5 days ago, I left Tokyo, a city infamous for its bustling streets, crowded stations, and neon lights. I drove through countless mountain tunnels, passed thousands of trees, all with one location in mind: the town of Kawane.
Hi, my name is Espi. I’m 16 years old, and until 5 days ago, had never lived outside of a city. I have always been around people. Constant noise and jam-packed streets had been my norm for as long as I could remember. I had never been able to see the stars at night, or been less than walking distance from a supermarket. Until this week, when I drove, duffle bag and 25 days worth of items in tow, to Kawane, a small town of 6,000 people in Shizuoka Prefecture for my 4 week long homestay.
When I arrived in town, 3 hours after my departure, I was shocked at the amount of trees, and the size of the houses here. Both of these things my host mom thinks are very funny, as she grew up here. Having lived in Tokyo for the past 4 years, my sense of house size is extremely skewed; seemingly small countryside houses are massive to me in comparison to the shoebox sized apartments I’m used to.
Immediately after dropping my bags off, I went to the kids club to meet my host mom, who volunteers there a few times a week. The kids club is an afterschool program for elementary school students whose parents work until 5. The kids get picked up from school, and spend 3 hours at the club. Homework time is mandatory for 30 minutes, but after that, they are allowed to play until pickup. One of the most defining moments of their time at the club is snack time. At 3:30, homemade snacks are passed out, and after saying, “Itadakimasu!”, kids and volunteers alike enjoy the delicious assortment of snacks.
My host mom, Mrs. Yamada, also happens to be one of the main cooks at the kids club. Everytime we go, she spends over an hour preparing and making the snacks. The first day I arrived, she made potato salad, and then cut 2 types of bread into smaller pieces, evenly distributing them on 30 plates.
Ironically, despite it’s Western origins, potato salad is a staple in a Japanese diet, with each family and prefecture making it differently. As you can see in the recipe linked below, Kawane potato salad is much lighter than those commonly served in Tokyo, and the refreshing recipe reflects the agricultural roots of the town itself.
Kawane Potato Salad Recipe:
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 can tuna
- 2 potatoes, cut into eighths
- Salt and pepper
- Cut potatoes into eights, and place in lightly salted boiling water for 10 minutes, or until mostly soft.
- Cut cucumber into extremely thin slices while you wait.
- Once potatoes have softened, wash under cold running water, and mash in a large bowl. Mash until almost all large chunks are gone.
- Add in sliced cucumber and mix for 1 min.
- Add 1 can tuna and mix for 1 min.
- Add mayonnaise as you’d like, and mix until Potato Salad becomes a creamier texture.
- Finally, add salt and pepper as you’d like, and serve!
As I continue on this adventure, I can’t wait to share more details and recipes! Kawane provides so much insight into Japanese culture, cuisine, and lifestyle, all of which enthralled me. My next post will be in a few days, I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned!