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

Visiting New York City

I was leading a quite busy life on weekdays and even on weekends, I often had to study for some classes in order to catch up with them. However I would not say I didn’t have any time to relax. For a change of pace, I drove to New York City by myself whenever I found some free time.

Not many students that I know of went to New York City by car because they were scared of driving in the big city. I however dared to go by car as it gave me a more flexible schedule and I wanted to get more confidence in my driving skill.

I liked going to New York City as I liked watching movies and dramas. Also I liked the fact that I could encounter different types of people and culture that I couldn’t easily see in countryside. If I was living only in countryside, I felt like I would become a country middle aged woman. Of course there are wonderful simple things in the country but looking at women walking with their good postures in the city would give me good stimulation sometime.

It took me two and a half to three hours by car to get to New York City. There were a few different routes to go to the city but my route was always the same. I would go down south on highway 91 and switch to New York State route 15. This highway 15 was winding and narrow so it was a difficult road to drive. However I loved driving this road because the view was really wide since there were no commercial vehicles like huge trucks allowed on this road.

Especially after I drove across the North American continent with my classmates in the summer, I gained confidence in my driving skill and I often chose to drive this highway. I knew New York was a scary city to drive in. Yellow cabs were usually really rough so I tried to drive as carefully as possible. It was also very expensive to park in Manhattan but we were permitted to park on the side roads for free on weekends so I was able to park my car without expense and go to the city.

I had never been to New York City before I came to the States. When I thought about it, I didn’t have a chance to travel abroad except one time I visited Illinois 20 years ago. Not only travelling abroad but I have never been on a trip ever since I got married. My husband didn’t like travelling and I was not allowed to go on a trip by myself. Once I had asked my husband before that I wanted to go on a trip and his reply was “Why do you have to go travelling while I am working?”

Personally I liked travelling and I always had a wish in my mind that I wanted to go visit many places. New York City was one of the cities I vaguely longed to visit someday. However if this was just a dream that couldn’t come true then I thought I’d rather not dream about it because it would only make me sad.

Now that I think back, my husband and I are quite different - the way of thinking, the way of life and even what we saw in the house could have been very different. We had children so we were always connected by holding hands through the kids’ hands in between us.

If I were one of those home makers who would often travel abroad, I may not have come to study in the States at this age. I sometimes wonder the reason why I came to study in the States was because I kept the secret desire in my mind for over 20 years and it burst out like a bomb. I don’t know the truth even now. The fact that I had studied in the States is still like a dream to me.

When I was a homemaker in Japan, most of my friends were from different prefectures so they seemed like adaptable people. I could tell they were always trying not to have fun by gossiping other people. However, when I confessed to them that I was going to the States to study, they all got really astonished.

As I mentioned earlier, I often went to New York City by myself. It was because I decided to go whenever I got a free time so I couldn’t afford to ask other people. Even if I did ask out my classmates, they were all similar age as my kids so I would have felt like I was their “Mother”. The people of similar age group as me were mostly my teachers. There were some nice teachers that I wanted to be close with but I couldn’t afford to make friends with them. I sometimes wished if I were a little younger. I also know nothing comes out of this kind of little hopeless wish.

There were always something new in the city so I never got bored of hanging out alone. Except one time, when I got into trouble, I wish I was with someone because I really didn’t know what to do. It happened only once to me but I’d had my shopping bag lifted.

On that day, I happily drove highway 9A along the Hudson river as always and I had my lunch at a restaurant on Barney’s basement floor. Ever since I heard that this was Ryuichi Sakamoto’s favorite restaurant, I liked the place so much.

After lunch, I wanted to get some wigs so I went to a shop located at 5th avenue and 15 street, Manhattan south. I parked my car on the side road and went into the shop. There were lots of reasonable shops like dollar stores in the area so it was not the safest area but you didn’t feel any dangers during the day time.

There were two wig stores next to each other. I went in the first one and bought 3 wigs from there and then I went to the next store. There were two shop clerks in the store and their customers were a mother with her two kids, three ladies in a group and myself. I put down my shopping bag that had 3 wigs I bought at the previous store on the counter and I started putting on some other wigs. Next time I looked, the shopping bag was gone. It took only 1 to 2 minutes for everything to happen.

A group of three traveler-type-of-customers and a gay guy came into the store next. When I looked around the store, the women with two kids were already gone. I knew right away they were the ones who took my shopping bag. It was too late when I realized it. I paid $120 for the three wigs. It wasn’t cheap at all but I knew it was all because of my carelessness.

I could go to the police to report but I figured the wings wouldn’t come back easily. I could have asked for help from the shop clerks but I didn’t want to cause too much trouble so I decided to give up and left the store. “It was only a shopping bag and you were safe.” I tried to reassure myself. Then I saw the suspicious women with the kids come out of another store. They were holding my shopping bag!

“I should just ask them anyways.” “What if they were not the suspects and they try to sue me for defamation or something.” I searched for the right words in my head to talk to them while I was sweating a lot from different thoughts. I took my courage and went to talk to them. “ Excuse me...I’ve just lost a shopping bag which has some wigs in it and the bag your kid is holding looks very similar to that.” Then the woman replied “ I bought this from that store” pointing at the store.“ I see. But I bought the same wigs as you have in the bag so would you mind going to the store with me? I want to buy the same wigs.” After I spoke, the woman handed back the shopping bag to me without hesitation. Then she started walking away with her kids. My feet started shaking suddenly. I went back to the store and explained that I got my wigs back, and I left New York that day.

Until that incident, I had never had any scary experiences in the States and perhaps I was pretty lucky. While I was driving back feeling the breeze from Hudson river, I wondered what would happen to the two little kids from now on.

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