(dedicated to 大野 family, my host family during my home stay in Tochigi Prefecture in April 2007)
(This writing was written in April 2007, re-published in this blog in March 2011)
It was Saturday morning, April 14th 2007. That day, we would go to Tochigi to have home stay. I was very enthusiastic, yes, visiting another prefecture I had never been before.
The bus trip took about three hours to reach the lakeside near Utsunomiya Forest Park. It was a very nice trip while along side of the journey; we could enjoy the beautiful countryside of Japan with its small roads of cedar trees.
Arriving at the lakeside, we walked several minutes to the location of the barbeque party. The calm water of the small lake, emphasized by cool breeze amidst cedar trees really relieved all my tiredness of the bus trip. I saw some people fishing; some were walking nearby the lakeside.
Then, the time for barbeque came. We prepared several stuffs for cooking: lit the fire, pour the cooking oil, put the various ingredients altogether. Fragrant smell arouse within our appetite for the lunch. It was really enjoyable. We talked one another about many things. I met with Mrs. Yasuko Oono, my host mother who was very kind and energetic. She came along with several companions: Mr. and Mrs. Ikeda as well as Miyajima Yu, a guy with almost the same age as me. It was surprising for me to know that Mr. Ikeda apparently could speak some Indonesian words. He had ever lived in Indonesia for some months and told us many stories of his life in Indonesia.
After the barbeque lunch, we, the YSEP students as well as the participants of this home stay received the certificates of friendship from Utsunomiya City. They also gave us some souvenirs such as pens, key hangers, even geta (Japanese traditional footwear) and wooden basket to some lucky participants.
We, YSEP students, then got apart one another, following our own respective host families. My host mother, Ikeda family, Yu and me went to a museum where many beautifully decorated big carts were displayed. These carts (or were called ‘floats’) were usually used for Matsuri (festival). Some steps behind the entrance gate, we could see a very beautiful pillar carved from a single cedar tree into a dragon, lion and phoenix. There were also some old manuscripts and we could watch video about the crafting history of the big carts as well as the wooden pillar. It’s very lucky that since my host mother was a good friend of the museum keeper, we were allowed to enter the glass room where two massively big, more than a hundred-year-old, beautifully decorated carts were stored. We even could have our pictures taken with that precious cart.
After finished the museum visit, we then walked into a nearby Japanese traditional park; and stopped in a teashop to have some break. My host mother bought me a Daruma doll and told me that when I have a wish, I paint one eye of the Daruma; and when I accomplish that wish, I paint the other eye. Wow, it was so inspiring a charm. Indeed I had already known a little bit about Daruma before: that Daruma was made inspired by Bodhidharma, a monk who brought Buddhism from India to China and founded the famous Shaolin Temple. Bodhidharma was also usually associated with the green tea leaves since there was a legend saying that Bodhidharma felt asleep while doing meditation. Since then he cut his eyelids and these eyelids fell onto the ground and grew into the plant of tea. Therefore, tea became very popular to prevent the sleepy eyes and often associated with the mindfulness practices of Zen Buddhism.
However, I still didn’t know this very touching charm, painting one eye of Daruma when you have a wish. I suppose this is a very nice idea for writing a novel or inspiring/ love stories.
We went to the house of my host family for a while where I met my host father, a very calm and friendly person. He was working in a car repair/workshop. It was only for several moments before we headed for the tea ceremony.
That was the third tea ceremony I saw and the second I experienced. Nevertheless, every time you experience tea ceremony, always every new thing you’ll get and feel. This time, I was very lucky to be able to try to wear Japanese formal kimono. Elsa and Karlisa (YSEP friends) were also there. Since tea ceremony always adapts to the changes of the seasons, this time the tea bowls were mostly decorated in sakura blossoms. We were also served very delicious Japanese cakes and sweets according to the season. When we were about to going home, the tea master gave us a present of Japanese traditional sweets again.
A little bit tired, we went home to have dinner. Wow! It was a very appetizing dinner with three big sets of various fresh sushi, fragrant fried chickens, soup, as well as ice cream and fruits as the closing deserts. We talked many things from family related matters, overseas travels of my host family, etc. Before going to bed, I took a bath to refresh the whole-day tired body. One thing I really love from Japanese family and life is the cleanliness and comfort of a Japanese house and lifestyle; stretching body within the fresh and comfortable futon, hmm…so nice, oyasumi nasai…
Waking up early in the morning, the breakfast had been prepared for me. We ate some slices of toasted bread with jam. Umm, this morning I had planned to give some Indonesian omiyage (souvenirs) to my host family and Ikeda family i.e. a big straw rat and Jogjakarta crafts. Although rat was usually associated with bad things, but of course this straw rat was an exception. It symbolized the wealth and prosperity since you would hardly find a fat and big rat in slums.
Then we left for Nikko Toshogu Shrine and passed the famous Nikko Cedar Roads, the world’s longest line of cedar trees. This shrine was dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu and full of unique decorations. The famous features of this shrine were such as nemuri neko (the sleeping cat craft), echo hall of some metal instruments, tumulus of the Tokugawa, and so on. Mr. Ikeda explained a lot of things to me from the historical background of the shrine until recent status and condition of the shrine. I also got some post cards as souvenir from Mrs. Ikeda. Near the Toshogu Shrine, there was also a Buddhist temple (but I forgot the name).
Finishing the walk within the site, my host father brought us to an old European-style restaurant. He treated us some nice seafood rice with curry.
Before going back to the appointment place at Tochigi Youth Center, we made use the time to visit Ooya Kannon statue, a very tall statue of Avalokitesvara (the Sanskrit word for ‘Kannon’ (Japanese) or ‘Guan Yin’ (Chinese) or ‘Kuan Im’ (Hokkianese) made by carving the volcanic stone wall. This was another big statue of Kannon I found in Japan after the Ofuna Kannon in Kanagawa Prefecture. I didn’t know why I really loved Kannon, probably because she represented the compassion for the sufferings of the world.
Completed the travel, we then headed to the rendezvous. Sato Sensei apparently had waited for us to go back to Yokohama. It was really pleasant and exciting home stay as well as unforgettable memories…
Hereby, I would like to express my deep gratitude to my host family, Oono family, for the kindness and hearty warmth; Ikeda family for many helps and sincerity; Yu Miyajima for the friendship weaved; the Tea Ceremony Master and her families, for the inspiring moments of the tea mindfulness; UKII, Utsunomiya City, and all other host families as well as YSEP friends for the togetherness; and last but not least to Sato Sensei for all the “invisible” supports and coordination that had enabled this meaningful and exciting home stay to happen.
I painted the Daruma eye, wishing you all the everlasting happiness…
Deep condolence to all families stricken by Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
空はつながっている、心もきっと同じ。 (Just like the skies that are connected, our hearts must be the same).
I painted one eye of Daruma, wishing you all to be strong, and always be blessed in the kindness and compassion..
Tokyo, 22 March 2011