Knowing the difficult lives that my grandparents had here in Canada early on made me curious about the country they left behind. In spite of my staunch childhood declaration that I would never have any interest in ever travelling to Japan, I participated in the UBC-Japan Exchange Program, visiting Japan for six weeks when I was 20 years old. Boy, was that ever an eye opener! I absolutely loved my experience there and it made me wonder how different my life would have been if my grandfathers had not had the courage to leave Japan when they were both just 17 years old. I decided that if I were really serious about learning some Japanese, I should take a year off school and move to Japan. Thus, I enrolled for a year in the Asian Studies Program for foreigners at Kansai Gaidai in Osaka. I think it pleased my grandparents on both sides to have one grandchild who could speak and write some Japanese.
Four years later, I returned to Japan, armed with a B.Ed. specializing in Teaching English as a Second Language, as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. I taught high school English in the Kyoto area for two years before moving back home, at my father’s request, after my mother passed away somewhat unexpectedly. During my two years there, I really came to appreciate and value many aspects of the Japanese way of life such as humility, punctuality, meticulousness, consideration of others, quiet fortitude, etc.