5:45am: we crawled out of our beds, exposing ourselves to the crisp cool morning. Today officially marked our third day of our homestay, and we were loving it (excluding the early mornings). With breakfast in our stomachs (ranging from French toast to rice and fish) and over 4 layers of thermals on, we set out into the cold, eager to, and I’d never thought I’d say this, go to school on the holidays.
Three train rides later, during which “Neko Atsume” was played and explained to our host sisters (only the greatest game ever introduced to us by Katie), we arrived at Atomi: our home away from our Japanese home. Here, we were escorted by our host sisters to our own private room, where the Rita’s girls and our Lithuanian friend, Kotryna, would chat and unwind between classes.
And for some of us, that was our first lesson, where we would chat in Japanese (or try to) to Kotryna (she could speak English, Japanese and Lithuanian). So we discussed the essential issues of Japan, such as the explanation of Pavlova to Kotryna and the review of last night’s season final episode of ‘The monk who loved me from 9-5’ (or something similar to that); mostly done in Japanese.
After a while we realised a swarm of Japanese students were waiting outside our room, so of course we accepted their requests for photographs and autographs (which some did actually ask for). Most were previous host sisters who had stayed with us at St Rita’s, and all were eager to test their English with us, as we attempted our Japanese with them. We discovered this period was referred to as a ‘reunion’ lesson.
So after reuniting, Kotryna lead us to our Japanese lesson, where we gathered into groups with the Year 9 Japanese students, who explained to us the dishes they eat on New Year’s Day. In return, we discussed with them the course with which our Christmas lunches take place. After our Japanese lesson, we got geared up into mint green/baby blue “active wear”-a.k.a. typical Kath, Kim and Kel exercise gear, complete with the zip up jacket and tight shorts that go to your waist-for our English conversation lesson.
Our English conversation lesson somehow evolved into a game of soccer with 30 Grade 8 students, where our competitive alter egos blossomed. The soccer game proved to be more challenging than yesterday’s swimming lesson of floating. Atomi and Rita’s girls combined to form two teams. Our soccer game consisted of Team A vs. Team B; 40 girls, three matches; one chance to prove ourselves; and one winner. After a tough match, that winner ended up being Team A with the Team A Rita’s girls scoring some incredible goals (must have been the outfits).
We reluctantly changed out of these sports outfits, and joined our host sisters for lunch, where we felt like celebrities. Multiple people would take photos with us and shriek out when we would say “konichiwa” to them. Not to mention, all day, we were described as “kawaii” (cute). The paparazzi was after us as we ate our fried rice, omelette rice and potato salad from our obento boxes.
Yet we managed to escape from our fans and made our way to our music lesson, with one of our favourite teachers at Atomi, Mr. Tsuzuki, who gave us Christmas cards and sung Christmas carols with us and his class of Year 10 students. He was hilarious, and we all remembered him from when he came to St Rita’s with the Atomi students last year. He had made us want to join his choir. In a musical mood, we arrived to our last lesson of the day, where we listened to the hypnotic tune of the koto, a Japanese harp (of which we discovered was played during the game of Fruit Ninja). Our koto sensei taught us the Sakura tune on the koto, and we played it using long teeth-like picks placed on our fingers to strum each string of the koto.
Our school day was sadly over, and our backpacks were emptied of koala souvenirs as we headed towards the train. My host sister and I caught the train to the Christmas markets, which was a Japanese/German festival. We were quite hungry (as at Atomi there is no time for morning tea), so we managed to each eat a German sausage, a churro, several ball-shaped spherical pancakes, a hot chocolate drink and a few cheesy potato crisps. Our stomachs full and eyes drooping, we headed home.
We ate our nigiri for dinner whilst watching authentic Japanese game shows-possibly one of the best ways to end the day.