A few weeks ago I was exceptionally fortunate to have my entire family visit me in Hokkaido. My mom, dad, and three younger sisters made the 24+ hour trek to Hokkaido to see what my world has been like for the past two years.
I have been planning this trip since February. I organized every last detail, and although I knew I took care of things, I was still surprised that there was not a single problem the entire trip. Every reservation was there, no surprise fees were added, and the timing was just right. All the hard work paid off when I was able to host my family on our first family vacation outside of the USA.
They only stayed for about a week, but we made the most of that week. Highlights included taking a ropeway to the top of Asahidake Mountain, visiting classes at my school, watching my little sister Katelyn practice basketball with the Ryokuryo girls’ basketball team, going to the outdoor onsens at Lake Kussharo, doing a Japanese-style hotel bath, mountain biking in Daisetsuzan National Park next to an active volcano, and seeing a baseball game between the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the Nagoya Dragons in the Sapporo Dome.
Food highlights included a dinner with a few of my friends at an izakaya in Sapporo, a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, yaki-niku (Korean barbeque grilling) with my “Japanese Parents,” a very international potluck party in my tiny apartment, a mom ‘n pop ramen shop, and a visit to the basement of Daimaru where it’s packed with food stands and lots of weird things to try.
But most of all, I love that my family got a glimpse of what my life in Japan has been like for almost two years. They can see why I complain about the cold in the wintertime, they understand what I mean when I talk about how a student reacted to me today, they can put faces to the names of the friends that I talk about, and they realize how much I had to stretch outside of my comfort zone to live and work here. And, I did this all alone. At least they had me to show them what to do, translate for them, drive them around, explain why things are done certain ways, and help them with all the little and big things that one has to learn while staying in Japan.
They had a fantastic time in Japan and they saw a side of Japan that most visitors don’t get to see. If any of them want to visit Japan again, they will probably stay on Honshu and visit the areas more frequently visited by tourists – Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka – and have just as great of a time.
I'll be seeing them again in two months. I hope time doesn't fly too fast!
At the Blue Pond near Biei during our mountain biking tour
Mountain Biking in Daisetsuzan
Lilac Festival, Sapporo
At a baseball game in Sapporo Dome