Friendship is amazing and impossible to predict. Fumio has been my friend for over 30 years, even though I rarely write anymore.
We met as pen pals in the late 1970s, back when people wrote things called “letters,” which traveled by truck, train, boat, or plane and could take a week to arrive. :-) Someone wrote a letter to our local paper, asking for people willing to be pen pals with Japanese people who wanted to learn more about our cultures in the U.S., and to practice their English. I responded, and was matched with Fumio, who was a college student at the time.
We wrote back and forth, asking questions and sharing things about our lives. We sent each other photos, postcards, and books. Thanks to him I had a better collection of books about Japan than our local library. After a couple years Fumio and a friend came over with a tour to visit the U.S., so we drove down to Southern California to go with them to Disneyland and visit other landmark places. Our son was a toddler at the time, and very much enjoyed the Japanese doll and kite they brought; he still has the doll on display in his living room.
Fumio’s grasp of the English language was and is very good. English is not a logical language, and is difficult sometimes for those who grow up with it. His handwriting was very good and his spelling and grammar correct. I usually typed my letters, because I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to read my handwriting. :-) Once we were able to exchange emails, the conversations went much faster.
The most lasting legacy of our friendship is the way Fumio helped shape my thoughts, and those of my family. After we got to know each other, he asked questions about why I thought the way I did. I was against the hunting of whales; how would I feel if my husband, who was a fisherman, was told he could no longer fish for a living? We talked about spiritual values, and World War II, and political things. When I started to look at things through the eyes of his culture, I developed a better grasp of why I think the way I do. To acknowledge the pros and cons of mine and other cultures, and be respectful. After he married and had a family, we often wrote about what it is like to be a parent. One of my favorite quotes I learned from him is, “Time flies like an arrow.”
Fumio began reaching out to me through this blog. If you look at the comments under “About judithornot,” you will see a long string of posts from him. Often he quotes from books that have impressed him; he’s still encouraging me to think. I’ve also noticed that his comments are often read more than my regular posts. :-)
Thank you, Fumio, for your friendship.