September 2, 2013
The other day I heard a previous homestay participant describe the Japanese dinner as “the most magical time of the day.” That’s a little dramatic, I thought. But after only three meals, I can think of no better way to describe it myself.
Around 6:30, various clinking and clanking noises begin to make their way from the kitchen as my okaasan begins the dinner preparations. My natural inclination is to document the action, to preserve the memory through pictures. But here I find those instincts subdued. I don’t want to ruin the magic happening just one room over.
I sit patiently on my computer as the symphony grows louder and the smells grow stronger. Occasionally, I’ll look up to observe the soft evening light as it slips away outside. I remember my journalism teacher once describe the sunset as “magic hour,” when pictures take on an entirely new dimension. I find this title fitting.
A quiet settles inside the room- a peaceful hush rolls over the neighborhood. Not a grumble can be heard from my anticipating stomach, which never seems to feel hunger yet is always ready for another meal. Again, magic.
Then the words of my okaasan when she enters into the living room, pauses with the slightest bit of uncertainty, and says, “Okay…bangohan…so…we go.” I follow her gesture into the kitchen where a small table sits adjacent to the countertop. Without fail, a beautifully prepared meal sits before me- main dish in the center, cups of tea on the side, chopsticks, rice, hot soup.
While I cannot communicate in Japanese just yet, what I can tell you is the name of every ingredient and every dish I have tried thus far. Gohan, macha, benishoga, tenkasu, buyaniko, ika, dashi, kobu, negi, kanto…the list keeps growing, as does my appreciation for this magical place I’ve found myself in.