When I was still in elementary school one of my teachers informed the class that she would be able to procure penpals for us in Japan if we wished to have one. I eagerly signed up for the opportunity to communicate with someone from that land which seemed so far away. Before long I received a letter sent via air mail that was enclosed in light green onion skin paper with my name and address printed in lovely strokes. It was from my new penpal who was from Kyoto, Japan.
She was a lovely young girl around my own age. I was impressed by her ability to write to me in English, and somewhat embarrassed that I had no idea how to use the Japanese language. I eagerly sent a response along with a photo of myself. It took time for each letter to reach across the expanse and back, but our correspondence nonetheless was extensive. Before long she had even sent me a package with a lovely book that was all about the city where she lived. The photographs were enchanting and I found myself longing to visit there one day and going to see her in person.
I cannot say for certain what happened to our correspondence. Somehow it just fizzled out. Each of us began communicating less and less frequently until no more envelopes came in the mail, and I was so busy with other things that I did not feel compelled to enquire about why this had happened. I suppose that my youthfulness was more prone to inconsiderate behavior than it would have been today. I simply let our penpal friendship go, and evidently she was content to do so as well. Perhaps we had become bored with one another or maybe we just became busy with being teenagers in high school. Hopefully nothing tragic happened to her. Whatever the reason, our long distance friendship was over.
I kept her letters and the book that she sent me for quite some time, but eventually tossed them. Now I can’t even recall her name, even though I am still able to see her face and those lovely views of Kyoto. As I have grown older I regret that I did not try harder to keep our communication going strong. I would love to have her name and her address. I am sure that she eventually married and may no longer have a connection with her former home, but I would at least have a way of seeking her if I had those bits of information.
I would still love to visit Japan one day, particularly Kyoto. I have a friend who lives in Tokyo and she posts the loveliest photos and stories about the Japanese people and the care that they take in making life so very special. She continually visits unique shops, restaurants, gardens. She takes classes to learn calligraphy, Japanese cooking, different painting styles. She is totally immersing herself in the culture while she can, including wearing traditional clothing and honoring national customs. She has fallen in love with Japan and its people and so have I through her incredible stories and pictures.
I don’t know when international travel will be safe again or even when other nations will trust Americans not to bring disease to their shores. I want to visit Japan one day, but I want to do it when the citizens will be more open to my being there. I long to experience the art and culture and grandeur of this beautiful land. One of my first stops will be in Kyoto which, according to my friend and her images, is as lovely today as it was when my penpal shared the love of her city with me.
I have never been a fan of sushi but I would not only want to try it while in Japan but I would also enjoy learning the techniques for preparing it in my own kitchen. I might become an amateur sushi chef for my grandchildren who are huge fans of the delight. I suspect that if prepared with care and the right ingredients it is indeed quite tasty. I want to know the proper ways of doing there and there is not better place that Japan to learn how.
The Japanese take so much effort to make even the smallest things a lovely experience. They take time to fold a napkin just the right way. They put love into a single cup of coffee. It’s little touches that differentiate so much of what they do, their dress, their art, their food, their homes, their cars, their appliances. There is a difference in quality that is worth any extra cost.
I suppose that I will never again find my penpal. I hope she knew how much I enjoyed hearing from her. I pray that nothing bad happening to her. I truly want to believe that she has had a very good life. I can’t think of a more beautiful place that Kyoto to fulfill the dreams that she had. I’m truly sorry that my immaturity abandoned her so blithely. I wish that I might tell her that I never really forget her. She was a light in my life. I wish her well.