A couple months ago the Kameoka Corner article was titled “Where are They Now” and was about young people from Japan who had come to Stillwater in some capacity other than OSU students, such as Rotary Exchange Students at Stillwater High School or who came here on some government grant program.
This week’s article is a second edition to write about some who weren’t covered in the earlier article. The first person for this week’s article is named Takeshi Kusuhara who came here from Kameoka as a Rotary Exchange Student in the late 1980s. Two of Takeshi’s host families were John and Erlene Leonard and Steve and Pat Tweetie.
When he arrived in Stillwater Takeshi was a rather quiet, almost shy, young fellow, but still friendly and likeable and he soon made friends at school. He played on the high school soccer team and was pretty good.
One of our sons was about Takeshi’s age and they were pretty good friends, and Takeshi came to our house pretty often. Soon after Takeshi returned to Kameoka his father called us because he spoke very little English and talked to Kayo. He said, translated to English, “I don’t know what you did to my son while he was in Stillwater –pause – but I sure like the change!
“He’s much more mature, self-confident and outgoing than when he left for Stillwater. Thank you.” Through the years Kayo and I have been guests in Takeshi’s parent’s home a number of times, as dinner guests and as homestay guests. They are very gracious hosts, have a beautiful home and a very nice Japanese landscape garden. For many years Takeshi’s father owned a very successful construction company.
Today Takeshi is president of that company and is doing very well. A few years ago he looked into the possibly of his son attending Stillwater High School as a Rotary Exchange student but that didn’t work out and he went to school in Canada instead. Takeshi and his wife and children are doing quite well and still living in Kameoka.
The second person for this week’s article is a woman whose was Miharu Kobayashi. She came to Stillwater in the mid-1990s after graduating from a university in her home prefecture of Nagano. She came on a grant from the government of Japan to present programs about various aspects of Japan, its language, culture and customs, geography and its people to the elementary school children in Stillwater. Miharu was a homestay guests in the home of Ken and Mary McKinley and Tom and Ann Dugger and perhaps another family, and we invited her to dinner several times. At the end of her time here she returned to her home in Nagano and started looking for a job there.
Not long after she left for Japan Kayo received a phone call from Jyo Umezawa, a longtime friend who lived in Tulsa at that time. Jyo grew up in Japan, came to OSU in the very early 1960s and had a very successful career as a wrestler for the Cowboys. After graduation he married an OSU student, a young woman from Guthrie, and they settled in Tulsa. At the time Jyo called Kayo he was working for a company in Tulsa which had an office in Tokyo and he was looking for a bilingual secretary for that office.
Jyo asked Kayo if she knew anyone who might be interested to which she replied “maybe” and said she would call Miharu and ask about her interest. Jyo said if she was interested she should meet him at the office on a particular date.
They met at the office on the appointed date and after a brief interview she was hired and while working in that office she met the person who is now her husband. Some years ago Kayo and I visited Miharu and her husband and two children and had a really nice time in their home. Today Miharu and her husband and two grown children continue to live in Tokyo and continue to do well. The third and final person was a girl whose name was Hiromi
Makino who also came from Kameoka. She came with the first group of OSU-K students, but said she came for one year of English language instruction after which planned to return to Kameoka and work in her father’s company.
During that year of English language instruction for the OSU-K students we invited many of them to dinner and Hiromi was included several times just because she was from Kameoka. When Hiromi left for Kameoka in the spring she promised to contact us as soon as we arrived in Kameoka for the two-year assignment with the OSU-K program.
She contacted us soon after we arrived and that began a 30-year long friendship which is still ongoing. During our time in Kameoka Kayo and Hiromi went to lunch, shopping or sightseeing often, but it’s the years after our time at OSU-K that’s more important. In the mid-1990s Hiromi married via an arranged marriage and they lived with her husband’s parents about 30 minutes north of Kameoka by train, but Hiromi stayed in touch with Kayo and every time Kayo, or Kayo and I, went to Japan Hiromi would always plan an activity for Kayo, or for the two of us, which included a new restaurant or a new experience. And every year for 30 years Hiromi has mailed a box of Japanese food items to Kayo and Kayo has reciprocated.
Hiromi and her husband own a long-haul trucking company and he is on the road quite a bit so Hiromi is really busy at home caring for two children, taking care of the books for their company and caring for her mother-in-law who has lost both legs to sugar diabetes, but she always finds time for her friend Kayo and she’s been a very special friend.
Larry Jones is a Member of the Stillwater Sister Cities Council.