Recently, I noticed Shiori, the Japanese student who has been living with us since September as part of a homestay program for college students, seemed a little sad. Shiori attends the University of Washington and is in an international studies program. She is our second student to live with us over the last couple of years and it has been great fun for all of us.
Anyway, I inquired if anything was going on. Shiori told me that day she was missing the Coming of Age ceremony in Japan, which is a national celebration for boys and girls who have just turned 20. This is a big deal, apparently, and it marks these young people as adults in the eyes of the Japanese.
She knew when she was planning her stay in the U.S. that she would miss this ceremony, but the significance of her absence didn’t really hit until it actually happened. All her friends were posting about their coming of age experiences on Facebook, and she was feeling sentimental.
When she heard this, my 11-year old daughter decided promptly, well, we would just have a ceremony right here in Seattle for Shiori! We decided to make this a surprise and right away, my daughter took the lead in planning the logistics:
- My daughter asked Shiori if she could eat dinner with us on the night of the ceremony (sometimes Shiori goes out with her friends on the weekend, so we wanted to make sure she planned to have dinner at home with us that night). Shiori was encouraged to dress up for a “special dinner”.
- Since it is a dressy affair- the girls wear kimonos and even the boys often do so too, but many wear suits- we looked for some material for Shiori to wear. I had bought some beautiful Japanese material years ago somewhere in East Africa (I have no idea where- I had bought a whole bunch of batik and tie-dye material back with me thinking I’d get some clothing made some day. The Japanese material somehow found its way into my stash.). We thought Shiori might want to wear it as a sash or draped over her shoulders.
- We planned a sushi roll meal for dinner, which included making sushi rice, and using the following fillings: mango, cucumber, avocado, crab meat, and omelet strips. Shiori made some miso soup for us as well, which has to be the easiest, fastest, and also an unbelievably delicious soup to make in a flash. We also had wasabi (not as good as the wasabi from the restaurants…) and soy sauce. I had special bamboo mats to roll the seaweed and its fillings and also little dishes for the soy sauce and wasabi.
And last, but not least, we had mochi for dessert!
- My daughter decided to do a speech as part of the ceremony. First she interviewed Shiori about her life. Her questions included: Describe your life in the U.S. What middle and high school did you go to? Describe your experiences there. How old were you when you went to these schools? She used the answers in a speech she wrote as the “mayor” of Seattle. Then she asked each of us (her dad, little brother, and me) what compliments we wanted to include in the speech.
- My daughter researched the translations for “Congratulations” and Shiori’s name in Japanese. She and my son worked together to make a banner for her that hung over the dinner table.
- My daughter bought some small presents for Shiori- assorted chocolates and lip gloss.
- We all got dressed up. It was fun for each of us to pick out a special outfit for the evening.
Shiori was very pleasantly surprised by the whole affair and had a grin on her face the whole evening! In fact, she posted on Facebook: “My host family held the coming-of-age ceremony for me! had a great dinner and amazing speech. They made me very very happy and I can’t say thank you enough!”
I was so proud of my daughter and moved by her compassion, caring, and empathy for this young woman.
Note: All pictures were taken by Shiori!