My dear friend Itaru Tanaka was an exceptionally fine man who had a full, fascinating and distinguished life. His exposure as a child to death, suffering and destruction in Tokyo during World War II undoubtedly helped to shape his strong values, discipline and character. His career following graduation from Tokyo University as a well-known war correspondent, president of the Japan Press Club and companion-biographer of world leaders contributed to Itaru’s insightful international and human perspective. Cancer ended his life in 1994.
A few years before Itatu’s death, his son Makoto came to the U.S. to live with my family and attend the University of Houston. Nancy and I later discovered a letter he wrote to prepare Makoto for that adventure that I will now share with you. I’m very certain he wouldn’t mind.
You may find it helpful for me to set forth our aims for your visit so that you can refer to them. I hope you will promise to keep a daily record of your experiences, however short those memories may be. It will be useful if you will include dates, times, and places.
I am making it materially possible for you to go to the New World so that you may gain first-hand experience managing your life outside the discipline imposed by school and family, and so that you may have a long and meaningful stay. This will enable you to gain direct knowledge about one of the largest, richest and most powerful countries in the world. Your life and career will be greatly influenced by this important experience.
Herein are some hints you may find useful in making a great success of your stay:
Getting the Most Out of Your Experience:
1. You must meticulously plan your days throughout the entire program. This is not only because good planning means good discipline. But also to enable you to get the most out of time available. Another cardinal principle which will be useful to you, not only during your visit, but always, is that living a good life requires that you do nothing in excess.
2. Be genuinely interested in people. Remember every person – be they young or old – has unique lessons to offer. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their families. When conversation lags you can always ask a sympathetic question or offer a thought-provoking statement.
Remember that a listener is always more appreciated than a talker and avoid boasting. On the other hand, don’t fall into the other extreme of being too self-effacing or frightened to contribute to a conversation. Since I know that you do not suffer this problem, I find no reason to stress it.
3. Making friends involves being genuinely interested in people, their problems and their experiences; avoiding selfish and provocative acts; offering consideration and helpfulness; and being clean and well turned-out.
The best way to have a good time when you are with a group is to make sure that everybody participates and enjoys themselves. Don’t be selfish in not caring what happens to others present so long as you are all right.
4. A great deal of experience in life can be obtained by closely observing the behavior and reactions of others, measuring their conduct against your own, and determining what standards you should apply. If the group you are with engages in bad practices, either in drink, sex or other matters, there is no need for you to go along with that behavior. If some members ridicule you about this, tell them that you gave a pledge to Professor and Mrs. Bell as well as to your parents, and insist that you intend to stick to that promise.
Observing the U.S.A.:
1. You will be living with an American family, reading their newspapers and watching their TV. You will find that many people are extremely ignorant about Japan, just as you and your father are ignorant about other countries. When you hear criticism about Japan and the Japanese people, avoid getting into heated arguments, but carefully listen and consider what they say.
Read newspapers and other publications available in the English language. Mark in pencil any word or expression that is unfamiliar and check it in the dictionary.
2. Try to meet people of all ages and backgrounds. Get involved in sports activities and youth clubs both off and on the university campus.
3. Make a point to learn something about U.S. History. This is absolutely essential to understand America’s political actions and motivations, at home and abroad.
4. When you ask questions about the United States, keep the following in mind: “I am interested in how its people live, their expectations for the future, and what they expect regarding my appropriate behavior.”
1. Adjust to your host’s lifestyle. Express your gratitude when you are kindly treated. It may be a good idea to give them flowers when you meet and leave them, or have them delivered by a florist. The value of the flowers might be between $5 and $10, or you may purchase an equivalent value in chocolates. In addition, write a brief letter of gratitude with whatever nice personal remarks you can think of addressed to all members of the family that will participate in looking after you.
2. Wake up at least one and one-half hours before your class starts. I do not know how much time it will take from home to the university, but plan accordingly and allow for this.
Be sure to clean the wash basin and bathtub each time after use. In the evening, always be cautious about making too much noise, such as by playing a radio or tape player, heavy footsteps and slamming doors or windows. Try not to create extra problems for the Bells or in the community.
3. On Mondays through Fridays, come home immediately after classes to study. Tell yourself: “Since I have good holidays during the weekends, today I will work hard.”
During the weekends, allow some free time to spend with the Bells. When you go out to meet your friends, tell Professor Bell and Mrs. Bell beforehand where you will be and with whom.
Always plan to come home before the Bells’ bedtime. In case you should miss that limit, telephone them before 8 or 9 p.m. Don’t use the telephone for long chit-chats with friends. When necessary to contact us, call collect.
4. In classroom, always tell yourself: “I am curious.” Do not think that learning is like filing documents in a cabinet. Be sure to use your brain for reasoning.
We all need wisdom along with knowledge. I believe the Bible is one of the most essential sources for this. Try to read at least one chapter of Proverbs and five from the Book of Psalms. This can be accomplished within a one month period.
Health and Safety:
1. Take good care of your health and avoid getting into unnecessary dangerous situations. Always calculate whether the risks you are taking are commensurate with the rewards. Think about ways that risks can be minimized; for instance, by sitting in the back of a car if there is no safety belt next to the driver’s seat.
Be proud as you abide by traffic rules and school regulations. Some people boast about breaking orders of society. Do not be one of them.
2. Avoid carrying large sums of money on your person or flashing money about. Also avoid going into public parks at night, or parts of large cities which are seedy or ill-lit.
Makoto is now a father with a beautiful family of his own living in Boston. He holds a technical management position Microsoft.
Itaru would be very proud.
Via Giri Kumar