With return to Japan, wish is fulfilled


November 16, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

By Dolores E. Pike

Was it Thomas Wolfe who said you can't go home again? Despite that sage warning, many of us try to go back to that place that isn't really home, but a place with warm memories of people who were once a part of our lives.

Returning to Japan had been my husband's dream since the early days of our marriage. He wanted to share the country with me and have me meet the people who left a lasting impression on him. It took many years, but Bill finally got his wish.

Our trip started in Tokyo, where Bill had been a draftsman at Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters after World War II.

In Tokyo's Hibiya Park, an oasis of green in the middle of the city, we discovered the people my husband fondly remembered: schoolchildren sitting around the central fountain and drawing pictures with their crayons, and gardeners replacing the plants of summer with fall chrysanthemums.

We ate our lunch on a park bench like many of the office workers, and talked with a retired Japanese officer who served in his country's navy during World War II.

The last stop on our tour was the ancient city of Kyoto, home of 2,000 shrines, but we only had time for one of them. We selected Sanjusangendo, which means "hall with 33 bays." This Buddhist temple is the length of one-and-a-half football fields and is lined with 1,001 statues. The 700-year-old figures are carved from wood and plated with gold leaf.

Near us on the temple grounds, a group of teen-age boys clustered around a young man in his 20s. The young man approached us.

"Excuse me," he said in perfect English, "but my students were wondering if they could practice their English with you. They are very interested in America and would like to ask you some questions. We are on a class trip from our high school."

"Of course," my husband said.

As we traveled around Japan, we noticed the fascination of Japanese children with Americans. In Tokyo, the children would shyly glance at us. In the smaller cities, they simply stared.

The teen-age boys came over and began their questions: "Where do you live in America?" "What do American teen-agers like to do?" "Who are their favorite movie stars?"

When they ran out of questions, my husband indicated he wanted to take their picture. The boys smiled, took my arm and made me a part of the group.

Now, whenever I look at this picture, my eyes are immediately drawn to the contrasts. I see people from two strong nations that once warred with each other. I see a grandmother from America in her bright yellow sweater and schoolboys from Japan in their dark uniforms. I see the past and the future.

Dolores E. Pike lives in Berlin, Md.

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Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

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* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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