>I lived in Japan for three years when I was a a young teen (military brat). While I was there, I met a Japanese girl six years older who spoke very little English (I spoke much less Japanese) through a Girl Scout “wider opportunity” program. I stayed at her house in Osaka for three days (about 300 miles from the Air Force base where I lived) which was the farthest I’d *ever* been away from my parents. I still can barely believe they let me go.
One moment I remember quite clearly was breakfast with her mother, father and her. They were serving grapefruit, and I had to look up the word for “salt” in my Japanese/English dictionary. I said the word, and they pushed the sugar bowl toward me. I pointed to the word in the Japanese/English dictionary. They stared at me, and pushed the sugar bowl closer. I tasted the white crystals in the bowl, and sure enough–sugar. I shook my head and pointed to the word again. They shook their heads and found me some salt, watching in shock as I shook it over the grapefruit half. (“Crazy American” I’m sure they were thinking.)
That was in 1976. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and still communicate (still with her English-as-second-language and my very horrible Japanese) via postal service and email. She’s on my mailing list. Her letters are a delight. This is a recent note I got from her when she received my latest newsletter:
How are you doing?
Thank you very much for your email.
I saw your web site “Read Moore”.
My daughter said “Mom! Debbie’s occupation is a novelist. She is cool!”
I think so. I’m proud of you.
Unfortunately,we can’t understand your books.
I want a translation book.
Hereafter, please write the brilliant book.
I always forward notes from Atsumi to my mother and sister because they are as crazy about her as I am. My sister read Atsumi’s note and replied:
Yes, hereafter, please write the brilliant book. I love the way she talks.
It’s probably a good thing that she can’t read your books. You would give that poor woman a heart attack.