Travelling to or living in a foreign country can sometimes feel a little daunting. After days spent lost in translation many find themselves missing home and family. Well, what if I told you that you can feel at home, bond with locals, experience authentic Japanese culture and customs not as a tourist from behind the closed doors but as a part of a family. Find your second home on beautiful Ojika Island.
The homestay program starts at 4 PM. You can explore the island on your own until then. Drop your stuff off at the tourist office located at the ferry terminal, rent out an electric bike and set off to explore the beauties of Ojika Island meeting friendly locals on your way.
At 4PM your host mom and dad will pick you up from the ferry terminal and take you home, where you can have a break. There you can get to know each other over a cup of tea. Once you feel rested your dad will take you out fishing. You will be fishing using sabiki for Japanese horse mackerel that the surrounding sea has plenty of. This style of fishing is very easy and even beginners can enjoy themselves having a full bucket of fish after just one hour. Your dad will be by your side the whole time making sure you are doing okay.
Once it starts getting darker it's time to head back home. Give your catch to mom so she can prepare it for dinner. You are welcome to help out in the kitchen and in case you are more interested in making local cuisine than in fishing you can choose to stay at home and prepare dinner with mom. Some of the dishes that you can make are: Kamaboko, Oshizushi (pressed sushi) and Tokoroten depending on the season. You can also learn how to fillet fish and make sashimi.
Gradually the dinner table will begin to fill up with various mouthwatering dishes to the point that there won't be any empty space left. You will be responsible for setting up the table while mom is working on some finishing touches in the kitchen.
Finally it's time to dig in! Being an island Ojika's traditional cuisine revolves around fish and sea products. A sashimi platter is a must on the dinner table. Most families have a vegetable garden so you will be served freshest vegetables too (you are welcome to harvest them together with mom).
Family stories will flow at the dinner table topped with family photos. Islanders are also very curious about their guests: their home country, local culture and traditions, food, etc.. However, none of the families speak English and as such a staff member from the local tourism office might join you for dinner to make sure there are no communication issues. After dinner you will be left on your own so it's a good idea to install a translation app on your phone and learn some basic Japanese phrases in advance.
Please note that you will be staying in a typical Japanese home: cozy and neat, but with a low ceiling and narrow staircases- WATCH YOUR HEAD! While you will be provided with a separate bedroom, the bathroom and toilet will be shared with your host family. Next morning you and your host family will eat breakfast together at 9 am, after which you will be taken to the ferry terminal where it will be time to say your goodbyes.
Your host family will wave you goodbye as you are taken away into the distance by the ferry. It's a great idea to exchange contacts so you can keep in touch even after you leave Ojika Island. Then when you visit again they will be waiting for you at the ferry terminal with a warm hug followed by a concerned "Have you eaten?".
You can reach Ojika Island via night ferry from Hakata in Fukuoka. You can also take the day ferry from Sasebo in Nagasaki. Conveniently, there are also speed boats travelling from Sasebo reaching Ojika in only 90 minutes.
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