As an expatriate in Japan there is no greater gift than visitors from home. This year my parents could visit for the first time since before the pandemic started and it was wonderful to have them here again. Before now, they had visited Japan 15 times but it was their first time here in 4 and a half years. I feel very lucky to have family that wants to visit me and that obviously love Japan. Why do they love Japan? Why do they keep coming back year after year? Let me tell you briefly about their visit, and some of the things that keep them coming back.
Having visited Japan so many times, my parents have made quite a few friends here. Some of them are our neighbours, some are students, and a few are random people my father has chatted up while wandering the streets of Otsu city. My parents don’t speak Japanese, but have learned a few phrases and key words and yet they can communicate sufficiently well to develop relationships. I believe this is a testament to the excellent English education in Japan, as well as the cleverness and kindness of people. Humans love connections. In the past some of our students have visited my parents in Canada and my parents were happy to reconnect with them here in Otsu. Another group of our students plan to visit my parents in Canada this summer and so we arranged a couple lunch meet-ups to make plans with them. Our students and my parents could enjoy communication and planning face-to-face.
Food & Fun Restaurants
My parents love the food here in Japan. Everything is delicious and fresh and prices are reasonable, but more importantly there is a huge variety of restaurants here, each with it’s uniquely Japanese element. We visited a seafood restuarant where the menu has 84 items, with all items costing only 590 yen per. We went to a teppanyaki restaurant (grilling on an iron grill at the table) where we can eat okonomiyaki and yakisoba and so on. In fact, my father loves okonomiyaki so much that he has learned to make it himself and cooks it regularly at home in Canada. Of course conveyor belt sushi and seafood bowl restaurants and Korean BBQ shops are also favourites. This trip we could take my parents out for their first experience eating Japanese Shabu-Shabu (thin sliced meat cooked at the table in various broths and then dipped in salt or sauce) as well as a traditional Japanese course meal at our student’s restaurant. They loved it all!
My parents do not speak Japanese. My mother speaks French as well as English, and my father has learned set phrases in a dozen languages, but neither speaks Japanese. Over the yers they have wored hard to learn necessary daily expressions, such as please, thank you and excuse me. They are actually quite natural with those daily phrases! They also pick one or two expressions each trip to learn and add to their arsenal. In the past my mother learned “my grandchildren and clever and cute” (私の孫は賢くてかわいい) and “I can not speak Japanese” (日本語分かりません). This trip my father looked up the word for friend (tomodachi ともだち) in his dictionary and started adding it into sentences. For 3 weeks I enjoyed watching my parents communicating with their friends and our students using a mix of English and Japanese. The conversations were rarely perfect, but always wonderful and full of life.
Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture
As this was my parents 16th trip to Japan it is safe to say they have been almost everywhere. On past trips they often traveled by themsleves to other parts of Japan. Their favorite place to visit is Hiroshima, and they love Miyajima so much that my father actually started including the famous Itsukushima Shrine Grand Torii Gate in his t-shirt designs (he makes t-shirts for our boat racing team). But this trip we decided to stay close to home, visiting various places around Otsu city. We hosted a picnic at Zeze Castle Park which is a picturesque park along the Biwako lakeside. We enjoyed bathing at the local hot spring. We rented a car for a day and visited the prefectural library and art museum, located in an area known as the Cuture Zone. My mother and I enjoyed cycling along the lakeside. We visited the local shopping street and walked along the harbour in Otsu Port. I was reminded how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place.
I love my parents and family very much and always look forward to their visits. I can’t wait for the next time they can come to Japan. What adventures would you recommend? Please leave your suggestions for unique and fun places to go in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for a travel blog after our students visit my parents in Canada this summer.
Edward Iwaskow, Coach
Smith’s School of English Otsu