Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Memories of Japan

His name is Yoshihisa Yamada. The Japanese characters that make up his name can either be pronounced Yoshihisa or Miku, so he suggested we call him Mickey or Mike and so Mike he was to us. He was a foreign exchange student who lived with me my senior year in high school back in the mid 70s. He spent almost 12 months living with my family and me. We welcomed him into our home and he learned about American culture while we learned about Japanese culture. 

His first night, he asked how to use a bed, as he had never slept in one before. Later in the summer, when we were having Tacos, he stated, quite enthusiastically that he loved Tako. He was rather disappointed when the Tako (Octopus) didn't show up on the table. He introduced us to Tako, and tempura and cooking with Sake. He became an honorary cheerleader at our high school that year, dressing in typical Japanese garb for each football game and basketball game that year. 

We introduced him to Disneyland, hamburgers and camping. That year, we camped twice at Yosemite National Park and he ran to the top of Nevada Fall along the Mist Trail. That trail is extremely slippery and tough just to hike, let alone run. On the second camping trip, he ran to the top of Yosemite Fall, just because he could. 

He and I both cried when he left the following summer in mid July, just after our country celebrated its bicentennial. We exchanged letters over the first couple of years, but then life seemed to get in the way and we lost touch. He called the morning my sister got married and we all talked with him. He'd lost a lot of his English in those last 6 years and it was difficult to understand him at times, but he still sounded like Mike. 

I have tried over the years to contact him, using all sorts of Internet search engines. His name is a rather common name in Japan and I haven't been able to reacquaint myself with him. 

His family is from Morioka, just north of Sendai where the earthquake hit this past weekend. Unfortunately, I have no idea if he still lived there or somewhere else. Needless to say, he's been on my mind a lot this past week. I hope and pray that he is safe and that his family is also safe. He would be 53 as of last December.


Erika Jean said...

We had two exchange students from Japan, I've been think a lot about them in all this tragedy as well. We also have lost, found and lost contact again with them. Keeping your family in my thoughts! No matter how long it has been they are still family.

Just John said...

What a powerful post. I hope that you get back in touch with your "tomodachi" and that he is ok.

Won't it be a profound twist of fate if a horrible disaster ends up bringing you back in touch with an old friend? I'm rooting for you and Mike!

chaosmanor said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Paul. There were several exchange students at my high school. One of them was from Iran; no idea what's become of Saam, but I can't imagine that it was good, no matter which side he wound up on :-( All of Japan is in a world of hurt right now; good thoughts go out to them every day.