JII/OFP[#02] “We are now more than just Otonarisan – We are good friends who still keep in touch even though the program ended.”(Experience of the foreign-participant of OFP)

What made you join the OFP?

A friend of mine joined the program two years ago. When I told her about my struggles about understanding various things in Japan, she told me about the OFP. Even though I had lived in Japan for many years, I thought it would be very helpful to me. So, I looked up the JII website and joined the program. I was satisfied with that.

What made you decide to join the OFP?

Having a chance to be able to ask any questions about daily life in Japan was one of the reasons why I decided to join the program. Some systems in Japan, such as what you see in banks or post offices, are especially complicated to me. Even if I ask my friends for help, they are not always familiar with those things. Also, some systems are different for foreigners, so if a person already has some experience and knows how to navigate around these problems, I thought it would be helpful. Having a person who speaks Japanese and translates for you was very important for me.

When you first interacted with your Otonarisan one on one, how did you feel?

She was really nice, and I didn’t find any problem or any kind of disagreement with her from the beginning to the end. She has been very supportive all the time. I felt very comfortable and very safe with her.

How did your relationship with your pair change or develop during your participation in the OFP?

We became closer, and in fact, we decided to keep in touch even after the program ended. Now that I came back to Japan, we will probably go to some cafe or have lunch together because now we are more like friends than just Otonarisan. That’s very nice because through this program, you can also meet friends and you can develop relationships further.I think the relationship developed very naturally. In the beginning, of course we didn’t know each other, so there was some distance, but she was very friendly and I’m also kind of friendly, so it was very easy to break the ice. We didn’t have any problems getting  along and that was nice. Her personality was very nice so it was difficult not to get along with her. I think we were compatible from the beginning because I already liked the person when I first talked to her in a pairing meeting. The matching worked well from the beginning.

How did you interact with your Otonarisan for 6 months?

We interacted online and met up at a café or for lunch, so I would say it was about 50% online and 50% in person. We saw each other once a week. If it was online, we saw each other for about an hour, and if it was in person, for example, for breakfast or lunch, we met  for about 2 hours. In the future, I hope to meet her more in person. Back then, we  decided to do 50% online and 50% in person due to the COVID-19 situation. However, now that the situation is better, I want to see her in person more often because I think meeting in person has helped us build our relationship.

We talked about many things, such as our daily lives, my life in Japan, and my life in Italy before coming to Japan. Also, she has some international background, so she had a lot of things to tell me about her previous experience living abroad and her life after coming back to Japan. Her parents also live abroad, so she knows some struggles living in foreign countries. So, these topics were our common ground.

In addition to meeting up in person and talking online, when I had some problems, I contacted her on the phone to check some stuff with her.

What are some memorable events or things that made you happy during the interaction with your Otonarisan?

One of the nicest things we did was going to a café, which was actually a very beautiful place with a lot of flowers around. We had afternoon tea together and it was really beautiful with a really nice atmosphere. We really enjoyed the day. Another occasion that I remember  was when we went to a Mexican restaurant together. It was funny because both of us like Mexican food, but it had been a long time since we had it last. We really enjoyed it because it tasted well, and the atmosphere was very Mexican. These are the two most memorable moments.

Have you experienced any changes in your daily life or in yourself after participating in the OFP?

I think because of the OFP, I feel more confident that I can always ask someone for help if I have some problems. I actually feel more safe and confident about my daily life. Even though I now have a Japanese husband, I don’t want to always bother him with my problems. If I talk about my problems about my daily life to my husband all the time, we just talk about problems. When I talk to my husband, I would like to focus on other things like what we want to enjoy together, so it’s really nice to have another person who can help you. My Otonarisan became someone who I think of talking to when I want to consult with someone.

In what ways was your Otonarisan helpful for you?

When I needed to make a bank account, that was a very long process. Without her help, I don’t think I could have opened a bank account. The bank couldn’t send me a card for some reasons, but after I asked my Otonarisan for some help, she actually translated and showed me the exact words I had to use to communicate with them about my problems. When I used the words she gave me, they understood and allowed me to pick up my card. I was very grateful because it was a very long process and I needed to wait for a long time.

Please give advice to foreign participants who would like to participate in the OFP in the future.

I think they should understand that Otonarisan makes efforts to meet you and help you, so you should always be punctual. Also, if you cannot meet your Otonarisan for some reasons, you should message the person in advance because otherwise, it’s rude to not show up and make the other person wait and waste their time. I hope other foreign participants will enjoy the program as I did and hopefully, they will find friends here in Japan to interact with and learn about Japanese culture and daily life.

Do you have any message to your Otonarisan?

I want to tell her that I thank her very much for her help and I really enjoy our interaction!