Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dating in Japan: Meet the Parents (part two)

Mea culpa, kind readers. Despite August's image of being an empty time spent listening to the shrill cry of cicadas in the heat, I have been busy (and partially defeated by the weather).
After first freaking out about the potentiality of meeting Matcha-kun's parents way back in December, I eventually chilled out about the whole thing. Since I would be using a few days during Obon to escape to Hakuba, we decided that it was time for the day of judgement (dun,dun,DUN!... just kidding).
I am happy to say that it was pleasantly uneventful and non-traumatic for everyone involved. Matcha-kun's mother was friendly, his father only slightly bemused. I was then taken around to all the various grandparents... apparently they did not tell one of his grandmothers that I am not Japanese, as a surprise. She was only slightly taken aback, and further confirmed my theory that grandmothers all over the world are basically the same, when she pronounced 'お人形さんみたい!' ('you look like a doll!'... which is exactly what my grandmother does).
I got a tour of his family's apple orchard, which was  rather cool, and even received one of the semi-ripe apples (which was surprisingly tasty and sweet!). All in all a good visit, and it seems I made a good impression. For anyone else preparing themselves for this kind of situation, I think there are a few pointers that would be helpful (independant of nationality):

1- You don't need to alter your style dramatically, but go with the most simple, moderate side of your looks.
2- Come bearing gifts. Keep them small and edible, as anything too flashy will make people feel uncomfortable.
3- Obviously (I hope) be polite, and answer odd questions as kindly and seriously as possible (for example: 'Do you have tatami floors in Europe?' or 'Do you eat jam?')
4- Your significant other's family is probably just as nervous as you are, so do your best to relax.
After the niceties had been completed, we went into Nagano city to see Zenkouji, wander the preserved Meiji streets and (of course) have the famous local soba for lunch.

Zenkouji is a rather impressive temple, reminiscent of Todaiji in Nara with its dark wood and thatch. The street leading up to the temple has a wealth of lovely Meiji buildings (the Gohojin hotel is particularly pretty), as well as smaller temples which serve as lodgings and (very importantly) many shops selling my beloved oyaki!
Soba in Nagano is serious business. I had 'karashi soba', which I have never seen anywhere else. The broth (which looks vaguely disturbing) is mainly shredded daikon and miso, so has a nice kick to it.
 After that we hopped on a bus to Hakuba, which I will talk about later :)


  1. You're a pretty good photographer, I particularly like picture 5 of 7 with the silhouetted people under the bunting- well done.