December 2018


Our monthly online newsletter,"L'ESPACE".
L'ESPACE is a diverse French word that means place,area,cosmos,and gap.

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Chokkura Home Stay

- Nurturing the Capacity to Accept Diversity Through Domestic Home Stays -

In Close Up this month, we introduce Chokkura Home Stay. It is a non-profit organization which operates a domestic “study abroad” program, a short stay in the home of foreigners residing in Japan. With the aim to “mold global individuals” and “reduce the educational gap”, it offers free “Domestic Home Stay” programs lasting 3 hours to overnight in which junior and high school students can easily participate. Ms. Keiko Ishikawa, founder of the organization commented, “We offer the chance to experience other cultures so that the greatest number of children possible are able to nurture their capacity to accept diversity”. We asked her about the circumstances that led to the establishment of the NPO and to provide details on the Domestic Home Stay Program.

Ms. Keiko Ishikawa, Founder

Please tell us what led to the establishment of Chokkura Home Stay.

Ms. Ishikawa:

Experiences in my childhood had a profound affect and led me to establish an organization offering domestic homestays. When I changed elementary school in the middle of Grade 1, from the international school I had attended since early childhood to a Japanese elementary school, I was greatly impacted by culture shock. A mere child, I felt uneasy because the Japanese are so conventional. At the time the color of satchels was defined: black for boys and red for girls. In class it was mostly the teacher that spoke. Why were boys who chose pink ridiculed? Why did we have so few opportunities to ask the teacher questions? The uneasiness I had then, with the passage of time led me to conclude that perhaps Japanese need to acquire the capacity to accept greater diversity. Several years passed and I founded Chokkura Home Stay in 2014, an NPO offering a domestic homestay program in which junior and high school students can participate without hesitation. I believe that cultural exchange experiences can serve as an opportunity for kids to accept diversity.

“Study abroad” that requires neither visa nor passport,
so that any person can easily participate.
©NPO Chokkura Home Stay

During a homestay communication is in English.
What is important is the desire to communicate.
©NPO Chokkura Home Stay

Please share some details of the domestic homestay with us.

Ms. Ishikawa:

We offer the Domestic Home Stay Program of short duration to junior and high school students in the Kanto region. Basically, we assign first-time junior and senior student guests for a 3-hour homestay, and to returning participants an overnight homestay. Participants cover the cost of domestic travel insurance (500-1000 yen) and the return trip to the home of the host family, but the homestay itself is free. I launched free homestays in Japan to fulfill my desire to equitably offer the opportunity of cultural exchanges to the greatest number of kids possible. I want junior and high school students with limited budgets and who cannot study abroad, from single-parent homes and orphanages for example, to experience the delight of having contact with other cultures too.

Which kind of people make a host family?

Ms. Ishikawa:

We recruit host families mainly via SNS, such as Facebook. The precondition is that host families can converse in English when accepting a guest, so even people whose native language is not English can become a host family. Actually, not only are hosts from U.S.A. and Canada, but also from the non-English speaking world such as France and Bangladesh. I visit prospective host families to conduct interviews and verify the homestay environment. Currently we have about 20 host families in Chiba, Saitama, Tokyo and Kanagawa. All hosts families in this program are unpaid volunteers with many living isolated within a foreign community, and it seems many enjoy interacting with the Japanese junior and high school students.

Some host families plan events
for the benefit of the guests.
©NPO Chokkura Home Stay

The host’s children happily
playing with the guest.
©NPO Chokkura Home Stay

Can one still participate with poor English skills?

Ms. Ishikawa:

Yes, we are not concerned with the English fluency of participants. Though we ask simple English questions during the initial interview, it is enough to be an enthusiastic participant in the Domestic Home Stay Program. Primarily, the objective of this program is not to learn to speak English, but to experience a cultural exchange. It would please us if participants realize by interacting with host families the advantages of learning English as a communication tool. Until now we haven’t had any problems during a homestay, but we have received feedback from the host family commenting on the difficulty to maintain conversations with their guests. We think the problem is not the level of English, but the Japanese guests’ ability to respond and ask questions to keep the conversation going. To counter this, we elaborated a list of questions to present to the Japanese kids telling them, “Your host family may ask these questions”, so they can prepare their reply, and at the same time advised them to ask their host family the same questions in return. In addition, as a homestay assignment we ask participants to prepare a demonstration relating to the Japanese culture to present to their host family.

Making food samples.
Preparing innovative demonstrations
for the Japanese culture presentation.
©NPO Chokkura Home Stay

We heard there is a new 10-day domestic homestay program, is this so?

Ms. Ishikawa:

This summer we organized for the first time a 10-day domestic homestay program for high school students. This program is not free, we provided English classes for 5 weekdays in the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in Yoyogi, and charged for the cost of the classes. The instructors were 2 university students we invited from Oxford University in England. It seems it was a valuable opportunity for Japanese students, who learned American English in school, to have contact with British English and culture. The weekends were spend relaxing with their host families, and some participants accompanied their host families to gatherings at a U.S. military base or embassy. It was 10 days full of experiences. We would like to continue with the summer homestay program in the future as this can serve as an important source of revenue for our organization which has difficulty securing operating funds.

Are there any problems with the activities?

Ms. Ishikawa:

How to secure funding for the activities. Current revenue sources are the summer homestay program participation fee and the inscription fee if a participant chooses to become a supporting member, which is not enough. We would like to expand the scale of our activities to have more impact so as to reach our goal of “molding global individuals” and “reducing the education gap”. However, the dilemma is that with a larger scale comes greater operational costs and required personnel. Currently 10 university students help as volunteer interns with our activities. In reality, the internship is actually undertaken as part of molding global individuals. It would please me if the planning and operating of a small organization such as this one, would empower Japanese university students unaccustomed to voicing their opinions to have the resolve to confidently state their opinions and voluntarily dedicate themselves to tasks which interest them.

University students in support of the operation.
Dedicating themselves to diverse tasks as interns.
©NPO Chokkura Home Stay

A fun yearly gathering.
Host families and guests reunite.
©NPO Chokkura Home Stay

What future activities are planned?

Ms. Ishikawa:

The present objective is to increase the number of host families and expand the program at the national level so that more people can experience domestic homestays. Another, more distant goal in the future, is to one day offer the same domestic homestay program in developing countries. Foreigners from many countries, including Japan, reside in developing countries. If these foreign residents become host families and accept local youth as a contribution to the developing country…perhaps these kids, having experienced diverse cultures will later one day become leaders of the next generation who are able to solve problems of their own country. It is a grandiose dream but my ultimate goal.

※Chokkura Home Stay is seeking host families!
 For inquiries please use the form on the following URL:
 https://chokkura.org/en/hostfamily/appointment.php

Tokyo International Communication Committee

Ono Bldg. 3F, 17-15 Kandamatsunagacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0023
TEL:03-5294-6542 FAX:03-5294-6540