When I was 13, I went to the States on a one-month homestay programme. Sure, we had English classes in junior high school, but for a Japanese speaker, one year was barely enough to be able to hold a decent conversation. Despite my quasi non-existent English, I really enjoyed the homestay.
Fortunately, my high school had a study abroad programme.
But unfortunately, places were limited and I wasn’t chosen. I was jealous of those who were chosen for the study abroad programme. We were both interested in Indian classical music, so he took me to his place and showed me musical instruments he had bought in India.
We all spoke French, and there was a strong sense of community amongst French speaking expats.
I also realised I was quite ignorant about the world.
I felt as if they had taken away my future, because I had been daydreaming about going to the US and becoming fluent in English. He was so happy to talk to me that he invited me to dinner. He knew I was only a penniless 17 year old after all.
The thought of them speaking English fluently after a year was unbearable. If the most effective way of learning a language was immersing yourself in it, reading books would certainly be one way. In my early 20s, I came across an interview with a French musician in the International Herald Tribune.
I’d always been fond of doing something different from everybody else.
I was very excited because for the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to live abroad.
Sometimes, A-bomb survivors came to our school to share their experiences.