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 illusory exchange

About 4 months later around December, I got a call from my mother in Japan. “I would really like to see you at New Years, would you like to come home?” In actuality, I had been enjoying myself so much that I had no time to be home-sick.

But my mother's wishes overruled my own yet I could feel something in my bones. Still I decided to go back home for a visit. By a stroke of fate, or just call it unlucky, my father passed away from heart failure soon after I arrived back home.

A week before he passed away a youth crashed into his car and he had been complaining of chest pains. It's highly likely it was related and my relatives began asking for an autopsy to be carried out. Mother was against the idea of having his body cut-up and this was quickly over-ruled. Even if the autopsy did find that the car accident contributed to his death, she didn't want to be involved in talks with the youth who caused the accident. We could see that mother was becoming weaker and we couldn't say no to her.

I thought it was the worst thing that could happen and was beginning to reconsider my studies in the US … and then I was hit with another dose of unluckiness about 2 weeks later with another unexpected happening. My father's mother passed away. Someone said it seemed like father had taken her with him and in reality it's exactly what it felt like.

In the end, that December when I returned home on a break from my studies we held 2 funerals. This family that had been in business together for generations suddenly lost its leader and it's matriarch. The arrangements for the funerals alone were grueling. And from all the shock, mother came down with a nervous disorder and stopped leaving the house.

It felt like all of a sudden my life that had been fine up to then had somehow been turned about 180 degrees. All I could think was “There's no way I can go back to the US now…” No it was just me and my little brother. He was still at school and not working. As we had lost our breadwinner we knew things would be tough. But we couldn't ask mother for money .... I was very sad, but at the same time filled with anger towards my father. I went to his grave and stood there crying “why did you have to die at a time like this?”

I did not return to Illinois. I was not in any kind of position to be able to return to the US even to pick up my belongings. Naturally, my dream of doing an exchange disappeared. Within 3 years I had married, had two children, was a housewife and living a very ordinary lifestyle.

I had no idea what it all meant to me. I didn't begin to think back until I came to Tokyo. But when I did it was almost as if the clock of my youth began to turn back. I was given another chance to do something for myself. If I thought about it that way, then it wasn’t a waste. I decided to travel. From north to south. And then to America …

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