WHEN EAST MEETS WEST
By Hank F. Miller Jr.
From her expectant manner it was apparent that her question had been a rhetorical one.
When it came,my answer must have been a disappointment."I'm not at all sure of that,"
I said. Her smile faded and two wrinkles made furrows between her eyebrows.
"But you've been living in Japan for 33 years,"She said."Perhaps that's the reason I can't answer your question,"I replied. After six months or a year in Japan, many foreign visitors know all there is to know about the country, and I was no exception. How pleasant it is to understand everything, to be an expert. But as years pass, the facile generalization prove to have too many exceptions, the neat cliches are revealed as trivia,and the onetime expert feels that he knows less than when he first arrived.
The Dragons Tail
Fukuoka Prefecture sits like a fantastically shaped cap on the northern end of the map of Kyushu. Anchored to Honshu by tunnels and the bridge across Kanmon Straits,It is the conduit which trains and trucks and cars.Products and ideas and fashions find their way down from Tokyo into western Japan.Surrounded on three sides by water,it stretches from Buzen in the east on the Inland Sea to Yabe in the south, near the impressive Hyugami-kyo Gorge, to the industrial city of Omuta. North of Omuta,on the Ariake Sea, is Kurume, famous to Japanese for Bridgestone tires and to foreigners for azaleas. On the Sea of Japan, Shikaka Village, near the beautiful Kwya Peninsula, is the westernmost point. Moving east along the coast, the finger on the map stops at Fukuoka City, the political and financial capital, then moves east again to that vast amalgamation of five cities, and my home Kitakyushu,the industrial heart of modern Japan.
Within these boundaries the past, present and future live together. Behind high stone walls ancient gabled houses drowse in mossy gardens next to stark concrete and aluminum buildings as modern as science-fiction films.
At Nagatare Beach,or Waita Beach, under the old pines that stood watching the sea before the first sight of the Mongol invaders seven-hundred years ago,bikini-clad girls drink Coca-Cola and listen to pop-tunes from their transistor radios fill the air.
Thirty years have passed since my first sight of Kitakyushu City. I now realize how many places remain to be seen. During the early years my wife Keiko and I walked all over the city, dashed off into the countryside on most weekends, and snapped hundreds of pictures for remembrance. We visited Hiroadai,near Kitakyushu City,the hillside of white rocks against the green fields look just like grazing sheep,mountains,castles graceful yet arrogant in strength, Museums and at least a hundred temples and shrines are scattered across the city and countryside.
We swam in the beautiful clear green sea and laid on the white sand at Waita beach, searched Shikanoshima's edges for garden path stones for our garden,and sailed a dinghy on Hakata Bay. There is no end to Fukuoka Prefecture's variety. There is so much to see and do living here. It is a great place for our business being the Miller English School Japan and it was a great place to raise three wonderful children, we've been most blessed and extremely happy living here in Kitakyushu City, Japan.
Warm Regards & Best Wishes to you all back in my hometown of Gloucester City ,from Kitakyushu City Japan.
Hank, Keiko Miller & Family