Family trades Japan for Eagle |

Family trades Japan for Eagle

special to the daily

EAGLE – Hero Yosjikawa, 11, couldn’t believe that when he said “trick or treat” in America, strangers gave him candy.

Halloween last year came only five days after Hero and his mother, Minako, and sister, Mimi, 8, arrived in Eagle from Japan to begin a year-long adventure.

Minako left behind her life- her husband and a public relations job with Proctor and Gamble – to bring her children to America for a year.

When Minako was in fourth grade her family moved from Japan to Dallas, Texas, for two years as a result of her father’s job. Minako recalls not being able to speak a word of English and she remembers she was the first foreigner her contemporaries had ever seen. Minako said that experience changed her life.

“I am always not afraid to take challenges,” said Minako. “And that attitude came from my experience in America.”

Minako was determined to give her kids a similar experience.

For three years before leaving Japan, Minako had been planning their departure. She applied for U.S visas, but deliberately did not apply for her husband because the U.S. is more likely to grant visas if the whole family does not apply.

Minako found a cultural exchange program where she would teach students about Japanese culture. The program gave her three possible locations – Washington state, Washington D.C. or Eagle Valley Elementary School. Minako picked Eagle Valley because students had never been exposed a cultural exchange teacher before or to Japanese people.

“I wanted to be like a panda bear and have people come and see us,” said Minako.

She also put her son in a tutoring program to get ahead in his school work so when he returned from America he would not be behind.

“It was my dream to bring my kids to a different country,” said Minako. “My objective was to expose them to a different culture while they were still young enough to absorb and adapt.”

And that is exactly what Hero and Mimi did – adapted and absorbed.

In Japan, students get a short recess every hour, which provides time for bathroom breaks. Mimi was not used to raising her hand to ask to go to the bathroom. Even if she were, she did not have the language skills to voice her request. As a result, Mimi got a bladder infection shortly after arriving in the U.S.

Neither Mimi or Hero could speak a word of English before arriving in America.

“Now they are reading chapter books in English. I am so proud of them,” said Minako.

Other things were easier for the two children to embrace.

“They were very good at adapting to American food,” said Minako.

Every day Minako packed her children lunch boxes with Japanese food. One day Hero told her, “Mom, no thank you, because tomorrow they are serving pizza.”

Minako also said her children will miss positive reinforcement – something scarce in Japan. Minako said both her children have noted that teachers in America are so nice because they reinforce what is being done well. Minako said her children have also noticed that coaches concentrate more on what kids are doing well than what they are doing wrong.

“Balance is very important. You should talk about negative things but in terms of building confidence positive reinforcement is good. Self confidence is lacking in Japan,” said Minako. “That is a big difference and I am sure my kids will miss that.”

Minako also said parents work less in America. At home, Minako would usually work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“They really enjoy having mom home,” said Minako.

Minako’s favorite part of her stay in Eagle were the people.

“This is a nice area, with nice-hearted people. I even feel this at the grocery store,” said Minako.

Next month, the Yosjikawas will return home to their lives in Japan, but not without memories, American friends and of course one last Halloween.

Hero is dressing as a samurai. Mimi will be Tinker Bell.

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