Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Everytime I think about September's trip, I involuntarily say 'Alhamdulillah' again and again. Alhamdulillah for many things. Alhamdulillah, because it was a very smooth trip with very little trouble. I'm a hectic person and this lends to trouble most of the time, but with this trip, everything went magically smooth. Well not everything as in EVERYTHING. Well, actually it's everything except when I set foot in Jordan; one of my check-in bags didn't arrive and the books I sent arrived a month late. But aside from that, almost everything on the way to Japan and in Japan went really smooth and easy.

One of the things that I was very fortunate for was that I met friends everywhere I went to in Japan (okay, except Hiroshima) in addition to some wonderful participants in the program. This really made me feel at home and enjoy the trip to the max.

Osaka (and Kobe):

Before this trip, I knew nothing at all about Osaka. One of my friends in Amman was good friends with an acquintance who studied Arabic in JU, and he told me that he's now in Osaka. So he offered to send our Osaka friend an e-mail telling him about my visit and he did. So, I connected with N-san and we met twice in Osaka after my lectures in Rinkuu town ended.
The first time we met, he offered to take me to Nara or Kobe and I chose Kobe, which then became my favourite place in Japan. In fact, I already miss Kobe. Kobe, can you hear me? I love you. So, anyways, we went to Kobe and it was around sunset we entered Kobe university (where N-san is studying) and there we waited infront of a beautiful view of the city; we waited for N-san's French friend, S-san, who's doing his masters also in Kobe university. Together we had a lot of interesting conversations and learned a lot of things from each other. For example, I learned how bad my Japanese was, N-san how bad his Arabic was, and we both learned how good S-san's English and Japanese were. And I also learned a lot about Osaka and various other things. N-san, I can't stress how thankful I am for taking me to and showing me around Kobe! I hope you can come again to Jordan to return the favour (although, I'm sure you saw almost everything already).

Anybody's got razors, please?


My knowledge about Kyoto is a little better than Osaka. For example, I know that nature in Kyoto is beautiful and I know that Nintendo is headquartered there. That's all.

In Kyoto I met my dear friend Y-san, who was a JICA Intern researching Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. We arranged to meet by e-mail while I was in Amman, and my sensei at that time, N-sensei, was going to return to Japan just a week before I went there, so she gladly joined the gang. Last February, before Y-san left Jordan, I invited him for Palestinian food at my home (Msakhan, Mnukhiyeh and Maftool) and at that time two of his friends in Japan were touring the Middle East and they happened to be in Jordan so he brought them along. So, in Kyoto one of them H-san was in Kyoto and she also joined us and brought along another friend. Y-san had a Jordanian friend working in Kyoto who was all too happy to join because someone is visiting from Jordan and he also brought along a colleague from work. It was a much bigger gathering than I expected, but it was a good one, or as they say in Japanese: 「いい集まりでした」

I was really delighted that I could meet Y-san, N-sensei and H-san once again and we had a good time. Although it was raining that night, I felt warm :)

Y-san got me a mamori for my family and H-san got me some delicious Gion festival Maccha cookies, which were so good I had to hide them from my friends (and greedily eat them alone).

Group picture in Shin-miyako hotel, where I was staying the night.


In Tokyo, fortunately, I was able to meet two of my neighbours in Amman and K-sensei, who taught me Japanese for the better part of her two years stay in Jordan and still supports me in my studies until now. In Tokyo, I stayed in the Japan Foundation's Center in Kita-Urawa, Saitama-ken. T-sensei who was doing his Masters in Japanese language at the time was staying at the very same center and he had already completed his thesis and presentation and getting ready to return to Amman's warm bossom. I arrived to the Urawa center on the night of September 15th, and he left to Amman the 10am the next morning (whew, that was close). I also met my dear neighbour Saqufu-dono (as T-sensei fondly refers to him), better known in JICA as 'Occha no Ahmad' who is doing a Master of Arts in Tokyo and I also met S-san who is doing masters in Electronics Engineering in the best and most famous university in Japan, Tokyo University. The atmosphere in Urawa center, where we all gathered was wonderful, especially after a tiresome trip to Tokyo.

We had dinner in some restaurant and I chatted to my hearts content with Occha, S-san, T and K-sensei. I exchanged gifts with K-sensei: a bottle of Wadi Rum's purest and reddest sand for a popular Japanese picture book. Afterwards, I walked in Urawa a little with T-sensei and he took me to a supermarket to try the much talked about 'Tunamayo-nigiri' and I went into the place were he spent most of the last 365 days in: his room.

On the next day, Occha no Ahmad took me around for "One free day in Tokyo".

Group picture in Urawa with K-sensei, T-sensei, S-san and Occha no Ahmad.

Kishiwada, Osaka (Homestay family)

The following picture is of homestay family's youngest daughter, Hiroko-san. I met her in the homestay family's house only for a few minutes. In a few minutes talk we somehow arrived to Miyazaki and Ghibli and I told her that 'Grave of fireflies' is one of my favourite movies and said I saw a picture on the internet of a large version of Setsuko's 'fruit drops' in some outdoors location in Japan. I thought it was well known but she only recognized the Laputa soldier outside Studio Ghibli. Anyways while I was out, she bought and left home one 'Sakuma drops' and when I first saw it, I was very surprised and affected as I thought it was based on Setsuko's drops, but then I realized that Setsuko's drops were based on Sakuma drops. I know it isn't expensive or not that special in Japan, but I was very delighted when I saw it and I was surprised that a 10 minutes talk caused her to go and buy my this present. It tasted good by the way, when I finished the last drop last week, I understood why Setsuko cried!

I didn't take pictures of Hiroko-san and her little Takuto, so she sent me this picture by E-mail. This is infront of the Amanohashidate (天橋立 Heaven's bridge) one of the three scenic views that represent Japan. It is a natural bridge covered pine trees connecting two opposite sides of a bay. By the way, I visited another one of the scenic three: The huge torii in Miyajima (pictured in the 'beautiful scenery of Japan' post)

Everywhere else (The participants):

In this program, there were 61 participants from 59 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America (Sorry North America and Europe, you can come with your own pockets!!). There were people of all colours and languages and from countries I never heard of and while some weren't very friendly and quite introverted, others were extremely friendly and outgoing. Naturally, people clustered according to their continents and languages mostly, South Americans were together most of the time, Western Europeans, Africans and even the Arabs (ahem)..

Me and my Egyptian and Yemeni friends (and my backpack to the far left) in Miyajima.

Also in Miyajima with Chile, Turkey, Madagascar and Vietnam-san

Two participants who were always together and interacted a lot with me, Egypt-san and Yemen-san are Madagascar-san and Vietnam-san. Madagascar-san was really kind and silent most of the time, but she picked the wrong company (Vietnam-san). Vietnam-san is the one I talked about in the awkward moments post. At first, we all thought that she was acting crazy, but in the end we agreed that she might be indeed crazy! As for Madagascar-san, she kept coming to me and telling me "anaaaa bahebak, anaaaa bahebak".. yoroshiku habeebti!!

All participants in the program during the farewell party

Last but not least are the Japan Foundation program organizers. They all were so helpful and understanding. Always trying their best to help us with our troubles and special needs.

In addition to being a very nice person, M-san helped me a lot during the program.

So in the end, all I can say is thank you to everybody who took care of me and Alhamdulillah for such good friends, teachers and people.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

They arrived FINALLY!! ヤット届いたんだ!!

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, おかげさまで.

Today, I picked up from the post office half of my trip to Japan! 5Kgs of books, all dear to me, have arrived!

Aaaah, what a relief!! I was SO VERY worried. They were supposed to arrive one month ago! Because of baggage limitations, I had to send some stuff to Japan and I chose to send books and printed materials, which was the most cost effective way: 5000 yens for 5Kgs to arrive in two weeks by Airmail.

For some reason, it took one month more to arrive and I was getting really, really worried. I consider those books to be half of my trip to Japan!

Some hastily taken photos with my mobile's crappy camera:

You have no idea how much I was happy to see this.

One of the worst feelings ever is to lose something you really value.
One of the best feelings ever, is to find it again..

Introducing the books.....

Don't bother clicking, the picture quality is so bad that the titles are unreadable.

Free Japanese books of my choice from the Japan Foundation:

Practical Japanese Workbooks series:
擬声語-擬態語 (初/中級) Onomatopoeia (Elementary/Intermediate)
接続詞 (初/中/上級): Conjunction (Elementary/Intermediate/Advanced)

The Japan Foundation displayed and organized all the books that we can choose from and there were JF Japanese language teachers present to give us advice and recommend books according to our needs. I was looking for books to improve my conversation skills, in particular, to get read my frequent pauses and to improve the flow of my speech. So I asked for advice and got recommended the series above.

Onomatopoeia refers to the characteristic Japanese words with the same syllable repeated twice. For example, ぺらぺら (perapera)、すらすら (surasura)、にこにこ(nikoniko) and にやにや(niyaniya). Such words are used very often by Japanese people and also are used to emulate and describe animal cries and musical instrument sounds. Sweet!

As for the conjunction book, I seriously hope to get rid of the stiffness in my speech and enhance its flow.

にほんご敬語トレーニング Japanese polite speech training
I am completely behind with Keigo and I don't know how good this book is, but I hope it helps me some.

While I was in Tokyo, I visited Islamic Center Japan office in the Setagaya ward and I had iftar there, but this is the topic for another post. I recieved a lot of documents from them about Islam and Japan and I also recieved the following Japanese books about Islam:

イスラームの理解 Towards Understanding Islam
コルーンとハディースの根本教義 Basic teachings from the Qur'an and Hadith
イスラームの信仰 The Muslim's believes
40のハディース 40 Hadiths (For those muslims in the know: These are what we call 'the 40 Nawawis')

For me, learning Japanese is not just about taking, it is also about giving. I don't like the one-sided approach of many students of the language, were they embrace Japan and Japanese to the point of forgetting themselves and their cultures. I want to exchange viewpoints; I believe that I can offer something equally beneficial and interesting, just like I'm learning a lot of stuff through my study of the Japanese language and interaction with Japanese people. So, I requested Japanese language books about Islam to read them (if I can) and to lend them to whoever is interested.

ぬすまれた月 The stolen moon
This is a wonderful picture book I got from my dear K-sensei, when I met her in Tokyo. What a relief that it has arrived. Thank you sensei, I will read it and try my best to translate it to Arabic.

Practical Japanese Cooking
A cookbook for my mom. Too bad she just left yesterday to Kuwait for a few weeks. :'(

Unequal Equities
A book I got for a dear friend who is specialized in finance. Too bad, he too will leave to Dubai today for a few days. I hope he finds it informative.

A book I got from the Peace memorial museum. In the museum, Camera flash was not allowed and my hand was not steady at all, so most of the pictures I took in the museum were not clear. Fortunately, when I opened the book today, I found many of the pictures of the effects of the Atomic bomb, which I tried, but failed to take good pictures of.

Muji catalog and magazine
I like Muji and IKEA. Simple, plain, minimalistic and comfortable. So I took the season's Muji catalog for my family and my twin brother's family to take a look at and get some ideas from.

Plus, many brochures and print out documents...

Alhamdulillah, now I have fully returned from Japan.

Excuse me now, as I perform the happy dance..

Friday, November 02, 2007

Awkward moments 気まずい瞬間

Awkward moments. We all had our share of them and they won't stop coming anytime soon.

When I was in Japan, a combination of cultural differences, Japanese language deficiency and my not-so-refined (read: vulgar) nature have caused me to endure some of the most awkward situations ever. Below are some of the situations which I masterfully put myself into. Read on!

The thing I enjoyed most in the first homestay day:

During the first day of homestay, after a fairly eventful day, we were having lunch at some restaurant in Osaka. Homestay big sis came to the restaurant and joined us and after we left the restaurant, while walking outside, since I had a long day and we barely met, she asked me the million dollar question:

"what was the thing you enjoyed most today?"

At first I hesitated. Y'know, I met homestay dad's rich friend, ate a fancy homemade lunch and went to a lot of places, So, I paused and - it pains me to say - thought about it. Then after consideration, I dropped the bomb:

"The electric toilet."

..... You know, if I had said it on impulse, it would have been not half as bad, but I paused and I thought. I went to Kishiwada castle, Danjiri hall, a Japanese game center, met and got acquinted with a guy who owns 20 malls, a personal jetplane and God knows what else, ate lots of new delicious homemade Japanese dishes, ALL for the first time, and what did I tell homestay big sis? The damn electric toilet!!

How awkward can things get!!.. I mean, what if her parents hear this? what would they think?

But in my defense: It was the first time ever to enter an electric toilet and the one I entered had 'extra options'. You see, I saw all these buttons and I started testing them, and while I was testing them, I was smiling all the time as I imagined 'how will I tell my friends in Amman about this', and I was really amused by the volume-like control of water strength, but what really cracked me up was that there was a 'move' button, after I tried it I started laughing! But I didn't stop there. I wanted to see the thing that sprayed the water and so, I pressed the button while looking at the urinal and nothing happened. Then I noticed a sensor, and put my hand over it and pressed again. A small flat stick electrically expanded exactly like the stairs come out of the landed spaceships we saw in cartoons and started spraying water on me.

This was a very culturally shocking and amusing experience for me. So, while my answer was stupid and vulgar, I can't help but think that there was some truth in it, in terms of impact.

Annnyways, the very next morning, during breakfast, I waited for a moment when only I and big sis were on the table and quickly rolled out my apology and expressed my shame, and how my answer was incorrect and it was because of the culture shock. All the while she was saying 'daijoubu' and 'wakaru' (it's okay, I understand).

Too bad I didn't take a picture of the electric toilet.

My homestay family's son's husband!

I have this kind of mental bias in my mind, which I think a lot people also have but to a much lesser degree, that makes me group every two similar words or words that have something in common and interchange them by mistake, even though I fully know their meanings and the difference between them. A famous example of this is when people mix between left and right. The problem with me, is that sometimes I don't feel that I switched the words. For example, I would say 'left' and think that I said 'right' in my mind.

In the homestay photo-fest post, I recounted how I met my homestay family's son-in-law by accident in Nanba, and how he guided us to Dotonbori, where we met Mie-san and her Japanese friend, also by accident (all pictured in the post below).

At first I introduced Tomoya-san to my Egyptian and Yemeni friends and said "My homestay family's daughter's husband" and again when I met Mie-san and her friend "My homestay family's daughter's husband". Everything was fine until I was alone again with my fellows. They said "Samer, what's the problem with you? you said 'homestay family's son's husband twice, when you introduced him to us and then to Mie-san". Of-course, my white face immediately became red with embaressment. And they continued "Everytime you said, son, he would correct you and say daughter. At first it was okay, because we were all guys, but then with Mie-san and her friend, he got red faced and corrected you again 'daughter'. I didn't hear him when he corrected me at all.

A little explanation: Son in Japanese is 'musuko' 息子 and daughter is 'musume' 娘, but because musuko ends with 'ko' which means 'child' and because the same 'ko' also comes at the end of many, many Japanese female names (like 'Youko','Masako' and 'Mitsuko') I keep confusing musuko and musume, but after this episode I don't think I will ever confuse them ever again ever...

While we were going back to the Center in Rinku town, my fellows kept mocking me about this and how its a very basic mistake and I, in turn, was boiling inside and outside, angry at how simple my mistake is even though i started learning Japanese 4 years ago, angry at how I might have looked stupid while repeatedly saying 'Son's husband, son's husband'. I think I really overreacted...

Kanji Master

Okay, this is a milder story than the ones above, but it is still awkward nonetheless.

I was in Kansai airport, in my last moments in Japan and I was buying last moment snacks and souviners in order to shut the mouths of a handful of my friends and colleagues. So, I was doing the routine check on one of the chips snacks in a shop, before buying it and I was rotating the cyclindrical container as I checked the ingredients for the "two no-noes". Two clerks were staring at me eyes wide open and then one of the let out "SUGOI, zenbu yomemasuka" (You can read everything? AWESOME!).

"Iya, Iya" I said while I automatically raised my hand and made a peace or victory sign (depending on where you live) with my fingers and assumed a humble look in my face "fututsu no kanji dake o sagashiteimasu, buta to sake ga dame desu kara" (No, no, I'm only searching for two characters, I can't eat pork or alcohol). "Aaa" they said in unison and one of them offered to help. I gave her two cans (different flavours) and she said one had pork and the other was okay. After I left the shop, I thought "I wish". I wish I could read them all; maybe in 5 years time..

That's all. Darn, I feel awkard after all these awkward stories. Please, try not to post awkward comments. I've had enough awkwarding!!

Oh oh!! I almost forgot!!...

Unintended impoliteness at the Aikidou lesson

As part of the program, we had cultural experience lessons and I chose Aikidou and Ikebana (flower arrangement) because I had a lot of Shodou (Calligraphy) lessons in Jordan and I don't like Tea ceremony (sorry K-s!).

During the Aikidou lesson, one of the exercises involved one of the Aikidou team members sitting low and waving a stick from left to right slightly above the group and we had to run through without getting hit by the stick and we should touch the man's shoulder. The member doing this was a fairly old ojiisan with a bald head and grey hair. I watched the line before me as a participant ran, leaped and tapped his shoulder, then the next participant ran, leaped and tapped his shoulder and so on, until my turn came:

I ran, I leaped and I tapped his... HEAD!!!!!

How embarressing! Everybody who watched laughed and another member of the Aikidou team, realizing that I'm one of those boorish foriegners, came to me and said (paraphrase) 'shitsurei deshita, ayamari shita hou ga ii desu yo' (you did something impolite, you should probobly apologize). And then I realized my folly and kept apologizing to him in 5 minute intervals until the lesson ended. Actually, I still think it's not enough; allow me to apologize one more time: "ごめんなさい! 許してくださいお願いします"

Mr. Jordan

One of the Vietnamese participantes (there were two) kept insistently calling me Joudan-san (Mr. Jordan). Joudan is 'Jordan' pronounced with Japanese syllables, but it actually does not mean Jordan; Jordan is 'yorudan' in Japanese. But she kept saying it, Joudan-san, Joudan-san. Anybody who's beyond toe-deep in Japanese knows why this is awkward for me. So, everytime she said Joudan-san, I tried to correct her 'Yorudan, Yorudan desu'. But she insisted 'Joudan no hou ga oboeyasui!' (It's easier to remember Joudan).

So, during the Ikebana lesson she came and sat beside me and said it again for what seemed like the 100th time, so I said: 「冗談じゃなくて、ヨルダンです!」 (it's not Joudan, it's Jordan) and everybody around us started laughing.

To clarify for those who don't get it, 'Joudan' in Japanese means Joke. So I was telling her something like "It's not a joke, it's Jordan" or "It's Jordan, no joking!"

Alright, that's about enough, I'll stop before I remember any more awkward stories..

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The beautiful scenery of Japan - 美しき日本景色

Salam everybody,

Ramadan has departed, the Eid is over, the Ma'mul is all gone and it's been one month since I returned from Japan. In other words, everything is back to normal.

But not quite yet; I still feel that my mind is travelling in Japan. I'm still thinking over the things I saw and did, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a frown. After a wholesome meal, your body takes time to digest the food, much longer than the time it took to eat the meal. Likewise, I'm still digesting my experiences in Japan, one month later.

Anyways, enough sentimental talk and on to the post. I have a lot of ideas for interesting posts and don't know where to start, should I post about the Hiroshima peace memorial park? One free day in Tokyo? Food? Friends? Being a Muslim in Japan? Lots of things to talk about! So in the end, I figured, let me start by what the people want to see: pictures and more pictures.

This time it will be about the beautiful scenery of Japan. Lots of beauty, lots of pictures...

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion Temple), Kyoto

Yes, I was there. Yes, I took this picture.
Yes, you can use it as a wallpaper.

The golden pavillion temple..

Koi (Japanese Carp).

Koi are pretty popular in Japan. One reason is that they have nice colours and patterns on them (ahem, like the one in the picture above) and another reason is that Koi also means 'love'. There are also those long, snake-like fish in the lake surrounding Kinkakuji. They are of a dark colour, so I couldn't take a good picture of them. Maybe you can see them in this picture (I can't).

This is a stone lantern. You will find a lot of them in Japan as they're a basic ingredient of Japanese gardens.

you will also find a lot of them in this blog.

Kiyomizudera, Kyoto

This is the main gate to Kiyomizu-dera. It looks out of proportion with it's huge top, but this only adds to its majesty.

They speak the truth.
Kyoto must be busy with visitors now as it is the 'kouyou' (autumn leaves) season.

This is just under the roof of one of the buildings. Notice that there is nothing holding the wooden beams together; no nails or adhesives. This is traditional Japanese architecture; beams are held together by snapping or locking them together.

Look at the fixtures under the roof. Very strange, almost evil colours.

All this time, I thought dragons breathed fire...
This must be the coolest water fountain ever concieved.

hmmm, cave = curiousity.

This explains the 'mizu' part of the name..

Apparently this is one tree...

In temples and shrines, you will find a lot of standalone gates called Toriis. This is one small and slim torii. Don't worry, in a moment you'll see a huge one.


On the way to Miyajima..

Now that's one huge Torii

This is the laziest pose I have ever seen.
Someone should find work for those deers.

It's nice to have animals around you for a change. In Jordan, birds and cats always run away (or fly away) from you (unless you have food with you). The stone lantern included in this picture was unintentional, I swear.

Back in Osaka..

This is taken from Osaka castle.
Notice how the reflections on the building are continuous with the scenery behind it, making it appear transparent.

Soredewa, See you next post!

Friday, October 05, 2007

More posts after the break, just you wait! イードの後、続ける!

It was especially a PAIN when it interrupted a movie/song I was watching/listening to.

Salam friends,

Since I started blogging about my trip and until the last entry, I posted every few days. But since then things slowed down and I will also not be posting in the next two weeks. As you may know, we're in Ramadan. Now, we're also in the last ten days of Ramadan. So, between work and getting the most out of the beloved month before it ends, I can't find time to update with photos or stories.

Special treatment for a special month.

I still have lots of interesting photos and stories up my sleeve, so look forward to more posts after Eid Al-Fitr ends (after around two weeks).

dewa, mata ne!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Japanese children 日本のお子供さん

I love children and I get along with them very well. Everybody who knows me well knows this much. But Japanese children are different, because they are.. well, different!! So, while in Japan I took pictures of my little friends and with my little friends.

In the home stay post you already saw pictures of Mao-chan and Shoutarou-kun. Here's another picture of Mao holding the picture book I bought her and wishing for peace, like all Japanese people in almost every picture..

She's got style, doesn't she?

In the first real day of the program after orientation day we went to Nanba in Osaka and rode the train for the first time. While there a mother and her two kids enter the train and stand in front of me. The mom looked nice so I asked her for permission to take pictures of her children (In Japanese, I swear) ...

That little devil in the green shirt looks cool!

I try to take another shot and he glues himself to his mom, then pulled her hands and tried to hide behind them, but I caught the culprit at the right moment..

Kakkoi na~, omae!

In the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, I found a group of students in a school trip, so I took a picture of them and then they noticed me and started flocking towards me and posing and saying 'san kyuu, san kyuu, san kyuu' (Thank you). Great, I started a scene in the Peace memorial museum, a very grim place. Other program participants started taking pictures and the students -and their 'san kyuu's- kept increasing. I don't know how old they are, but obviously they have passed the 'cute' age and are well into the 'annoying' age. Someone has to teach them a thing or two about smiling though...

Cheezu! Peesu! SMILE!!

And now, the stars of the show! This was in the last day of the program, duing the farewell party. I tried to avoid the adults who were drinking (and drinking) and look who I found!

Sticking her tongue out in shyness. Gotta love the hairdo

There was another little girl beside our starlet but she was shy and didn't want to take a picture. So, to 'break the ice' I walked to her asked 'what's your name?' she said something incomprehensible. Again, 'what's your name?', incomprehensible. I give up. 'Let's take a picture' Nod! Easy!...

Lovely expressions..

Look at me; I keep smiling as I have no idea what's going on.

That's all I got, I didn't see much children and sometimes I didn't have the courage to ask their parents permission for a picture.

During home stay, home stay mom noticed that I got along with Mao and Shouta and she told dad 'there's a sense of attachement, because Samer speaks Japanese'. It was a new word for me in Japanese.. shinkinkan.. I tried to guess the kanjis to understand it.. 親切のしん、最近のきん、感... 親近感. 単語ゲット! :D

See you next post.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

日本で一番好きな場所 - My favourite place in Japan















Sunday, September 23, 2007

Round 1: Home stay photo-fest


Here is the first wave of photographs, all taken during home stay or with the home stay family.

My home stay family lives in Kishiwada, Osaka. Dad is a business man, who works in trading textiles among other things (mainly ornaments) and mom is a hard working housewife. They have one son (Shosaku) and two daughters (Tomoko and Hiroko). They also have three grandchildren: Mao (7 years), Shoutarou (5 years, not quite sure) and Takuto (1 year), who just started walking recently.

When I first met them at the center, I was treated to the unexpected. This dark skinned guy with an earing on his left ear comes and embraces me! (My feeling at that moment can be summarized as follows: ほほっ!) Mom was also there and told me to call her just 'mama'. The family is much richer than your average Japanese family as they live in a 4 floors house (the last floor is equipped with a theater covering one of the walls).

Anyway, lets get to the photos!

First thing I was treated to was a fancy, fancy lunch. Tamagoyaki, sushi, yakisakana, nasubi no goma-ae and oden.

Let's pause a little bit here. This lunch was not just for yours truly, as dad's rich, rich German friend was in Osaka and he was invited too. He told me that his rich, rich friend had just recently bought a personal jet plane for 80,000,000,000 (8 hyaku oku) yen (don't bother counting the zeros). And when we picked him and his Japanese wife we kept talking and talking in English and he kept asking me questions about the Middle East and what's in my opinion the problem there and how to solve it and so on and so forth. I began to wonder when will I speak Japanese today.

So in the end, the guy liked me and asked for my contact information and although I bought 50 business cards with me to Japan, I had none on me (Duh!). He then gives me his business card which has the logo 'Turk Mall', I look at him and say 'Ah, a mall!'. He smiles and says '20 malls'.

Just great!

Next, the first excursion in Kishiwada

Following my family to Kishiwada castle. Fancy isn't it?

This is inside the kishiwada danjiri hall. Some intricate wood work used on the danjiri cart which is hollered around the city in the danjiri matsuri.

Let's pause again here. The Kishiwada danjiri matsuri is one of the most famous matsuris in Japan (Top 3 according to dad). It is well known because of the high speed and energy compared to other danjiri matsuris. I think, 200 guys pull or ride on the danjiri cart and pull it with big ropes around the city. It's a feat that requires a lot of strength, timing and coordination.

When the family knew that I'm into game design they took me to a game center and look what I found there...

People betting on a virtual horse race. I am still stupified by this..

More food. This time it's Ikayaki (squid) and the Japanese pizza thing which I forgot the name for.

Mom and Dad

Big sis (Tomoko) and niece (Mao)

In Dotonbori Osaka, a very famous and very crowded area.

Inside the Gokurakushoutengai.

My family was kind enough to take me to Gokurakushoutengai, which is a place that looks exactly like Osaka in the Showa period (1926 - 1989).

Notice that horizontal writing was - like Arabic - from right to left..

In Jordan, we got Coca Cola long after the Showa period was over.

Amusement the old fashioned way.

Next up is Houzenji, where you'll find a shinto shrine for cooking and a restaurant supplies/cookingware market.

Here, people come to pray to become better cooks, faster. The plant statue, flowers and water flow sounds give the place a serene feeling.

In Houzenji, we had lunch in an old restaurant..

Shouta getting ready for the..

ladies and gentlemen, omuraisu! (omelette rice)

In the market

Shouta and Mao with Takoyaki-chan. In Japan, there's a -chan version of everything.

Don't ask me. I just found this amusing!

Before returning home, we went to Tsutaya and suddenly while there, mama decides that she wants a Wii. They buy it with three games and extra controllers, unpack it at home and start playing. Simple! compared to me, who was following the Wii 2 years in the news before it was even released. It was my first time to touch and try playing Wii, by the way.

Mao-san and her mom playing Wii Tennis

Finally, what better way to end the day than with Kappazushi?

Something looks suspicious!...

Hamburger sushi! Beef instead of fish and Mayonnaise instead of Wasabi!

Leave it to the Japanese to commit such crimes in the name of innovation. If you've been following Tymoor-sensei's blog, you already know about the Tuna-mayo-nigiri and the Ice cucumber Pepsi..

The thing that drives me madder is that sometimes it actually works. I tried Tuna-mayo-nigiri and it was good. But still I have the 'chigau! CHIGAU!' ('That's not right!') feeling inside me whenever I see rice with mayonnaise.

Shouta-kun and Mao-chan with their mom, Tomona-san.

Kappazushi marks the end of homestay, but not quite yet..

One day, I was going to Namba with my Egyptian and Yemeni fellas and just when I slid the ticket in Namba station I accidentally met Tomoya, Hiroko's husband (Did you notice how many Tomo's there are in this family?). I had only met him and Hiroko for 10 minutes in the morning of the second home stay day. He was returning from work and was kind enough to take us to Dotonbori (where he has an accessories shop). There, accidentally also, we met with Mie-san, a program participant from Brazil (she is of Japanese origin, a nikeijin).

Two accidental encounters and a group photo.

When dad took me back to the Center after kappazushi, Mao-chan fell asleep in the car and I couldn't tell her a proper good bye. Tomoya-san told me that when she woke up, she cried. Aww! I was gonna meet the homestay family again in the last day, so I sent dad an e-mail telling him to bring along Mao-chan to give her a suitable farewell.

In the last day, dad and mom picked up Mao-chan from school before the school day was over and they took me to have lunch in Rinku-tower, the tallest building in Rinku-town (where the Japan Foundation Center is located) . Mao-chan gave me a letter and I gave her a picture book!

The view from Rinku tower, the tallest building around.

Osaka from above.

After an open buffet lunch where most of the food had pork or alcohol (i.e. i barely ate anything) and some nice conversations we returned to the center for the last time.

I think this answers the question: Who's your daddy?!

With mom and Mao (doing a cat pose).

That was the home stay related part. I feel regretful because I didn't take as much pictures as I wanted. If I had time I would have taken more pictures of the house and of Hiroko-san and her little Takuto, and of my room and the electric toilet.. Ah, zannen da na~!

But this is not the last time I will meet the home stay family, I believe. Dad comes to Greece and Turkey around 4 times a year and he and mom sounded serious when they told me that they will visit Jordan next time. They told me that every time I tried (and failed) to pay for the food and tickets. I actually brought with me a Japanese book about Jordan and they showed great interest in it.