubbles (such as the "impasse" theme in Modules 2.2)?
3. Putting things together. . . . Catapulting into adulthood.
  • In each of the cases above, overcoming the block caused by unspoken misunderstandings can be seen as the catalyst that "moves" the outsider into uchi . Molly and her family increased their understanding gradually through the homestay, and didn't actually experience a "block". But all the other cases have such "blocks". Both Stuart and Devita's families misjudge their competencies and "wrap" them too much; removing this block allows the "child" the leeway to act competently, and the family can then shift its assessment to that of a "competent" "adult".
  • Removing this kind of block allows the opportunity for a two-way growing process. The child can "grow", but the family does too. This two-way growth is most evident in Janine's case, where it is the mutual understanding that is achieved between her and the okaasan that transforms their relationship and moves her "inside", just when she on the brink of being dispelled from the family.
  • Janine's case also illustrates that just being included in uchi is not enough. Uchi hazards create conflicts when a guest from abroad can't fulfill the family's cultural expectations of being in uchi (because of the guest's imperfect grasp of unspoken meanings). But the possibility of grasping cultural differences of which neither side has a clue, also creates possibilities for real accommodation of non-natives in uchi. This kind of cross-cultural understanding is ultimately necessary for the smooth functioning of an uchi that includes someone from abroad, as in Devita's case.

previous next