As I begin writing, my desk is covered with orders for the 2021 CWAJ 64th Print Show catalogue. For 10 years, I have distributed the catalogues and products in the U.S. You can take a woman out of Tokyo, but you can’t always take her away from CWAJ!
In 1984, I arrived in Japan for the third time. I spent my junior year on a Waseda University exchange program where I met my husband, returned to Tokyo for graduate work, and finally settled in New York. We hoped to get back and were thrilled when his assignment came through. I had not had a clue as to what I would find, but surely there would be something. I went to a CWAJ information coffee and knew I had found a home.
I started, and ended, my CWAJ years with the Scholarship committee. Assisting bright, motivated young women to achieve their education goals has always meant a lot to me, and to be able to do that in a group of very bright, very strong Japanese and international women was stimulating and fun. Over the years, I worked at least once on each scholarship CWAJ offers. I co-chaired selection committees, then served as a Scholarship co-chair, and later vice-president. That led to the Board and becoming CWAJ President in 2000.
The Scholarship program has justified annual purchases of wonderful prints! I knew little about print art before living in Japan. Serving on the Print Show committee, even as a non-artistic co-chair of donations, taught me a lot and triggered a love of Japanese prints.
While we work hard in CWAJ, we also play. Cross-country ski trips to Nikko were memorable. Our minshuku had rotenburo (outdoor ofuro – with a high fence!), great for imbibing sake and singing together (not always tunefully) under dark, snowy skies. Sitting in the lounge in our yukata after dinner, we listened to Jeannie Ohmae play her flute, attracting the fascinated attention of other Japanese guests. And how often does one strap on skis immediately after breakfast on a snowy morning in search of “it’s delicious ice cream!” where the leader pounds on the door and persuades the owner to open? The owner made double sales – everyone ordered hot coffee as soon as we finished the ice cream.
In addition to CWAJ, I taught an undergrad course at Keio University International Center, was a guest researcher at the Japan National Institute of Mental Health, and taught English for a term at a Japanese girls’ high school, which was great fun. Best of all, our sons were born in Tokyo, opening a new world of experiences.
We returned to the U.S. in the summer of 2004, choosing to live on Mercer Island, near Seattle. An expansive Asian grocery store in Seattle, full of Japanese brands, placated our sons, who were not enthusiastic about the move. I found a group of friends to ski, snowshoe, hike, and kayak with, and there is a vibrant music scene. Prior to the Covid pandemic, I volunteered at the Seattle Opera as an Artist Aide, chauffeuring singers and creative staff, and helping with cast parties. That is on hold, but the opera is reopening live onstage which is exciting and gives hope of the return of theatre life.
For those of us who leave Tokyo, wherever we may land, most of us find that there is no organization like CWAJ. How lucky we have been to be able to remain active, particularly during the pandemic with an increased number of online activities, staying connected across the miles and time zones.
I’m adding two photos. The first was taken at the opening dinner of the Highfield “kanreki” dinner with Hiroko Nakamoto, who was the earliest recipient of the CWAJ Travel Grant. She obtained a degree in interior design in the U.S. and designed the old Manufacturers Hanover Bank office in Tokyo. It was beautiful. We were delighted to reconnect at Highfield (long story), giving her the opportunity to meet Norm and to share their MHT connection. I think she now divides her time between Tokyo and Florida. For me, Hiroko represents the beginning of CWAJ and the tenacity of the organization.
I am also including here a photo of one of my favourite prints. In 2000, Hirota Raifu made his Print Show debut, with his print selected for the catalogue cover. This is Polonaise Fantasy. In those women dashing intently across the keyboard, I see the focus, determination, and energy of CWAJ since 1949 – and ever forward into the future.