77-28 Kitsunemorikita Gonohe Sannohe Aomori Japan 039-7518(?) , this was my home address for two months(mid June-mid August 1991) when then Mayor Kawasaki (I call him my ‘otoosan’ too) invited me to visit my hometown’s (Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya) sister city Gonohe, Aomori. I will never forget the kindness of my adopted family – the Yonenuma Family – ‘Otoosan’ Eiichi, ‘Okaasan’ Takeku and’ imouto’ Kazumi and ‘imouto’ Megumi.
It has been almost three decades but my memories will last forever. It all started with the bullet train ride from Tokyo when Nanao Kawasaki-san picked us up from the airport to Gonohe. As soon as we arrived me and Mariel (a family friend of the Kawasaki’s) were greeted by the Kawasaki family and had the first genuine homemade Japanese cooking of Yukiko Kawasaki. Memories and memories then came my way. The amazing beautiful gardens of the Kawasaki family which I only see from the Japanese calendars our friends had given us were brought alive before my eyes.
The first beautiful ‘Hanabi’ I watched by the beach! My everyday walk down the quiet street from the Yonenuma’s House to the Kawasaki’s abode and along the way I visited the little stores and was greeted with ‘Irasshaimase!’. “Itte Kimasu’ and ‘Tadaima kaerimashita’ I would say to otoosan Eiichi and okaasan Takeku before I leave their house and when coming back. The genuine ‘Japanese food’ I had (‘itadakimasu’) which I tell my children now who loves ‘sushi’ to make them jealous. But I will never forget my favorite pizza bread that okaasan would make for my breakfast. Not forgetting to mention my pen friend’s family Ikuyo Kawamura also invited me to have dinner in their place.
Of course, Otoosan Kawasaki wanted us to see more of Japan outside of Aomori where he brought us to different beautiful temples in Kyoto. I will never forget when I really wanted to back out from my first scary roller coaster ride with Otoosan in Tokyo Disneyland! And how busy Tokyo could be riding the full trains and eating in restaurants!
Weeks before our vacation had to come to an end where we had to miss the cherry blossoms because Otoosan Kawasaki was afraid we couldn't withstand the winter cold weather, me and Mariel had the chance to learn flower arrangement ‘Ikebana’ and ‘Origami’. We were also taught to dance ‘Sakura ‘ by ‘sensei’ and ‘Watashi no tomodachi’ Taku Kawasaki ( Mayor Kawasaki’s first daughter). I felt proud of myself when we had the chance to present this wearing a genuine traditional Japanese dress before a huge audience during a Gonohe festival. After our dance, cute little Japanese children gathered around us to say how beautiful the dance was!
It was sad to say goodbye but I remember that morning before I left the Yonenumas’ house when Chikara Matsusaka came knocking and greeted me to say “Do not say goodbye ‘sayonara’ but say: see you again’. I long for that day to visit everyone again which I have not done after almost three decades!
Special thanks to Bernadetti "Adet" Mamuric-Lopez for telling us her experiences in Gonohe. We hope that you be able to visit again soon!