MATSUNOSUKE - Akiko Hirano's Pie & Cake

Akiko Hirano's Essay

Backnumbers American Cake form a Housewife who studied abroad

Essays from Akiko Hirano who studied in the U.S. at age 45.

Reproduced and translated with additions from the 2000 Sojusha Publishers' publication (sold out).

COVER: American Cake form a Housewife who studied abroad
housewife's dream

The dream of exchange to the U.S.

Invitation to Illinois

The illusory exchange

An 8 million yen investment in me!

The struggle with English begins

Inside a multi-cultural class

Japanese food in
an underground kitchen

My composition appears in a text book

If only I had read more books
when I was younger

The death of
a Chinese exchange student

American style stress relief

Finally, a real university student

Independent students in the states

Driving debut

Amazing silver power

Visiting New York City

Crossing North American Continent by car

The dream of an exchange to the U.S.

"Where should I go from here?" .. when alone I began to daydream.

For a short while after I separated from my husband I was overcome with the sense of freedom and relief. But after another short while this housewife for the past 22 years from the suburbs had a feeling of concern at the realization that I had no future plan. When I was married I always knew there was a tomorrow regardless of whether it was good or bad or not.

I spent a relatively long period of time until we lived apart just thinking. The result was this: although I had spent a long time reflecting I couldn't come up with anything that resembled an image of a new me.

Normally if someone around their mid-forties suddenly had to live alone they would make future plans, start the divorce proceedings and move out but I thought to myself. Call me happy-go-lucky if you will but I thought "something will fall into place" and flicked the switch on a new start for myself.

I knew that it would be a 180 degree about face from the 22 years of the lifestyle I had been used to and I realized yet again that I would need a lot of energy and preparedness to begin my new start.

I also realized that I wouldn’t be able to start anew until I had relieved myself of everything up to now. Although having said that, there was a time when I was worried what my adult daughter and son would say to me, the usually buoyant me.

I had spent all my life since marrying in the same town out in the country. Our children had left home to go to college and I used the separation from my husband as an opportunity to do the same and left to live in Tokyo. I ended up sharing with my daughter who was living in Tokyo while going to college.

So, I had a place to live but that didn't mean I had a life yet. I had to do something about it. I talked with my husband and he decided to give me some money on which to live, approximately 65,000 yen per month. It was enough to live on if I supplemented it with a part time job. But it was my daughter who gave me some home truths.

"Mum, you are an ignorant fool!" and when I thought about it I knew she was right. I had lived my life as a housewife but life wasn’t that sweet - all that wasn't enough to live in the city. The path from here was going to be long and I knew I had to knuckle down and work hard.

So I looked through the help wanted ads but they were mostly for people under 30. And to add insult to injury the economy was bad. There was no way there would be a job out there for a woman in her 40's whose only experience was as a housewife.

I knew there must be something but it would not be pennies from heaven. "What should I do?" … just at that moment I remembered something my grandpa said to me: The reason `why' people live the lives they do is a very important question.

That is to say, the way a person earns a living is an important thing to them. There must be a purpose to the method. He said, when you do something you need to think about it properly.

And to my children he had said "Earn a living by doing something you are proud of!"

There will be times when you will be well off but those that you won't be. Up until then I had been living life in a dream but upon remembering those words I began to think "I can’t be like this!". I am the kind of person who is forward-looking, who never looks back, and once I start moving forward I have the energy to keep going.

It was that moment that a dream I had 20 years ago came back to me. I had wanted to go on an exchange to the U.S. As opposed to work (and making money) it would take a lot of money and energy, but it was something equally as important as a job that would enable me to start my new life.

"This is it, I can feel my heartbeat accelerate, the dream of going to America that I gave up when my father died."

"Ready, I'm off to America!" the wildcat in me had made a decision. However never in my wildest dream did I imagine the catalyst would be becoming an American cake maker.

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