Local's voice Takashi and Hidemi Yoshida

Takashi and Hidemi Yoshida

We luckily had an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Yoshida who got interviewed from Japanese TV programs and newspapers several times. Hidemi Yoshida is known as "the mother of Japan" and exchange students from all over the world visit them.

Q. What made you start interacting with exchange students?

The first time I met the exchange student is around 2011. I met the one from Taiwan at café. I invited his at my house so he could talk with my wife who can speak Chinese.

My wife came back to Japan from China after the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, but she could not speak Japanese because she lived in China until junior high. Once that exchange student came to our place, he invited his friends, and his friends invited their friends. Before I knew it, there are enough people to throw parties. Lately, it seems like the graduated students introduce this place to the new students, like handing over the information.

We often throw parties. The ones who attended several times, they eat the food and lie down at my place! I told them “once you step into this house, feel free to spend time like you are at home”. The original though was when my wife came back to Japan she had a hard time because she could not understand Japanese, and just like my wife exchange students must have some struggles. I want to support them so I am throwing parties. They are from several countries so we make Japanese food and they make their local dishes in our kitchen. They bring their local spices so we can eat real local foods like Thai, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and so many other dishes. I did not feel comfortable at first, but now I enjoy everything. I have never thought that I could eat so many local dishes from other countries in Higashikawa. We do hot pot parties in the winter. We enjoy this more than anyone and this is the energy to live our lives.

Q. Any stories with exchange students?

There was the one who cried all of the sudden. I asked her what happened and she said she wanted to go home. It is hard to leave the family and go overseas all themselves, so we want to be their second home. This is why we are doing what we are doing.

One of them liked our place and came visit us at nights. Maybe she could not get along with lots of people. We spent time together chatting for the first couple of times of her visits. She spent a time here everyday so we became like a real family, and we did not even chat anymore, but we just watch TV together, like what a family does.

We teach regional accent of Hokkaido. This accent is really unique. The exchange students remembered one or two of them and using them. Especially for girls, I always teach them “Namaramenkoine (very cute)”. It is not the language school, so they do not have to remember. So they learn Japanese at school, and accent at our place!

It is sad that when the graduation is getting closer. The students would come visit us when they graduate, and we also cry when we say good-bye at the front door. We have the strong relationship with them.

A list of words in Hokkaido dialects

Q. You have lots of pictures in your room.

We did not expect that a lot of exchange students would visit us this much. We put the pictures in order of their visits on the wall, and now they are all over the wall. I have more pictures. I take pictures and print them out right away, and give them to the exchange students. I bought a new printer three times. I love them to visit us and it is really fun!

Q. Do you still contact with exchange students after they graduated?

Yes we do! One time, exchange students brought our “family”. Several students met up and visit us, so it was really busy during the winter break! In January, students who already graduated and also students who are on winter vacation visit us almost everyday. One student is calling international call regularly even though it has been a while since he graduated. It makes me happy that he asks me “How are you doing” and cares about me.

Q. The exchange students cheer us up.

Some of the exchange students can play instruments, and they play them at my place. They teach us their local dishes and about their own cultures, and they make our lives interesting! We did not expect that we would hang out with this many students. More than 1,000 exchange students visited us since 2011.