One of Aya’s friends, Kame-chan, just happens to live only 30 minutes away by train.  They have been friends since they were in middle school and now they both have kids.  And with her living so close to Aya’s parents, it was time for Ellie to have her first international play date.  Since Ellie had to miss Japanese School this month, I thought this could be a great substitute too.  Kame-chan’s son, Koutarou, is only nine months old and is just a crawler.  So Ellie and her rambunctious almost two-year old self, plus a crawler, two languages and some good food should make for a pretty great afternoon, right?

This was Ellie’s first train trip since our arrival.  She wasn’t over-tired and crazy freaking out.  She was excited, smiley and loved sitting on the seats while she looked out the window.  This was a short enough ride where we could gauge how she would do on longer trips so we could get a good idea on how much traveling around we could do.  This was a great intro for Ellie and she ended up doing great!

Kame-chan lives in a newer Japanese house which has a similar layout to a lot of the homes in the states.  It had an open floor plan with the kitchen, dining area, and living room being almost like one big room.  The house looked small from the exterior just because the houses are so close together, but the house itself felt very similar in size to my own.

Once we got to Kame-chan’s house, Ellie didn’t waste any time jumping right in to play with Koutarou’s toys.  Once in awhile she’d notice him, and then pet his head or peak into his face with a smile.  While I was amused with the Japanese toys and a Japanese house, “Oh wow!  Anpanman!  Oh wow!  Look at the fridge!” Ellie didn’t care at all.  Toys were toys, and as far as she was concerned this was just like anyone else’s living room.  She just played away.  And while the kids played, we ate.  And boy did we eat!

Kame-chan made, as Aya called it, “Japanese tacos.”  They were temakizushi, which were homemade sushi rolls.  You roll out the sea weed paper, spread some rice, slap on a fish or a vegetable, and roll it up.  This was just something she threw together for us.  Wow!  When I had my mom friends over for lunch, I just made pasta and baked a cake, and my kitchen looked like a natural disaster had occurred.  Her kitchen, on the other hand was spotless.  I was so full from this delicious meal, but I couldn’t stop eating.  Even Ellie liked it!  She had one with Nattou (stinky fermented soybeans) rolled in it.  She’s definitely embracing her Japanese half during this trip.  This was way better than Japanese School.

After a few hours, Ellie started getting her crazy-tired-face on, so I took her out for a walk so she could rest a bit.  When we got back, Koutarou was passed out too.  Whoa, two passed out kids, and still more food left.  YES!

While the kids were asleep, we started talking about the differences of raising kids in Japan versus the U.S.  Kame-chan was very surprised that Ellie has her own room.  It’s very common for Japanese families to all sleep in the same room for many years, and the concept of babies having their own rooms seemed shocking to her.  Not the same bed, the same room (just to clarify).  Also, the idea of crying it out seemed absolutely crazy to her.  But sleeping in the same room for many years seemed crazy to me.  And then maternity leave in Japan is typically a year, but in the U.S. it’s only 3 months.  What differences.  This conversation was all done through Aya translating too.

Poor Aya had to translate for the both of us.  Her mind rarely gets a break when we are here.  I’m always looking at her to explain everything to me.  I’m like a kid who just learned how to talk. What’s that a commercial for?  What’s that sign say?  What did he say?  What’d your mom say?  How do you say “donut” in Japanese?  I’m hungry, can we get a snack?

She doesn’t translate everything word-for-word though, and when she’s with her long time childhood friends, I don’t mind so much.  It’s nice for them to be able to catch up.  Plus, it gives me more time to focus on the food anyway.

Once the babies woke up, we had coffee and cookies, said our farewells and then we left.  We didn’t sing songs or do a puppet show like Japanese School, but Ellie sure got a good dose of Japanese.  It seems the two cultures offer some drastic differences, but really, at the end of the day, it’s all the same too.

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