Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Home in the Heart

Some years ago the Maruoka-cho Cultural Foundation in Fukui, Japan sponsored a contest called, “A Brief Letter From the Heart,” asking ordinary people of all ages, from all over Japan, to write a short letter of five or six lines expressing their feelings on several subjects. They chose the fifty-one best letters in each group and published them in a series of short books. One of those collections of outstanding letters was called, Japan’s Best “Short Letters to My Hometown.” I found some of those letters especially moving, or notable in the sense of being dead-on target in a few words. Most are an affirmation that even non-writers can express their feelings in a graceful and candid way. I want to share a few of those letters here.

I found the honey-colored shell of a

cicada in the garden at home.

This is where my hometown starts.

Toshiki Ueda (M. 12)

Rated last in livability in the whole


What’s wrong with that?

When for me it’s number one.

Yosuke Wachi (M. 21)

Soil, grass, trees, sky, water, pebbles,

all soak into you, body and soul;

even with soap,

they won’t come off.

Kunie Yamamoto (F. 48)

What can I see—

the labyrinth of electric wires

in a forest of buildings.

This city is my hometown.

Got a problem with that?

Kentaro Yamanaka (M. 20)

The contest was also open to non-Japanese, and among the fifty-one letters chosen were thirteen by people living in Japan, but not Japanese. This last is one example, written in English originally.

The one place where I take the

loneliness off with my shoes,

with the realization that

this is where I was always going.

Cheshe M. Dow (F. 18)

With the exception of the last letter, all others were translated from the Japanese by Patricia J. Wetzel.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America