Visiting My Old Home

My former elementary school

I went to visit my former hometown of Fujiidera in Osaka on Tuesday with my family.  We even got to spend time with Yukako, my best friend from third grade.

This isn’t the first time I came back here, but once again I was struck by this thought: everything is so much smaller than I remember!  Just as I wrote in my memoir, From the Land of the Rising Sun — A Journey to Acceptance, Identity & Belonging,

“The house had shrunk! I could have sworn it was so much bigger. Maybe it shrank in the heat each summer, I thought, like wool sweaters do when laundered in hot water.

Front entrance to my old home

I was also shocked to see that the highway running in front of our house was now a quiet two-lane road. I always thought we lived on a major thoroughfare. I could still hear the huge cars and monster trucks that rumbled by. When I crossed the street at the corner signal, I had to toddle with all my might to make it before the light turned red.

Why is everything so much smaller?

Then it dawned on me. I was looking at exactly the same house on exactly the same road. I had grown bigger!”

When I was young, my family moved every couple of years.  By the time I was Josh’s age today, I must have lived in at least 6 or 7 houses.  In contrast, our kids have lived in one home.  With every move, I had to adjust to a new school, find new friends, and, in one instance, learn a whole new language.  My childhood was unsettling, although I didn’t realize it then.

Although Fujiidera is not technically my “home town” because I didn’t really have one, it is the last place I lived in Japan before moving to the States, so it carries the most vivid memories of my childhood.  It is also the place I achingly longed to go back to after our move to our high-rise apartment in New York:

“I used to stare out the window at the red bricks covering the building next to ours and wish so much that I were seeing sprawling rice fields instead. If I closed my eyes and imagined hard enough, I could almost hear my friend Yukako stopping by my house with her own kite calling out, ‘Asobimasho! Come out and play!’”

I saw adorable little children excitedly coming home from the first day of school, holding hands with their moms dressed in their finest kimonos for the opening ceremonies.  School year starts in April in Japan.  I found myself searching in the group of students for someone who looks like me from my own childhood — a chubby girl with bucked teeth and a friendly smile, a girl whose world came crashing down with her father’s pronouncement, “We’re moving to America.”

Green tea flavor of everyone's favorite snack. My gut feeling tells me that you'll like it!

If I had found that girl in the crowd of kids at Fujiidera Elementary, I would have told her that it is all going to be all right.  You’ll grow taller soon so your thighs will quit rubbing against each other.  You’ll wear braces and your teeth will be straight one day.  You will eventually learn English and, if you can believe it, the Japanese you speak now will have faded but for your mother who will badger you to always speak it at home so you won’t lose it.  You won’t like her for it at first, but someday you’ll learn to appreciate it.

As for your best friend Yukako, you will reunite with her someday and will spend a day together in the spring of 2012.  You’ll continue to make music you love so much and will come back to Japan to share songs you’ve written…in English!  You’ll marry a wonderful husband, have two great kids, and they will be with you on your visit back to Fujiidera.

Most importantly, you will meet a God who already loves you more than you know.  You will someday be introduced to Jesus, who will be your Lord and Savior.

And in Him, you will finally find Home.

In front of a Korean barbecue restaurant where we had lunch with Yukako and her son.

What is one thing you would tell your own childhood self if you had the opportunity?  Please share it with us in the comments below!

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