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.

Junko Terada,

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.

“Itís a

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.

“The biggest

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.”

Teaching 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


Teaching the

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

language alive.

“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.

Education was

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.

Entering their

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.

Always enjoying

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.