Read From a Town on the Hudson Online
Authors: Yuko Koyano
From a Town on the Hudson
TUTTLE SIGNATURE EDITIONS
Osaki Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141-0032, Japan
Â© 1996 by Yuko Koyano
All rights reserved
LCC Card No. 96-60249
First edition, 1996
Printed in Japan
Jane and Gene Holben
my host family of twenty-two years
1 â¢ My Respected Professor
2 â¢ Moving to the United States
3 â¢ Schools of Their Own Choice
4 â¢ The First Two Months
5 â¢ Sumito Tachikawa and
6 â¢ Encounter with Sumo Wrestlers
9 â¢ Homework
10 â¢ A Fine
12 â¢ How to Refuse to Be Kissed
13 â¢ Hannah
14 â¢ Fairness
15 â¢ JFK
16 â¢ To Dye or Not to Dye
17 â¢ The Language Problem
19 â¢ The Needle with the Red Thread
24 â¢ At the Risk of Ones Life
25 â¢ Wings
27 â¢ A Long-awaited Opportunity
29 â¢ Driving
30 â¢ Friction
I AM SLIGHTLY hesitant to write about the beginning of my life because the place and the time in which I was born have made me feel a sense of guilt about the war.
I was born in China in 1946 as the fifth child of my parents. My father was a seaman and worked for a steamship company in Manchuria. The year I was born was a time of confusion and great scarcity of food after the war. I was a dying eight-month-old baby, just skin and bones, when my family returned to Japan in 1947. A cup of thin rice gruel my grandmother gave me saved my life. Until I was nine years old, I was weak and had a poor appetite, so I am small even today. I have not visited my birthplace since returning to Japan. Although the fact that Japan colonized China during the war makes me feel a sense of guilt, I long to see the beautiful city of Dalian.
I grew up in my father's hometown in Saga Prefecture, in the northern part of Kyushu. For family reasons, I moved to Chiba Prefecture in 1960 and then to Hyogo Prefecture in 1965. From 1965 to 1967, I studied English literature at a women's college in Kyoto. Following graduation, I worked for an insurance company in Kobe for about three years and then returned to Chiba Prefecture to get married to an old high-school classmate, Toshio Koyano, in 1970.
I gave birth to our first boy in 1971. My husband, who worked for a bank, passed the bank's test to go abroad for study in 1972, and entered the graduate program of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1973.
In 1974, our son, almost three then, and I joined my husband, who lived on campus. This was the first time for me to see America. Even though it was only a one-year stay, I met many fine Americans. Mr. and Mrs. Holben, among them, have been our host family in the United States since then. In 1975, we returned to Japan and learned that my father, sixty-one, had died seven days earlier. We resumed our life in Japan in one of the company's apartment houses in Tokyo. On Christmas Eve of 1976,I gave birth to our second boy.
In 1985, my husband was transferred to New York on business, and our family moved to the United States again, to live in Fort Lee, New Jersey. This was our second time in America. I had a problem with the language but no culture shock. The abundance of nature there fascinated me, the spaciousness gave me a feeling of relief, and American hospitality awakened something in me. I felt refreshed in everything I did, as if America had infused me with new life. If I could have spoken English fluently, I would have talked enthusiastically about both the United States and Japan to my American friends everyÂ day. As it was, however, I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself.
When I realized how little ordinary Americans knew of Japan and what negative, stereotypical images of Japanese most Americans had, I thought that even with my poor English I would at least try to convey my feelings to my friends. I had one more way of expressing my feelings: writing. I wrote a booklet titled "My Memories" to show my gratitude to my friends and sent it to them right before I left the United States in 1990. That booklet became the basis for the essays in this present volume.
After I returned to Japan, I wanted to write about more of my experience in the United States. In the fall of 1991, I took a creative writing class at Tokyo's Asahi Culture Center to learn writing techniques. However, my mother, who had been waiting for me to come back to Japan, became ill and bedridden. I couldn't attend all the classes, but it was wonderful to learn more about writing. My mother died in 1992, and in the summer of 1993, I resumed my writing. The next year, my father-in-law, who had been the center of the family, also died. For these reasons, therefore, it took me some time to complete these thirty essays.
I believe that my friendships with Americans kept encouraging me to write. Moreover, I have received much encouragement from my husband, who gave me the chance to see America twice, and from our two sons, who gave me many opportunities to be a happy mother in the United States. I must express my affection and gratitude to them.
I offer my heartfelt thanks to Ms. Heidi Frank and Mr.Â Bennett Walker, teachers at Margaret's Institute of Language in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture. Without their careful grammatical review, my readers wouldn't be able to accurately understand what I want to express.
I loved America and realized a greater love for Japan through this experience.