3. Gameni —It’s Fukuoka`s traditional meal made of chicken and varieties of vegetable such as satoimo (taro root), carrot, and shiitake mushroom, simmered and seasoned using soy sauce, alcohol and sugar.
4. Soumen Chili— It’s Itoshima`s soul food made of different kinds of vegetable, cooked chicken and tofu, seasoned using soy sauce and sugar on top of noodle. The taste gives you the feeling of being warm and relaxed.
5. Sunomono— Food made in sweetened vinegar.
Itoshima is a nature-rich area known for its fresh meat and vegetables !!!
A Home and Family in Japan
by Marvin Torres Lagonera
Hi! I am Marvin Torres Lagonera, a Filipino student currently taking up my Master’s degree in Global Politics at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. I spent seven weeks in Japan to study in Kyushu University for a special academic program called “Asia in Today’s World 2014”. Together with thirty other university students from across the world, I took courses on the Japanese language and Asian studies. During the opening ceremony of the program, I was invited by the organizers to give a short speech on my expectations for the next seven weeks. I talked about two main expectations: First, I said that we were all part of the program because in one way or another, we were genuinely interested in learning about Japanese and Asian culture and society. I said that I expected the next seven weeks to be fun and enjoyable. When one is passionate about work and learning, it will not feel like work at all. It will pass by quickly. Secondly, I said that for the next seven weeks, we will be calling Japan our home. We will certainly develop friendships and deep relationships – with the international delegates, the tutors, the ATW organizers, and the host family. Since Japan will be our home, I preferred to call them as family. Truly, the seven weeks passed by quickly; but it was a dense and long seven weeks. For me, the memories, experiences and relationships I gained would amount to years. I did not only bring home memories but I also found a home and family in Japan. I would like to share some of the highlights of my experiences in Japan!
Eating easily became one of my favorite hobbies in Japan. Food was always something to look forward to! There were the familiar dishes like sushi platters, okonomiyaki, tempura, sashimi, ramen, takoyaki, and new finds like soba and natto. Fukuoka is said to have the best ramen, and ramen restaurants in the city were definitely a food lover’s paradise. Among the Japanese and foreign delegates, barbeque party was a common activity to have to bond over beer, and grilled meat and vegetables. We chat, drink beer and wait while the food is grilling. But when the food is cooked, we attack all at once! When I moved to my homestay, I discovered a lot more creative Japanese dishes. Unlimited yakiniku welcomed me to the family while sashimi salmon and squid bid me off. Once, my host family brought me to an expensive tofu restaurant for dinner. It served a unique tofu menu like sashimi, deep-fried tofu, gratin, and boiled tofu. Okaasan also brought me to a traditional sweets restaurant where I ordered matcha ice cream topped with matcha mochi. The presentation of the dessert, the traditional interiors of the place, and the overlooking view of Itoshima city were priceless! However, I consider the food cooked at home by my host parents to be the best. There was always something new on the table. I would usually wake up to fresh vegetable salad, miso soup, soba, sausages and egg, cherry tomatoes and sticky rice. For dinner, nothing beats the home-cooked tonkatsu, hibachi, tempura and ramen of Otoosan and Okaasan! Filipinos are not as fond of green leaves and vegetables. That’s why I was always delighted to eat healthy food in Japan. On top of that, my host mother told me that Itoshima city produced some of the freshest vegetables and fruits. One of my fondest memories was when my host family served me mangoes. とても高 い! The price was like gold. In my country, mangoes are everywhere! I was so amused to eat the mangoes. I was so thankful to my host family because they served me mangoes even if they were so expensive!
Beauty of Fukuoka and Itoshima
Picturesque. This is how I would describe my image of Fukuoka and Itoshima where I stayed for homestay. Fukuoka was more crowded and busier, while Itoshima was gentle and steady. I consider myself lucky to discover both cities. Fukuoka city was both modern and traditional. I was fascinated by its huge shopping districts called Hakata Canal City and the Tenjin underground shopping street. Modern buildings like the Fukuoka dome and the Fukuoka tower shape the city. However, Fukuoka was also very cultural. Several temples, festivals and museums are located in the city. Dazaifu is a public park that houses a Tenman-gū shrine, a romantic red bridge, and traditional streets filled with shops, including the famous Dazaifu Starbucks. We also witnessed several fireworks (hanabi) festivals and the unique Yamakasa festival where men in loincloth race through the streets of Hakata while carrying heavily decorated floats. I transferred to Itoshima city for my homestay. I would travel an hour and a half every day to go to Kyushu University but the homestay was worth it. Okaasan and Otoosan knew Itoshima very well. Twice, my host parents brought me to a local matsuri (festival). Japanese locals gathered along streets filled with food stalls, various merchandise, huge tents, and kids playing. White and red lamps lit the streets. Western songs played. The atmosphere was very festive.
I was also very impressed by the transportation. It was very organized. The buses and trains were always on time. There was no excuse to be late, although I was still late sometimes. I always get embarrassed when I get late because Japanese people are very punctual.
I think that the best part of my stay in Japan was moving into a host family for three weeks. Okaasan and Otoosan took very good care of me. I met their cute grandchildren and played with them. Kazu-kun was two years old while the Soba was only nine months old. I really love kids that’s why I was so happy when I met Kazu and Soba! とてもかわいい！ On random days, Okaasan would introduce me to her friends in Itoshima. She brought me to a traditional desserts restaurant, an Indian restaurant and a local fastfood. I learned a lot about Japan from our conversations. We talked about random topics like family, marriage, sports, and even their pet.
Homestay gave me the opportunity to live and discover the ordinary lives of Japanese. I am glad that I gained a family and home in Japan through them. I joined Okaasan and Otoosan in their usual activities as if I was their son. We toured Itoshima, went to local festivals, ate together, and I had to follow their house rules. I always observed them and what they did. My only regret was that I knew only basic Japanese so it was difficult to communicate. Despite this, Okaasan and Otoosan still accepted me with warmth and excitement. They made sure I was safe and I had the happiest experience with them.
I will miss Japan!
I will always cherish my memories in Japan. I discovered a lot about myself and the world through my experience. Right now, I am trying to improve my Japanese by studying more language.
I will definitely miss Fukuoka and Itoshima. I met a lot of Japanese and international friends. I hope to see them again one day.
My Japanese friends and host family welcomed me to Japan. I found a home and family in Japan through them. Because of that, my home in the Philippines will always be open for them too!
Marvin Torres Lagonera graduated Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics (Honors Program) with minor in Management at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines on March 2014. He is currently taking his Master’s degree in Political Science major in Global Politics in the same university. He attended Kyushu University’s “Asia in Today’s World” seven-week program from June 24 to August 8 2014. Additional comments:Global Politics: 国際関係