Omotenashi – Japanese Hospitality

This past week at the Nihon Programme (more about my time can be found here and here) has been another delightful one. There has been some really nice weather (‘Ī tenki’ in Japanese), so I have really appreciated the old-buildings-near-a-river aspect of Cambridge. One of the days this week there was lady singing gospel music from Sister Act 2 in the centre of town and the combination of sunshine and singing always makes for a happy happy moment.

I also had a lovely visit from the wonderful Katherine (her blog is here) and we had a much-needed catch up around the Botanic Gardens, ate lunch by the river, successfully ended Katherine’s lack-of-Cambridge-coffee-shop-visit withdrawal symptoms with a trip to Sticky Beaks, and also mysteriously found ourselves in a toy shop.

On Wednesday, I watched Bake Off with some of the students, who loved it and changed from disbelief that an entire show would be about cakes, to gasping at the cakes produced and completely feeling the tension of the judging. I am really enjoying being able to introduce them to different things that I would take for granted that everyone would know about here. And, whilst I’ve introduced them to Bake Off, ‘Unbelievable- I so stunned like vegetable’ and ‘John, the 3-Year-Old Sprinkles Trickster’, I now know Japanese card games, have eaten a lot of Japanese snack items and have a J-Pop playlist on Spotify. I am really enjoying sharing in different parts of our cultures.

Last night, we had a talent show which included getting made-over in a set-up much like that of the ‘Not my Arms’ YouTube challenges (the photo on the bottom left is all you need to see), and a special PA performance of AKB48’s ‘Fortune Cookie’ complete with matching blue and white clothing. My favourite performance was ‘fishing’, in which one of the guys wore the most spectacular angler fish hat that I have ever (and suspect, will ever) see, and explained the different ways to catch fish. I went over to him afterwards so I could have a closer look, and was amazed to find that his hat is made purely from paper. On the inside was the receipt from the Post Office for the UK fishing licence he went and got – I maintain that the invention and detail in his creations is absolute genius.

Sadly, after the talent show, I had to say a slightly tearful farewell to Mizuki, a PG (postgraduate student) who left today. I have only known her a short amount of time but it was really sad to be saying goodbye. She gave me a really beautiful card which I am very thankful for – and I know I will miss her not being around. How blessed I am to have made such a good friend over the course of just a few weeks!

Luckily for me, I had the promise of a Japanese curry to soften the blow of a hard goodbye. Head Chef Kyohei did a grand job of cooking, and the fact that four of us managed to eat two saucepans of curry and all the rice and noodles is a tribute to how tasty it was.

Ah, the ‘so much good taste’ (as Kenjo says) of omotenashi!

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