[OFP Interview #01] I’ve overcome my shyness to talk to Japanese people thanks to my Otonarisan!

What made you join the OFP?

I learned about the OFP from a friend who found it online. I thought it was a good chance for me to spend time with a local Japanese person because at that time, which was about a year ago, I didn’t have many Japanese friends. Also, even when I had a chance to communicate with Japanese people, I wasn’t able to talk to them because I was very shy at that time. There were some Japanese people at work, but we didn’t talk much outside work. I wanted to get used to spending time together with Japanese people so, I thought, why not try it?

How did you spend time with your Otonarisan for 6 months?

At first, we messaged online and then decided to meet up. We walked around and she took me to her favorite local places, such as local shops. I think it was the second time when she invited me to her house and I was able to spend time with her family. We played board games and talked about many things. From the next session, we met at her house together with her family. I was quite happy because I felt I was able to observe and really experience how Japanese people spend time at home. It was a good experience. I think we met at least once a month and each meeting was about 5 hours including preparing food, chatting after meals, and playing board games.

One of the things that made me happy was when we made” takoyaki” together. It was my first time making “takoyaki” from scratch using different ingredients. I was able to make one as well and we shared it.

My Otonarisan was very welcoming and friendly, so I was excited to meet her. It was my first time spending time  with someone like her. Since my Otonarisan is a mother, it was comfortable spending time with her and talking about anything. 

I also enjoyed talking with her children. They were very welcoming, and it felt different from talking to adults when they talked to me. They talked about school and what they studied, so topics were a bit different from what we usually talk about with adults.

Have you experienced any changes in your daily life or in yourself after interacting with the Otonarisan?

Now, I am more used to speaking to Japanese people and I am able to talk to them more actively. I think my Otonarisan really helped me because I am not that shy anymore. I exposed myself a lot to my Otonarisan and spent time with her and her family. Communicating in Japanese with an Otonarisan who doesn’t speak English and talking to four Japanese people in the family helped me overcome my shyness and I’m grateful for that.

As for the relationship with the Otonarisan, the more we spent time together, the closer we got, and I’m very grateful for her because she was able to make me feel like I have a family in Japan. I got used to speaking in Japanese, and learned what it’s like to be inside a Japanese house, how their daily life is, and how they spend their weekends. I also learned about manners such as how to hold chopsticks through observing my Otonarisan teaching  manners to her kids.

What advice would you give to foreigners who would like to participate in the OFP program in the future?

I think participants should know what they want from the program. Because I knew that I wanted to observe how Japanese people lived in their house, I communicated that with the OFP staff, and I was able to get what I wanted. So it will be helpful if the participants have clear objectives and communicate their needs with the OFP staff. I’m very grateful for being a participant of the program and I hope that many foreigners in Japan like me will try this wonderful and helpful program to help them get acquainted with Japanese language and culture.

I told my Otonerisan that I wanted to continue to communicate with her, but recently I have been busy and haven’t been able to communicate with her. However, I definitely would like to maintain our relationship.