Written by Yoko Ishizuka
Translated into English by Yoshikazu Kondo
Our Mayor visited Australia in October with two members of Japan-Australia Society of Joetsu, namely Yoshi and myself. I have written the following about the trip.
On October 8, we left Narita. On the morning of the 9th, we visited the Sydney 2000 Olympic site and the office of SOCOG, an acronym for Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, to listen to a presentation regarding volunteers and environmental issues for the Games. At 1 p.m., we attended a luncheon which included such guests as Mr. and Mrs. Jack Mudie, Mr. John Robertson, Mrs. Marjorie Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. John Cook, Mrs. Joy Lee, Mrs. Pat Hole, and Mr. Rod Yates, some of whom were ex-POWs and others relatives of ex-POWs. All the invitees seemed to have enjoyed it very much. I felt quite relieved that the most important event for us had passed with ease. I was told to pass their best regards to the Joetsu people.
The following day, October 10, we left for Cowra. We met Mayor of Cowra and Mrs. Libby Reed, who was the Manager of the Cowra Japanese Garden. With their cooperation, our Mayor planted a cherry tree at a place near the former POW Campsite. That evening, we had a dinner party with, amongst others, the Cowra Mayor and Mr. Takahashi, the new Japanese ambassador to Australia, who had arrived in the country only a few days before. In total there were about fifty Japanese and Australians in attendance. When some people started playing the shamisen and shakuhachi, the party really began to get livelier.
On October 11, we attended a memorial service at the Australian and Japanese Cemetery after which we attended a luncheon. Using the excuse that Roger had come all the way from Molong to see us, Yoshi and I slipped out from the luncheon, and three of us went to a restaurant in town together.
At 2 p.m., we left for Canberra by bus. On October 12, some members of the Canberra Australia-Japan Society showed us around the Australian War Memorial Museum. The museum's Director and Superintendents waited for us and allowed us to enter before opening time. After Mayor laid a wreath on the "Tomb of The Unknown Soldiers," they led us through the exhibition areas. Among all the fallen soldiers' names inscribed on the wall, we found the name, Lt. Colonel A. Robertson.
In the following meeting with Ms. Kate Carnell, Chief Minister, she remembered me and, to my surprise, greeted me, calling "Yoko". I had met her two months previously, making it the fourth time we had met each other. She evaluated the citizen's movement in Joetsu as the driving force, which erected the statues of Peace and Friendship at the former POW campsite. The discussion between the two Mayors was so lively that our time seemed to pass much too quickly. I actually felt uneasy that our Mayor had continued talking to her so long.
Following that, we were treated to a formal luncheon with senior officials of DFAT, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I enjoyed it because I was able to meet Mr. Bill Paterson and Ms. Glenda Gauci, whom I had showed around in Joetsu when they had visited us. He said the most impressive event he attended in Japan had been the one held in Joetsu. Accordingly, I made a mental note to ensure I would convey his thoughtful message to the people of Joetsu.
After the luncheon, hosted by Alan Thomas of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we had a round-table conference concerning trade-resources between Japan and Australia. The Manager of the DFAT Japan Section was Mr. John Woods, whose father was a POW in Japan. I informed him that we had built the statues at the park and also asked him to hand to his father, the doll that I had brought with me from Japan.
We invited the President of ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Australia-Japan Society, its two Vice Presidents, and an ex-President to dinner that evening, which gave us an opportunity to thank them for their favor in recent times.
The next morning, we got up early to catch a small plane to Sydney, where we visited the regatta course which would be used for the upcoming 2000 Olympics. Our lunch was held at a restaurant atop Sydney Tower. We dined that evening with Rod at a Japanese restaurant, which Mr. Somukawa from Takada had kindly reserved for us in advance.
Following that, Mayor and the city officials headed for Sydney airport, and Yoshi and I accompanied Rod to his home. We spent 3 relaxing days at Rod's place which was still undergoing some construction.
On the first day of our own itinerary, being independent of the formal one, we visited Jack's home and on the second day, John's and enjoyed their respective company very much. On the third day, Yoshi and I went to the City by train to do some shopping. Upon our return, we took both the train and the bus, thoroughly enjoying the adventure.
Rod took a good deal of time away from his work to drive us around, for which we were truly grateful. Although we must have been quite some trouble to him, he never let his displeasure show. He even looked as though he was enjoying himself as much as we were; actually, he said when his home was completed, he would accept Japanese people who visited Australia for study or homestay. Anyone with such goals in mind, I urge you to visit him.
In the evening of October 16, Rod, John and Terri came to the airport to see us off. Although we were heading home, we felt as though we had left a part of our heart behind in Australia.
Now that I am back home in Japan, I play with our grandchildren as Grandma,
feeling the "Rip Van Winkle effect" has really taken its toll on me.
Nevertheless, I muse to myself without any regret at all that I never acted
my age in Australia.
Written and translated into English by Yoshikazu Kondo
I write about some wonderful experiences I had during the trip.
Along the road, I asked a man who was tending his garden, for directions. It would have only taken him a minute or so to have told me the way, but he quickly digressed from the matter at hand and began talking about his garden; his garden, trees, and flowers -- he went on and on for about 5 minutes. Even as I left I heard him continuing his monologue: there are only two traffic signals in Cowra, etc, etc.. truly quite extraordinary!
Students I met on the way were very friendly. They waved at me, saying "Hi!" or "Hello," and I returned greetings. I thought to myself that they were particularly amiable children. Drivers of passing cars were friendly, too. When they passed me, some blew their horn, and others waved their hands. I think those actions by the residents would leave favorable impressions of the town on visitors. Well, it was not such a bad thing to get lost in a safe friendly town such as this one.
Three years later, we met each other again in Canberra. He delighted me by saying: "During my three-year stay in Japan, the most impressive event were the opening ceremonies of the Park."
Upon parting, he said: "Pay me a private visit next time, not an official one like this." I felt overjoyed to have been left with the impression that "Seeds we had scattered before came up at unexpected places". I strongly hope that more and more seeds would spring up like that in the future.
in Australia is Australian.
At the International Volunteer Academy sponsored by Joetsu City, we discussed "the barrier-free environment for foreigners." In my view, one of the biggest barriers we have is our manner, which excludes people, or things that look different to ours.
Similar to the words spoken by that lady in Cowra, when we come to think that all the people in Joetsu are Joetsu-ites, our city would be more barrier-free, not only for foreigners but for us all.