Part 1. How Molly Grows Up

We’ve now given you all the pieces you need to understand the process of moving off your entry point, shifting from ‘I’ to ‘uchi ‘, and growing up. But something crucial is still missing. You still can’t see how this process works until it comes alive as someone actually navigates through these cultural hazards. The Flash segment below shows Molly’s homestay with the Saito Family from the 7.1 Gallery. You can see how she navigates each of the hazards depicted in Modules 8-10, how each barrier she overcomes propels her forward (to the next barrier). And how her learning process actually connects up all these cultural hazards into a stepping stone pathway. This pathway is how Molly moves from her entry point to ‘uchi’ , and how she reaches cultural adulthood as well.    

Part 2. How Can You Grow Up?
Now let’s see what you as a potential homestay guest can learn from Molly’s experiences above. This scenario is also relevant for those not in homestays, since you will encounter the same set of hazards, although they may be configured differently.

Anyone going on a homestay can utilize this same sequence of hazard-doors from the entry point onwards. Although you may not move all the way to “Uchi Ties” (as was true for most of the guests in the homestay gallery), any movement you make will give you considerable insight. While the number of hazards may vary considerably, the sequence outlined above is consistent, since you have to manage the earlier hazards (such as beginning to help, and dealing with the expert) before you can grasp the increasing difficulties of the hazards in adapting to uchi. This gives you a kind of roadmap for what growing up looks like in the homestay context.

Beyond the Homestay 

Although the Hazard-Door pathway above was formulated from the homestay student cases, it turns out to be highly relevant for all the other newcomers as well. This trajectory—and the same set of hazard-doors—also maps the way in which the cultural child grows up for the university student, the ALT, the company employee, the spouse, and all the others. Yet for each of these newcomers, the context they are entering—a company, university, or junior high school—differs from that of a homestay family. How do we take into account both the similarities and differences in the trajectory to cultural adulthood for each of the newcomer contexts? In Part 4 we will develop pathways to cultural adulthood for each of the other newcomer situations.

Before you go on to Part 4, don’t forget to click on the feedback icon and complete the feedback for Part 3 below. Thank you!

Module 11.1
The Cultural Child Grows Up

1. Entry Point: Being a good guest: Molly notices that the Saitos had bought her new slippers and chopsticks, and set up her room and desk with new supplies. She realizes that “they really went out of their way to make me comfortable”. After Otoosan returns from work they all celebrated Molly’s birthday with a birthday cake and “festive red rice”. Afterwards she sat around talking for a few hours, “with my very broken Japanese”. Molly’s efforts to respond to her family’s “wrapping” by trying to get to know them as much as possible begins to open a door, which grows wider as she participates with good humor in the family’s sometimes teasing attempts to get to know her.

2. Helping Out: Molly goes through her next “door” when her family wants her help—but doesn’t ask her directly. Instead, when Okaasan leaves for her evening job one day, she puts the food for Otoosan’s dinner out on the stove. She expects Molly to see this and then to prepare and serve Otoosan’s dinner. Molly notices the food and fixes the dinner. But the unspoken way in which the family “asked” for her help indicated that they trusted her, and were now moving her into another “room”—a bit closer to their family uchi. All of the guests who successfully navigated their homestays had to find a way of “helping them”.

3. Dealing with the Expert: Molly doesn’t enter the kitchen further, until Okaasan allows her to help out once more. This happens when Molly invites her friend over and wants to serve her some fruit. Okaasan makes no move to do this, so Molly takes the cue, goes into the kitchen, prepares and serves the fruit. Timing is everything here; Molly has to follow the “expert’s” cues, and once again, they are unspoken.

4. Uchi Hazards: Ms. Watabe, a neighbor of the Saitos, comes bearing gifts and invites Molly to dinner for English conversation. Okaasan didn’t want to reciprocate and Molly should have gone along with this decision of the Saito uchi, which resembles Sophie’s situation in Module 9.2. But Molly persists in thinking (as an individual ‘I’) that she should not go to the dinner without a gift, and tries to bring her own (individual) gift. The okaasan quickly corrects this by taking one of her hand-made ceramic pots, sticking in two flowers from the garden and giving Molly a gift from the Saitos in place of her individual gift. Here Okaasan keeps Molly from making a blunder,rather than being offended her failure to go along with her gift-giving decision. Molly passes this hazard, even though she’s failed her cues in this situation, because Okaasan is already on her side.

5. Honne Messages: One day Otoosan has guests over whom Molly has never met before. After the family and guests share a special dinner, Otoosan spends several hours talking and drinking sake with them. When Molly returns to the room later on, she realizes that otoosan is now quite drunk, and he now tells his guests that she is his “American daughter” whom he loves just like his real children. Molly is touched and happy to hear this. She is right to take this seriously, as this is a “real” (honne) message about how she is doing with the family.

6. Growing up! In addition to the previous hazard/doors, several other events triggered Molly’s shift to “adulthood”. This included Molly’s cooking of a gourmet breakfast for her family, which allowed her to reverse their wrapping of her, and enabled her to wrap them. After this, she found that she could now go into the kitchen to cook when she wanted, and was also included in family decision-making. She could now participate in deciding where they should go (rather than just being “taken along”). Molly now realizes that the days of okaasan making her an obento are long gone! Along with this, Molly is given ‘uchi’ and ‘honne’ information in two important conversations. The okaasan takes Molly to one of her pottery classes, and afterwards, at a little coffee shop in the mountains, tells her that she will be truly lonely when Molly leaves. Then Molly goes with Otoosan to clean the graves and give ancestor offerings, and she learns why okaasan doesn’t come along, and why she has no ancestors, or even any relatives. All these events make Molly aware of her “closeness” to the family uchi.

7. Uchi Ties: Still in the Family: Shortly before the end of her homestay she decides to ask her family why they had a homestay guest. Okaasan tells her that she is the first—and last—homestay guest the Saitos will have. Molly responds: “Why, don’t you like me?” and okaasan laughs and says, “Of course we do.” This produces another honne conversation, after which okaasan qualifies her remark. They would not host another homestay student—unless, of course, Molly’s brother Chad should decide to study abroad in Japan; they would be glad to have him live with them for a year. Molly interpreted this to mean that she was now viewed as being a member of two uchi, the Saitos and her own family. Because Chad was part of her family’s uchi Molly’s brother would be given the same entrée as she had to the Saito family’s uchi. When she leaves for home Molly realizes that she is not fully a member of the Saito’s uchi and wonders how much more she could have become a part of the Saito family had her stay been longer.  But over the years, as she continues her relationship with this family, she hopes to find this out.

Module 11.1
The Cultural Child Grows Up

Hazard-Doors 1-3: Your move off the entry point starts by beginning to reverse the dynamics of “guesthood”Every newcomer to Japan enters as a soto person, and his or her first encounter with a new uchi often (although not always) involves guesthood. Surmounting the hazards of guesthood opens the first set of doors to a new social identity.

Hazard-Door 1: Being a “good guest” Imagine yourself being invited into a nice room (like Parlor 4), and treated with considerable deference. Amid the solicitation of your hosts—including delicious food, beautiful environment, and polite language, you must become aware that you are being wrapped; that this is not everyday life, and that your hosts are creating a special scenario for you that takes much time and effort on their part. Being a good guest requires sensitivity to their efforts, appreciation for everything they do, and care to minimize what you require from them, so that you don’t add to their efforts. This sensitivity allows advancement through Door #1.

Hazard-Door 2: Helping Out (Includes Doors 2 & 3): “Helping out” means more than doing chores mechanically for your family. The sensitive guest tries to figure out how she can begin to “fit in” with the family, and “helping” is the first step in reversing the guest cocooning and beginning to move behind the tatemae. “Helping” requires attention to timing as well as sensing where you can help effectively.

Hazard-Door 3: Helping the Expert Helping someone with seniority and expertise (for example, Okaasan’s position in the household) requires tact and sensitivity. “Helping” here may involve simply asking questions; or responding with “naruhodo” (of course!) instead of “I already knew that!” Here the trick is being able to differentiate between challenging the expert, leaning on the expert, and getting wrapped as a guest. One special way your family may ask you to assist is in helping them “wrap” another foreign guest.

Hazard-Doors 4-7 all involve hazards in adapting to uchi. These occur as your success in being a “good guest” begins to gradually move you out of guesthood and toward uchi. Adapting to uchi is challenging to all newcomers, no matter where they are from. But those used to navigating socially from the vantagepoint of an individual ‘I’ (or its counterpart in other languages) need to be especially careful of these hazards. In the Part 3 modules these take two broad forms: (both of which can include numerous variations)

Hazard-Door 4: First Uchi Hazard: This hazard takes the form of the ‘I’ wanting “freedom” which is juxtaposed to the demands of uchi. Ignoring the uchi requirements of a homestay creates constant tensions and problems, including those over Li Ming’s curfew (Module 9.2) Peter’s outings to Roppongi with his friends (2.1), and Janine’s extension request (9.2). However, both Janine and Li Ming’s cases show the juxtaposition between “freedom” and “uchi demands” to be false; ironically, acknowledging one’s uchi requirements also creates the basis for being able to go out from uchi (as Li Ming was able to go out with her friends).

Hazard-Door 5: Second Uchi Hazard: An extremely common uchi hazard is an obliviousness to ‘uchi’ as the anchorpoint for social navigation when in a homestay. Instead, the individual ‘I’ is often unknowingly substituted for the ‘uchi’ anchorpoint. (1) Rosa (9.3) and Sophie (9.2) both ignored the uchi anchorpoint—Sophie in accepting an invitation from a family acquaintance that her okaasan had already turned down; and Rosa in asking a favor from a friend of the family that her okaasan considered to be her own uchi obligation. (2) Several guests also failed to grasp the common uchi use of space in the house, and used space as an individual ‘I’. Elena (9.4) invites her tutor to her room, thinking this would be less interfering to her host family; but this violated the requirement that all guests be invited into uchi guest space (rather than personal bedroom space). Peter also violated this requirement repeatedly, as he met with his tutor, held a party, and then met with his girlfriend—all in his room instead of uchi space. (3) Gift-giving also had to be carried out from the vantagepoint of ‘uchi’, rather than ‘I’ (Molly 9.3; Kaarina 9.3).

Hazard-Door 6: Honne Messages: Door 6 gives invaluable assistance to the newcomer trying to figure out “what no one tells you”. In a society where tatemae is pervasive, and honne communication is often difficult, even for uchi members—where can you find clues about how you’re really doing? Door 6 answers this question, showing us that communications from the heart often take place in public situations (Theo 9.4; Janine 9.4) by near-strangers (Elena 9.4) or when people are drunk (Molly 9.4). Keeping one’s ears open for honne messages in the most unlikely-seeming places is hugely important.

Hazard-Door 7: Growing Up: The four cases in which the cultural child “grows up” in Part 3 all have certain things in common: (1) All involve reversing the dynamics of guesthood, and shifting from ‘I’ to ‘uchi’—following the pathway above. Janine, Stuart, Molly, and Devita are all considered trustworthy and competent by their families. (Devita is a spouse, rather than a homestay guest; she will also be treated separately in Module 13.4.) (2) In addition, heartfelt honne communication was crucial; this happened between Molly and her Okaasan; Stuart’s dinner was part of an expanding communication b which drew his family to “reach out to really be my family in Japan, not just a “host family”. Janine’s experience with Okaasan over the problem of the stove produced a communication between them which totally transformed Janine’s relationship and shifted her from being asked to leave the homestay altogether, to suddenly moving into uchi.

Hazard-Door 8: Uchi Ties: The cases above show that Growing Up is usually closely connected with moving toward—or right into—uchi. One consequence of a real presence in uchi is the creation of a bond that goes beyond the homestay itself, which occurred with Molly, Stuart, and Janine above. The homestay family considers this bond to extend to the uchi of the homestay guest, as is clear in Molly’s case, and with Janine’s hosting of her homestay relatives after she returned home.

In fact, anyone going on a homestay can utilize this same sequence of hazard-doors from the entry point onwards. Although you may not move all the way to “Uchi Ties” (as was true for most of the guests in the homestay gallery), any movement you make will give you considerable insight. While the number of hazards may vary considerably, the sequence outlined above is consistent, since you have to manage the earlier hazards (such as beginning to help, and dealing with the expert) before you can grasp the increasing difficulties of the hazards in adapting to uchi. This gives you a kind of roadmap for what “growing up” looks like in the homestay context.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5