Monday, August 27, 2007

Introducing Takashi James

Chris and Takashi at Takashi's farewell dinner at our house.

In 1988 an 18-year-old Japanese exchange student, named Takashi, came to live with us for the school year. He had already graduated from high school in Japan, but came for the purpose of experiencing life in America. Takashi was delighted that he had been assigned to a family in Oregon, since he was a fan of a popular TV program, airing in Japan at that time, called "From Oregon with Love." It was a series, actually filmed in Oregon, about an extended Japanese family who had moved to Oregon to be strawberry farmers.

Takashi was the oldest of three brothers. Not only was he the oldest brother, but his father was the oldest of his brothers, and his grandfather was, also, the oldest brother in his family. Takashi, therefore, being the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son, would be the future head of his extended family, which, in the Japanese culture, is a huge responsibility, and one that weighed heavily on Takashi's mind. His life would not be the typical modern Japanese life. For instance, although his brothers could choose their brides, he would be expected to have some form of an arranged marriage because of his family status.

Takashi's father was a brain surgeon, and his grandfather owned a hospital. Therefore, his family was quite wealthy. He also claimed, with pride, that his family ancestors were bushi (the Japanese warrior caste, or Samurai). He claimed to be Buddhist, but "not religious." Although Takashi was in some ways a typical teenager, he was tied to the ancient ways more than most.

Being host parents in a small town meant that we had occasional contact with other host families. Several of those families failed to bond with their student. Some had to make placement changes during the year. Some of the students had to be sent back home. But, despite a number of challenging times along the way, Takashi's determination to be "part of the family" contributed greatly to the successful experience we ultimately had. Takashi chose to do everything that we did as a family. He went to church with us, and participated in the youth group activities with our sons. He eagerly celebrated birthdays and holidays with us. He joined us in weekend trips. He helped out with chores around the house. He chose to call Dan and I, "Dad" and "Mom"; Chris and Tim, his "brothers"; and my folks, "Nanny" and "Papa."

One day, early on, Takashi asked me why I sometimes called Chris "Christopher Russell" and sometimes called Tim "Timothy Andrew." I explained the American custom of using the formal first and middle name, for emphasis, when a parent was speaking sternly to a child. When he told me that the Japanese don't have middle names, I said, "Well, we'll have to do something about that, or how will you know when you're in trouble?" Understanding my attempt at humor, he grinned and asked if I'd give him a middle name. That's when I dubbed him "Takashi James," a name that would come in handy a number of times during his stay.

There are too many Takashi stories to put in one blog post, so I've chosen only to introduce him here. More stories will follow in the near future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think of Takashi often, and hope he is doing well in Japan. He was a sweet kid, and certainly fit into the Judd family in a wonderful way. He loved to cook, and really out did himself at messing up a kitchen while cooking a fabulous measl. Ha ha '