My son Chris and I met in Tokyo on Saturday July 28, 2012 to begin a father and son tour of Japan echoing our travels together in Japan in 1993. Chris is currently an English teacher in Korea and he arrived on Korean Airlines at Haneda Airport while I had arrived from Portland on Delta at Narita a day earlier. We met at Ueno’s Hard Rock Café to have lunch with Hiroko Kawamura of Intervision International a distributor of European Television in Japan and my former 1980s business partner when we worked at Trans-Pacific Communications based in Portland and Tokyo. Hiroko had been our Tokyo based partner at the time and instrumental in assisting the first client I brought to Trans-Pacific which was KABC who had been referred to us through my contact at Cole and Weber. KABC took the AM-Los Angeles show to Tokyo in 1986 and Hiroko assisted the station make numerous contacts and obtain permissions for filming for a week in Tokyo. A special touch was the opening of the TV program with a Shinto blessing performed by our friend Shunmyo Masuno a Zen Priest at Kenkoji Temple in Tokyo. Hiroko first met Chris in the 1980s but she had not seen him since he was 12 years old when we visited Tokyo during our two month stay in Hamamatsu in 1993. At that time I coordinated an American summer program in Japan for High School students from southwest Washington State. Now we were meeting again after nearly 20 years. It was great to see Hiroko again after many years and a nice way to start our trip in Japan, one of meeting old friends and finding new adventures.
Here are photos of Chris and I with Hiroko in 1993 and 2012.
After lunch with Hiroko we converted our Japan Rail Pass coupons and departed by “Bullet Train” (Shinkansen) from Ueno Station for Fukushima City. I had visited Fukushima Province in the 1970s on several occasions when I was a student at Waseda University. My Japanese host family had relatives that operated a farm at Aizu-Wakamatsu and I visited the farm during rice planting in the spring and harvest in the fall as well as during the snow covered winter when we went skiing near Mt. Bandai.
In 1975 a college friend and I climbed Bandai-san in the spring after the snow melt and when rice fields could be seen in all directions just at the time of planting. Upon hearing of the Tohoku Eartquake I had followed the March 11, 2011 news of the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster with great interest and concern knowing people who lived in the area.
My friends in Japan reported that they were fine but some damage occurred to their houses and of course they were worried about the radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plants. My own plan to visit Japan in 2011 was cancelled as a result of earthquake damage to my company’s factory and during the year we monitored radiation reports and new stories from the area. It was during this time that I learned of a Pendleton, Oregon woman teaching English at Minami-Soma Fukushima who reported to the Oregon press on the disaster in the area. I had a chance to meet Kay O’Berg in Portland in July 19 just before her return to Minami-Soma from a brief trip home to Pendleton. We gathered at McMenamins Kennedy School with members of the Japan-America Society of Oregon (JASO) and participants in the 2011 Friendship Flight to Tohoku organized by Sho Dozono and Azumano Travel. Kate talked about her experience at Minami-Soma and the recovery efforts in Fukushima. One of the amazing traditions of the area is the Wild Horse Festival called “Soma Nomaoi” that includes a Samurai parade, horse races on a track, and a capture the flag competion on horseback. The festival has been held for over 1000 years and even following the 2011 disaster a reduced scale event was held to continue the tradition. In 2012 a return to the expanded festival activity was planned and thanks to Kate, and Mas Yatabe VP at Azumano Travel, and interested members of the JASO board, and Friendship Flight alumni the meeting gave all a chance to reflect on the significance of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster and what steps should be taken to support our friends in Japan impacted by the tragedy. A few of us had decided to visit Minami-Soma and see the Wild Horse Festival in 2012 in order to show Oregon support and gain a first hand understanding of the tragedy and the recovery taking place in 2012. I could not believe that it had been more than three decades since I had last set foot in Fukushima.