Last month I posted (here) a very personal blog article related to my 80th birthday. This new article is also a personal one; it is about a most memorable day 50 years ago.
A Much-Anticipated Day
The special day of which I write was September 1, 1968. That was my first day as a full-time professor at Seinan Gakuin University (SGU) in Fukuoka City, Japan.
For many years I had worked toward and looked forward to that day. In the summer of 1966, I had completed the grueling demands of doctoral studies. My main purpose for going to graduate school was to become qualified to teach at the college level.
A couple of months before completing my doctoral work, June and I had been appointed as missionaries to Japan. We sought missionary appointment with one major goal being my joining the faculty of SGU.
During our second year of language school in Tokyo, it was highly gratifying when the trustees of Seinan Gakuin elected me to the faculty. After the two challenging years of studying the Japanese language, we moved to Fukuoka City in July 1968.
So, you see why 9/1/68 was such an exciting day for me. The day I had labored for and looked forward to for so many years had finally arrived.
A Most Difficult Semester
Although my first classes didn’t begin until October, the beginning of the second semester in Japanese universities back then, I had to work very hard during September to prepare for my classes.
That first semester I was assigned three classes of Christian Studies II, which was a required course designed to be an introduction to Christian beliefs. It was a great help to have only one preparation, but even that was not easy.
Classes were 90 minutes long and there were 120 students (or more) in each class. Lecturing was the expected way for the class to be conducted, so reading lectures in Japanese for 90-minutes a time was, to say the least, quite difficult—both for me and, quite surely, for my students.
A Much-Appreciated Teacher-Helper
|Otsuka Kumiko-san (2016)|
For that first year, and for my first few years, Otsuka-san was an invaluable teacher (of the Japanese language and of Japanese customs/mores), translator (of my lectures which I wrote in English), and general advisor. She became and has remained a close family friend for these 50 years.
In July of this year, I received word from Otsuka-san that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. According to that diagnosis, she might not live until her 85th birthday in January.
Although earlier this year I had decided not to make another trip to Japan, after hearing Otsuka-san's sad news, I decided to make one more trip. I now have tickets to fly from Kansas City to Osaka on October 1.
There are many people in Japan whom I want to see on this short trip of just eight days there. But my priority is to see Otsuka-san again and to thank her in person for her help and friendship through the years. To whatever extent my teaching career was a success, much of that is due to her assistance.
I am also thankful for many other Japanese friends, including former students and church members who have significantly enriched my life. I am also looking forward to seeing many of them on my brief trip back to Japan next month.