McAllen and the
Valley are becoming quite the international hub. Of course the rest
of the states donít know it quite yet, but it is so. We have
communities of non-Americans such as Taiwanese, Filipinos,
Canadians, Koreans, Indians and Japanese.
Japanese mother of two American born children, is active in the
Japanese community in McAllen. Taking the circuitous route in
getting here, Junko started out in a little town in Japan called
Kanazawa. Meeting her husband while she was living with an American
family and attending high school in Connecticut, he was a Japanese
in the states as an American Field Exchange Student.
Moving around the
U.S. for 23 years, including five years in Monterrey, Mexico, Junko
and her family lived from California ó where her two children were
born ó to Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan and now Texas.
“It hasnít been
easy, but itís been fun,” Junko said, jovially.
Though she has
been learning about life in America ó discovering a love for
quilting ó one of the Japanese traditions she has kept near to her
heart is the art of Origami.
traditional craft, good for concentration. When you do the Origami
from the early age you learn so much. Meeting the points, making a
crease, opening the pieces ó you have to follow the stages and you
have to use your brain to do that,” Junko said. “We learn from the
early years you have to be so precise about everything in Origami.
For the first Palmfest we had an Origami booth. We love to share
our culture with the local people.”
At first they had
one small table, but it was such a hit that when the next Palmfest
came around they requested two tables.
“People came and
wanted to learn how to do it, so we taught them,” she
The local Japanese
community is not large.
community would be the Japanese Supplementary School of McAllen,
which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Parents pay
tuition and it is supported by the Japanese government,” said
Junko. “The main purpose of the school is to educate the Japanese
in Japanese so they can be Japanese.”
math and the Japanese language keeps the students up to date with
their fellow students back home in Japan.
“The students go
to their regular school throughout the week and attend Japanese
school on Saturday mornings. Parents donít want their children to
be left out when they return home,” she said. “They want to keep
the Japanese and math levels in Japanese up to the standards of
combined classes of fourth and fifth Japanese and sixth and seventh
math class, Junko watches how it affects the students.
“I think itís the
only time they get to see other Japanese children since they go to
different schools,” said Junko. “Many of them go to public schools
and live in different areas of town, so I think they pretty much
have fun meeting each other in the Japanese school.”
With around 20
children from first to ninth grade, it helps them keep their
“We need to have
the school because the language is so different,” she said. “The
language has 50 Japanese letters plus almost 5,000 Chinese
characters. In order to read newspapers and live normally in Japan
you have to know around 3,000 Chinese characters. Once you learn
Japanese with the Chinese characters, at a glance at a Website or
newspaper you can observe a lot of information. Itís
Junko also teaches
and plays the Koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument.
Down to one student, Junko misses the 20-member club in Chicago she
was able to play with. Local performances have included playing for
UTPA International Week and for McAllenís Centennial.
drummed into Junko from an early age.
“Half a century
ago, my dad was a Fulbright student from Japan at UT Austin,” Junko
said with pride. “He took a ship to America and then a train to
Austin to study. He became an English professor at a medical
university in Japan So, my environment was different. I was always
wanted by Americans and people from all over because my mom spoke
good enough English and my father was a teacher.”
Today, her son is
following in his grandfatherís footsteps, attending UT
The local Japanese
community gathers occasionally for bowling or golfing days. But
every day the Terada family use many traditional Japanese
A half curtain
called a Noren curtain, normally hung across a restaurant or shop
doorway in Japan meaning “open,” brings warm memories as it hangs
across a doorway in her home. Kutani porcelain, chopsticks to eat
with and cook with, rice cookers and Wajima lacquerware all bring
home memories of life on the island so far away.
home the shoes are removed and set neatly by the door. Watching
Japanese TV on her computer and reading Japanese newspapers online
help her keep the language alive for her when she goes home to
visit her parents.
the American way of life, Junko does her best to keep her familyís
heritage an important part of their life by meeting with friends
and family and sharing Japanese food and fellowship.