Japan/America Society of Kentucky

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Japan Idol Contest Winner Returns to Japan

30 Jul 2010 8:08 AM | Deleted user

By: Natalie Berry

In 2006 I first experienced the hardest part of my job as an ESL instructor – the day a student’s three-year visit to America ends and they return to Japan.  This has now happened to me dozens of times with my students from the Hitachi Automotive plant.  Each time, I soberly accept that I might never again share a laugh and a hot cup of ocha (tea) with a student whom I have come to call “friend”. 

Ladies are usually so good at correspondence, sending pictures and cards at Christmas or the hot summer months to reinforce the distant friendship.  However, as anyone who has friends overseas knows, it is just not the same as being together.  And, well, the gentlemen are just not as forthcoming with those cards and letters.   It can be disheartening to watch the children I taught grow up in sporadic images sent via cards and letters.  I just know that as they have grown they have forgotten sensei (teacher), along with a better part of their English. 

As JASK’s Japan Idol contest winner in 2009, I received two round-trip tickets to Tokyo, courtesy of All Nippon Airways.  I invited my friend, Arleen Webb, who is half-Japanese and spent her youth in the Fusa-area of Japan.  Arleen also works with Hitachi employees and their families as an ESL Instructor.  She had not seen her hometown in over 20 years.  Both Arleen and I were anxious to visit Japan – Arleen to visit her home; I, to visit my former host family; and both to visit Hitachi families in Ibaraki whom we had taught.

Arleen and I cannot thank the JASK enough for the opportunity to make these visits.  We spent three days in Ibaraki.  Most memorable was the day the Hitachi families organized a party for us.  I think we spent the entire afternoon crying I do not remember ever crying so much in my entire life!  More than 30 members of the extended Hitachi family joined us for food and karaoke. 

The opportunity for me to reconnect with my host family was also unbelievable.  My host sisters are now in their teens they were nearly babies when I visited in 2002.  We are closer than ever after this visit.  This could not have happened without the generosity of JASK and ANA. 

Thanks to JASK and the Idol Contest, Arleen and I were able to reinforce these special relationships by visiting the hometown of Hitachi, where our students live.  I am also happy to report that Arleen’s home was still standing, although the city has sprung up around it.  The trip was an incredible experience for both of us, and one we will never forget.

Japan/America Society of Kentucky
464 Chenault Rd.
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 209-9630

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