The story began in England in the summer of 1990. Along with two other Guiders and seven teenaged Pathfinders from the Kootenays, I attended an International Girl Guide/Girl Scout camp near Aylesbury, England. Here, in our sub-camp, we became friends with Akiko Nishikawa, then 19 years old, from Hamamatsu, Japan. Two years later, Akiko came to the Kootenays for a hiking/camping trip.
Through her mother, Asako Nishikawa, we have kept in touch over the intervening years. Asako sent calendars, pins and trinkets depicting Girl Scouts in Japan and photos of their troupe.
A few years ago I passed these along to Guider Jean Nelson of Clearwater, along with Asako’s address. Soon, letters were being mailed back and forth between Clearwater’s Girl Guides and members of Troop 24 in Hamamatsu. Yoriko Hokai, also of Clearwater, was invaluable in assisting with translations and more.
Jean’s next achievement was in arranging for four of these Girl Scouts and one leader to come from Japan to attend a large Girl Guide camp in Enderby in 2014. After this camp, called SOAR, the girls and their leader, Naomi Yamamoto, came to Clearwater for home-stay. Their activities were reported in this newspaper on July 31, 2014. One of the girls, Manaka, is Akiko’s daughter.
“Want to go to Japan?” Jean and I said to each other about a year ago. Emails went back and forth arranging this connection with our “Sisters in Guiding” in Hamamatsu. It all came true as seen in the photo of the welcoming party. These are the four girls who came with Naomi to BC; Akiko and I had no trouble recognizing each other. Fusako, with her considerable skills in English, helped in making all the arrangements.
Shown in a separate photo is Asako Nishikawa – who had been outside the station making sure her car was not towed away. Once our luggage was aboard, she drove us to the thoughtfully prepared welcoming ceremony with more girls and leaders. Following that, we went to her traditional Japanese home where Jean and I stayed – sleeping on the floor on futons.
Many more enjoyable events involving girls and leaders continued for the next few days. It feels as if the circle has been completed.
Inset photo: Asako Nishikawa stands in the backyard of her family’s traditional Japanese home in Hamamatsu, Japan. Clearwater Guiders Kay Knox and Jean Nelson stayed there near the start of a recent two-week visit to Japan.