Articles From the April 1994 Unification News


The Village Elementary School

by Kate Hirata-Osoko, Japan

Even though I still have a hard time understanding Japanese, when Terumi-san announced to me "Yuusuke no gakko no sensei ga Kate ni denwa..." I knew something was up involving myself and the village elementary school. (Terumi is my sister-in-law and Yuusuke is her seven-year-old son, who attends Togo Elementary School.) When my husband came home that evening he was able to inform me of more details. Sure enough, Ms. Nogi, Yuusuke's teacher, was inviting me to come spend an hour with her students and the students of the second- grade class-45 children in all. She wanted me to share with them my experience this past year adjusting to life here in the Japanese countryside. She felt it would be a great opportunity for the children to get in touch with, at least a little bit, a culture different from their own by spending some time with me, the only "gaijin" (foreigner) around for miles.

To me, the idea sounded great-if only it were someone else doing the sharing! I felt overwhelmingly shy at the prospect of standing in front of 45 children and trying to convey my heart relying on my extremely poor Japanese. I protested to Ms. Nogi that I didn't know the language well enough to communicate with the kids, but she was confident that I had mastered enough of the basics to have a good rapport with them. I had quite a few other excuses all lined up why I should refuse to go (I'd had a cold for the past three weeks, my throat was sore, I was five months pregnant, plus I had to look after my one-year-old daughter...) but I heard myself agreeing to her proposal with a quiet "hai" (okay). My heart knew: this is a chance to serve and to give love, and isn't that the reason I came to Japan? I'd faced this kind of inner battle many times over the years in trying to lead a public life, and always I found if I could focus on what I could give rather than on all my fears and doubts, then somehow God would lead me through. I counted on Him again.

When the big day arrived, the rain did as well, coming down in buckets after a week of beautiful spring weather. I wondered: is this a good sign? Anyway, out into the rain we ventured. Terumi and I were greeted by the principal. He immediately won my heart by expressing his frustration at how most Japanese children are taught to speak English. For example, English words such as "cat" and "sandwich" are pronounced "ca-to" and "sandoitchi" to the point where often I cannot tell when English is being spoken to me. He encouraged me to set up my own class for the kids in the village (a plan we have already been working on) so that they could learn how to speak from a native speaker. After our brief meeting with him, we went to the classroom to meet the students. I was still nervous and dreading the moment the door would open, but when we entered the room all my nervousness went right out the window (and into the rain, I presume). Forty five beautiful, smiling, giggling and whispering faces were staring up at me, and I could not hold back my joy at seeing them. It was a perfect audience. In the back of the room sat the principal and two teachers, but I tried not to look at them as I began explaining the feelings of loneliness, frustration and eventual joy and victory that have been a part of my first year in Japan.

After my little introduction (in VERY broken Japanese as always), we went on to sing a rousing version of "London Bridge is Falling Down," followed by a question and answer time. Their questions were wonderful. "How do you take a bath in America?" "What Japanese food do you hate the most?" "Why did you leave America to come to Japan?" "What's your favorite bug in Japan?" Finally, after all their questions had been answered, amidst much laughter on both sides, we had a quick English lesson. When our together was over, one by one the girls and boys came and shook my hand and thanked me for coming. Such smiles on every face!

I feel our meeting together held significance for our mission as Tribal Messiahs here in our village. Togo Elementary School is where we will be sending our own blessed children in the near future. However, it is also the school which my husband, his parents, his grandparents and great-grandparents all attended. It is truly a connecting point between past, present and future generations. Because of True Parents' determination to bring together the East and West, Togo Elementary could host its first "international" meeting, and the breaking down of cultural barriers has begun.


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