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

An 8 million yen investment in me!

And here I am 20 years later…

I was getting ahead of myself and although I had made the decision to study abroad I had no idea of which college to go to. I had to think about it. I had in the past thought about going to Illinois State University. But my professor friend had since retired and relocated to the warmer west coast and I reconsidered my options.

Having said that there wasn't really any university that I preferred to go to. So I decided to choose a place - one that had 4 distinct seasons and proceeded to fill-in the application forms for state universities along the northeast coast in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut. The first university to respond to me was Connecticut State University. It seemed like a safe place to go!?

Around that time I stumbled across the Japanese version of “Esquire” magazine in a bookstore and an article on Jack Kerouac, famous for his take on the ‘beat generation’ of the 50's. The article stuck in my head and I wondered who had written it. It turned out to be a Professor of English Literature at Connecticut State University, Anna Charters.

I thought it had to be a sign and sat down to write a letter to Ms. Charters telling her how much I enjoyed her article in Esquire. I received a reply from her and soon enough we were corresponding with each other. I knew her specialty was short stories and asked if I made it to Connecticut State University if she would be my professor? I got her response shortly thereafter … yes! I made it in and now it was up to me to decide. I thought if they are willing to offer me a position then I should go. But I had to stop and think about it once more, it would be 2 years of my life and 8 million yen in fees and costs.

I had a certain amount of savings and if I lived purely off that and didn’t spend crazily then I calculated that I could live for about 3 or 4 years, although I had no idea beyond that. I decided to dig into my savings for my study abroad. But there were many times when I thought to myself ‘if I spend this then I’m left with nothing'. But I am a happy-go-lucky woman and decided to go for it and left the rest up to fate! Other people might have looked at it as foolish but everyone spends money in different ways. To me at that point in my life the most important thing was taking up that dream that I didn’t achieve all those years ago.

Before that I need permission from my two children and my mother. Doing so would take a load off my mind too. Going ahead without taking them into consideration would have left something gnawing at me and so I shared my plans with them. My usually calm son said “How much will that cost? 8 million yen? Where will you get that kind of money from? Don't waste your money! If you have that kind of money you should invest it in me! Give it up!” So I explained to him “Everyone spends money in different ways. It doesn’t matter if I live off that money for 10 years or for 2 years, as long as I'm happy!” My son slowly began to understand and finally relented “If you are that set on it then go for it!”

On the other hand my daughter didn't raise any objections at all “Go ahead! Have a safe trip! How amazing it would be if you graduated!” She has always lived alone and then I bumbled along into her life. I suppose in many ways we didn't have time to prepare ourselves for those changes in our lives yet she was all in favor of me leaving on this journey.

When I explained this to my mother who was always concerned about me she simply said “Have a safe trip!” And as if she understood how I felt she added “It seems like ‘time' is giving you another chance to do something you couldn’t complete 20 years ago…” If those 20 years and everything they brought with them hadn't passed in between, she would not have come to the same conclusion and wished me well. I was overcome with emotion. 20 years ago when I left on an exchange to the U.S she was against it, but since she had lost her husband (my father), gone through so much, and maybe, just maybe began to see that you can't count on life to go on forever.

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