I did a 14 day homestay at my Japanese friend's home in Kamakura during autumn break. Before going I was a bit worried, but I thought it shouldn't be a problem to adapt to his family for a couple of weeks, and become a part of it since I had already experienced two long homestays in New Zealand before this one. However, when I was lying on my futon on the first night of my stay I was quite confused and wondered how I could manage the next fourteen days without disturbing the relationship with my friend and his family.

We arrived in Kamakura in the early evening and the okaasan, (mother of the household) came to pick Hiyoshi and me up from the station. Her husband had not yet returned from work so we had some time to relax and organize things before dinner. Okaasan showed me where I could leave my luggage and apologized many times about the tatami room I would be using as a bedroom because it was part of the living room during the day. Even though we had discussed this on the phone she seemed to be extremely concerned about the inconvenience it could cause me since there was no private room for me.

Since it was autumn she also asked many times if I was cold and gave me a yukata (cotton kimono) to wear during my stay. There was also a gown hanging in the corner of the tatami room and she asked me to try it on to see if it would be my size. Needless to say it was a little too tight and okaasan suggested that she go upstairs to look for something else instead. It was only after I had told her several times that both the room and the gown were perfect that she finally believed me.

Since it was evening she started to attend to the meal even though it was obvious that she had prepared most of the food beforehand. While she was carrying the food to the table Hiyoshi explained what was what and I have to say, I was worried. Nearly everything that was brought in was described as special food that is only eaten on special occasions. Further, when the otoosan (father) arrived around 7:00 he brought a kind of crayfish that was welcomed with pleasure by okaasan and Hiyoshi. I was also told that this was an expensive food that is unusual to eat on an everyday basis.

After I was welcomed very warmly to the house by otoosan we started our dinner. It was pleasant, but okaasan was constantly running between kitchen and table. Through the long dinner I wanted to help her but somehow I felt that I could not do it without causing an awkward situation for the Nakata family.

After the meal I remained seated at the table with otoosan and Hiyoshi while okaasan cleaned the table and washed the dishes. Then she came back, asked if I was hungry and told me she would peel some fruits before I even had a chance to refuse. I was full but since I did not know how to refuse politely I thought it better to eat what was offered.

The next thing I noticed was that okaasan had closed the sliding doors that separated the tatami room and living room and I realized she was making my bed. Again, I wanted to help (or to be honest, make it by myself) but I sensed there was no possibility of opening those doors without stepping out of my role as a guest that night. Therefore, when I was told the bath was ready I did not hesitate to go first since I knew that the order of taking baths expresses respect and I felt I could not refuse that courtesy either. I ended up laying on my futon that night wondering what to do and how to change my position from being a total outsider to more like a family member.
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