My best friend in Morioka is a "girl" who was working at the Good Neighbor Christian Center when I arrived 31 years ago. Nobuko-san was and is and will continue to be a indispensible person at the Center and she takes care of all the foreigners that work there as well as running the business side of the English office.
Nobuko-san's English is excellent yet she rarely uses English and even when she does, she always mingles the two languages together. She and I were quite a team those three years that I lived in Morioka and the point of much humor with others who heard us talking. Nobuko-san always spoke to me in Japanese ("translating" from difficult Japanese to easy Japanese) and I always answered her in English and we always seemed to understand each other. She speaks in a little girl voice and someone once suggested that she'd be a great voice actress for an animation character. Anyway, I have always loved Nobuko-san and have wonderful memories of taking flower arranging lessons and tea ceremony lessons together with her patiently explaining and "translating" for me.
I pulled up some pictures from 6 years ago when Tetsu and I last visited her, so that I could show you how Nobuko-san and her family lives. She and her husband bought an old farm house in the mountains (near where her parents lived) and after refurbishing the roof, they live there in simple surroundings. Tetsu and I were awed to see the beauty of their home, inside and out but Nobuko-san couldn't understand what I was getting so excited about. To her it is drafty (no glass windows!) and she doesn't see the attraction of living in an out-of-the-way place with few modern luxury items. The floor is packed dirt and stones except for the wooden entry platform and raised tatami mat area, the heating is by hibachi and kotatsu (low heated tables). Nobuko-san's way of life is not too far removed from the way people lived 100 years ago and I think they have a small vegetable garden out back that she gives back to the weeds every year.
Nobuko-san drives daily into Morioka to teach and run the English office while her husband creates beautiful pottery and tends his kilns occasionally exhibiting and selling his work in Tokyo galleries. They have given me a few of his works that I treasure especially because her husband exclusively uses only the clay that is found in the area near him. These house pictures were taken in the autumn of 2002 when the climate was mild and the scenery beautiful but this part of Japan is considered to be the coldest area in Japan outside of the northern island and the winters are severe. And not only do they have to deal with icy temperatures. I remember Nobuko-san telling us that in health and safety classes at school the children were instructed in what to do if they were confronted with bears! I guess what with the bears and the cold I'll just visit her when it is convenient for me!
I love Nobuko-san and her sweet ways and was so happy to share the weekend with her again. More tomorrow about the wonderful stay she arranged for us at a Japanese inn on Saturday night!