You’ve seen the temples, the shrines, the castles. You’ve eaten your fill of sushi, yakiniku and ramen. You’ve rested your weary body in a ryokan or curled it into a capsule hotel. But the one thing missing from your ideal Japan adventure? Getting to know the locals and seeing how they live.
In Japan, it’s not common to entertain at home. Even Japanese friends will more likely meet up for a restaurant lunch than pop over to each other’s abode for a glass of wine and a good conversation. That’s what makes the Nagomi Kitchen program so unique – it allows you access to a Japanese person’s home. (And after four years in Japan myself, I can tell you this is not an easy feat to achieve!)
Nagomi Kitchen offers cooking courses, as the name suggests. But if you’d rather just focus on enjoying your food, then a home visit program is the way to go. On my visit to Tokyo last week with my mother, I thought this would be a great way for her to see a real Japanese home, not just my Americanized house here in Okinawa!
Nagomi Kitchen has a selection of host families – their profiles on the website list their interests and the dishes they cook. For my visit, I chose the Nishimura family, a family of four with two young boys who claimed to cook some pretty healthy fare (grilled fish, veggies, a meat and potato dish).
I received booking confirmation and directions pre-visit from the Nagomi Kitchen organizer, Megumi, but it was also followed by a personal email from Emi Nishimura, our host for the dinner. She asked if we had any food allergies and expressed excitement to meet us the following week. When it did come time for our home visit, Emi came to collect us at the Nishi-Magome station with one of her sons and led us back to her apartment, a short walk away in a quiet neighborhood. The conversation with her and her husband flowed quite easily – the Nishimuras, like all of Nagome Kitchen’s host families, speak very good English.
In our time in Tokyo, I took my mother to both a high-end restaurant (to celebrate her recent retirement) and a home visit meal. Remarkably, she is still raving about both of them! Emi’s food was delicious and the epitome of a typical Japanese dinner. We feasted on miso soup, rice with dried veggies on top, cucumbers in a sour dressing, potatoes and ground meat in a savoury combination and white fish baked in tinfoil with lemon and mushrooms.
Our visit didn’t last much beyond dinner (most visits last about two hours) but we left the Nishimuras feeling very fulfilled (and very full!). If you’re looking for the chance to step off the typical tourist trail for a bit or you just need a break from daily restaurant meals, Nagomi’s Kitchen homestay programs would be an excellent choice.
You can check out more on Nagomi Kitchen here.