Upon arriving at our school we were welcomed by the head of department of Japanese classes at the IFIE (Ishikawa Foundation for International Exchange). He gave us a short briefing about the day’s schedule:
1PM – Written and Oral placement tests
2PM – Short presentation of the study programme
2:30PM – Meeting of Host Families
3PM Buying train/bus passes with Host Family, departure for our new homes
The director gave me a local map with a few highlighted areas, suggesting we could visit the city a little bit before the placement tests. We left our suitcases at the IFIE office and left to explore the nearby shops. We decided to return to the train station where we had seen on the previous day a huge shopping complex adjacent to the bus depot.
Our calculation was right, the multi-storied shopping centre Forus was huge and so much more different from what we were used to back home. Every outlet had something interesting to offer, ranging from traditional items like kanzashi (decorative hair pins) to a CD/DVD shop offering the latest in Jpop and Kpop. Our favourite place however was on the first floor, nudged in between cake shops and omiyage stands: ゴールデンスプーン (Golden Spoon) ice cream parlour. Their yuzu sherbet was out of this world! We liked this shop so much that we got membership cards, on the first day.
We headed back to school and, after an introductory speech from our director and new teachers, we finally got to meet our host families. Everyone in the group had a different family, and lived in different places in the city. I was one amongst the group who lived the furthest from the school in a very quaint a sleepy little suburb called 桂町 Katsuramachi. My host Mom, Nakamura-san, took me on a tour of Kanazawa and showed me the route that my bus would take between her house and my school. Sometime later, we arrived ‘home’, had some tea together and talked for a while. I gave her my Canadian omiyage (a bottle of maple syrup and a book in Japanese about Montreal) before moving my suitcases into my new room.
Clockwise: The desk in my room, Nakamura-san’s backyard garden, View from my room (west), View from my room (east)
The first day was a bit awkward, as expected, but was a lot of fun. I got to visit (and live in) a traditional Japanese house as well as experience complete linguistic immersion without any means of support (dictionaries and grammar books are absolutely no help in day-to-day life). I will try to enjoy my time to the fullest in my new home for the next five weeks.