"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blessed in unexpected ways: Old friends

Masako Fujisaki, 95, and grandson Ken.
     We reconnected with old friends, too, friends from my childhood (ages 7-10), friends from my teens, friends from our years of sailing (ages 10-14) and our years of peace activities (14-18)--people from very different eras of my life, intermingled.
      In Tokyo we had lunch with Masako Fujisaki, 95, who was a close friend of my mother's back in the fifties when we were living in "Rainbow Village," the American-Australian Army base near Hiroshima. 
     She had three young daughters and an even younger son back then. Her daughter Noriko and I were nine. (Noriko died when her own children were young.) My mother's book Emily San is based on the Fujisaki family and the fun we had learning each other's languages. 
     Mrs. Fujisaki's grandson Kenichi (Noriko's nephew) brought her to the Friends Center in an SUV from her home an hour's drive away and she spent our time together, as she always does, wiping away tears and saying in English, "Oh, if only Noriko were still alive!" "Oh, if only your mother were here!" and "You look just like her." She is the sweetest lady and I probably won't see her again until heaven. (She and her grandson are Christians, the only ones in their family.) 
     Her daughter Noriko, all dressed up, stood with us in family pictures at the launching of the Phoenix. She was much cuter than this depiction of her. I'm trying to find the pictures. (Photo goes here.)
Friends Center, where we stayed in Tokyo.

     Other friends I didn't remember so clearly.     Also at the Friends Center we connected with Mitsuo Otsu, whom I'd known as a teenager when I taught English. He has been a loyal friend over the years, not corresponding much but remembering everything about me and how we met, while I am hazy about much of it.

Mitsuo Otsu, next to "Friends Center"sign he painted.

     He has taught at the Friends School next door to the Friends Center for years and is now an administrator there. 
     I didn't know he is also an award-winning calligrapher. He brought us a scroll he had lettered, a Chinese poem about how, in our eagerness for spring to come, we break off plum branches that aren't budding yet. (Photo goes here.) When we got to Hiroshima, I showed it to Dr. Morishita, the calligrapher for Mum's monument and I could tell he recognized its value.

I think one of these may be Mitsuo Otsu (c. 1963)
     I re-connected with two other English students I didn't know I'd had as a teenager when we got to Hiroshima. The morning of the ceremony, we had been sitting around the table at WFC which I showed you yesterday and for the first time since I taught the class, I described teaching English conversation to the employees of the Toyo Pulp Company when I was 17. It was a cushy job, not a job at all, really. I just sat at the head of a long table in a big meeting room and chatted in English with Japanese "salary-men" and women. They loved American colloquialisms and had lots of questions. It was fun for all of us. At the end of each week I got a big check and turned it over to my dad, since I was living on the Phoenix and had virtually no expenses.
     That very day an elderly man approached me, among all the people who approached me, with a confident smile and "Remember me?" I wouldn't have if Michiko hadn't prepped me that Mr. Sera from Toyo Pulp would be there but I was able to smile, hold out a hand and say, "Mr. Sera!" Whew. Thanks, Michiko!
     That night the ceremony was covered on NHK TV. The next day Jerry, Tony, and I came home from shopping on the Hondori and a woman I didn't recognize was at WFC waiting for me with obvious anticipation. I didn't recognize her even after she handed me her business card reading "Tokuko Kikkawa." She said she had been one of my students at Toyo Pulp.
     We sat in the room with Mum on the god shelf while she told me in halting English that she had seen us on TV last night and had persevered until she found her way to the WFC where we were staying. She unwrapped her furoshiki, a square of cloth which forms, when the opposite corners are tied, a convenient container for bundles of any size and shape--I commented on it, not having seen one for years--and brought out, holding one at a time in both hands as if they were sacred, a letter I had written her 40 years ago after Ben was born and a card announcing Becky's birth three years later. I didn't even remember writing them.
Maybe this is the Toyo Pulp English conversation class.
     I was sorry I had forgotten her. She was so apologetic that she had not brought me a gift. I said it didn't matter, that she was the gift. I borrowed her pen to write down something she told me and she urged me to keep it. I told her a pen was a perfect gift for a writer!
     But an hour or two after she had left she returned with two gifts wrapped in paper from a famous department store. One of them was a furoshiki.
     I was just a kid enjoying being a big shot. I didn't deserve such faithful friends. On the other hand, I knew a lot of Japanese people and I was probably the only American many of them knew. I console myself with that thought. 

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