This Christmas, Pippa’s Guardians host families generously opened their homes to some of our Japanese students. Terri Norman and her family in Surrey hosted Takashi, who said that their big, busy family Christmas was ‘the best he’d ever had!’ The Norman family took Takashi to the switching on of the village’s Christmas lights in early December, and on Christmas day they had fifteen family members join them for Christmas lunch with all the trimmings; Takashi ate everything, ‘astounded’ by the food, before being showered with more thoughtful presents from Terri and her family, including the Guinness World Records Book 2018 and David Beckham aftershave!

Terri said; ‘Tak’s family kindly sent us some Saki wine and glasses, and Japanese sweets and delicacies. Tak actively and very enthusiastically joined in the games in the evening, including being the quiz master and mastering the reading of the questions really well!’

Takashi’s parents visited the Norman’s in the New Year, where they were made welcome with tea and shortbread biscuits and expressed their delight at the Norman’s beautiful home, and thanked the family for making their son’s Christmas a special and memorable one.

Takashi said: ‘We were so busy eating and enjoying an English Christmas dinner; I especially liked setting fire to the pudding with the lights off! We opened presents after lunch and played lots of English games which I really enjoyed and was good at them. The family were so kind to me and we spoke to my family in Japan too.’

Mao with Elaine’s family at their big Christmas dinner

Elaine Groenewald and her family hosted Mao over Christmas and said that ‘it was a pleasure having Mao who has quickly become part of the family.’ On the day Mao arrived, the family went to Snow Hill Garden Centre to choose their Christmas tree, which they decorated together. Elaine also took Mao to see local panto ‘Sleeping Beauty’, as well as Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, where Mao tried her first roasted chestnut!

On the 1st of January, Elaine took Mao ice skating in Reigate – always good fun!

Elaine said: ‘We went home to a family get together filled with lots of happy memories and scrummy Christmas snacks. We had our big Christmas dinner on the 24th so that everyone could be together. It was really lovely and again, holds lots of happy memories. I must mention the delicious Gayoza’s (Japanese dumplings) that Mao made for us; we bought the ingredients and she taught my daughter Katelyn to make them. They’re delicious!’

Mao was grateful for the lovely balance between going out and having fun with time spent at Elaine’s home studying alongside her daughters, and, like the Groenewalds, is looking forward to spending more time together at end of this month.

Yuki in his new England Rugby shirt

Yuki, stayed with Patricia Riley and David Martin; Yuki, who loves rugby, was treated to an international match – London Irish vs Stade Francais – at the Madjeski Stadium in Reading, as well as ice-skating with Patricia and her grandson, and on Christmas day was given not only an England rugby shirt in his stuffed stocking but also a rugby ball and a remote-controlled helicopter! Tricia and David said they loved hosting Yuki;

‘It was the first year for ages that there was no turkey left by 27th December! Yuki loved it. And he was fascinated by setting fire to the pudding! We also visited Cambridge and managed a couple of trips to London, and we made sure Yuki had as big a stocking as everyone else; he seemed really pleased with his presents.’

Yuki said: ‘I loved the Christmas Eve party with the grandkids, getting ready for Santa to arrive. I loved all the presents everyone gave me on Christmas Day. They made me feel part of their family. Christmas dinner was great, especially the turkey!’

Yuki is one of the Tazaki Foundation’s five academic scholars being looked after by Pippa’s Guardians this year, and scholars An and Rin also enjoyed their first English Christmases with their host families this December. An said:

‘In the morning I got lots of presents from many people who I have met only once or twice. It was surprising because I get a present only from my parents in Japan. The host family’s son visited and we enjoyed eating Christmas food and playing games. It was quite different from Japan as well since we tend to spend time with friends in Christmas. But I thinks it’s really good to see family and spend some time together.  I’m already looking forward to the next Christmas.’

And Rin said:

‘Spending Christmas with my host family became a very precious memory for me. Opening the presents under the Christmas tree, cooking the Christmas lunch together, going to the Christmas Mass, going for a walk after the Christmas lunch, spending time with my family … I was in the warm atmosphere every single moment I spent with them. And it was very different from Christmas in Japan, since some of my friends even had school on Christmas day.
My host family introduced me to a traditional British Christmas treating me as a member of their family, which kept me away from feeling lonely or missing my home.’

We’d like to thank our host families for all their fantastic hospitality and for making our Japanese students feel warm, cosy and part of the family in your homes this Christmas.