OH, AMERICA!: A Beaver Times Classic!

Hey, this is the first in a series of retrospective features from past Beaver Times print spectaculars!

In early 1994, Masaru Kuwae, then a 27 year old loan officer from Okinawa, was in the middle of a 9 month stay in the United States. Below is his account of some of his experiences. Originally from SOFA SPECTACULAR (Spring '94), this article was the first of a planned 'Show and Tell' series about people's eclectic experiences in the United States.

Below (left to right): Masaru Kuwae and Toshinao Takahashi

'Oh, America' by Masaru Kuwae

I have been in the United States since August 25, 1993. I remember when I arrived in Miami, I hesitated to catch a taxi because I heard that some drivers call for extra cost (tip).

I have to introduce myself. My name is Masaru Kuwae. I am from Okinawa, Japan, located between mainland Japan and China. It is a beautiful island. 1.2 million people live there, and recently 3 million tourists came to Okinawa in one year.

You might know about Okinawa. It was a battle place during WW2. Afterwards, Okinawa had been controlled by the U.S. military until 1972, when I was six years old. So I remember I used the U.S. dollar. Actually I used dimes or quarters.

I graduated from University of Ryokyu and I have been working for Okinawa Development Financial Corporation for 3 years and five months. Then I had a chance of coming to the United States for 9 months to study english at Florida International University in Miami, FL. OK, so I am going to say what I have felt since I came to America.

Firstly, there is little news about Japan here. In Japan, we see news about the U.S. every day. Everybody would know (Bill) Clinton and Hillary. Generally speaking, America is always on Japan's mind, but Japan is not really on America's mind. It would only be on America's mind about cars, VCRs, sushis, trade deficit, and Geisha.

I can say, compared to Japan, the living cost in the U.S. is pretty cheap. Gas, food, necessities of life. I can also get a TV, made in Japan, priced less here than it is in Japan. As for the U.S. infrastructure, it is pretty good. Highways seem to cover the city.

I know Miami is not typical America, but I have not been able to understand why they speak to me in spanish at the supermarket and even in the bank. I might say Miami is typical America as to its many immigrants. The U.S. is an immigrant country. I respect America because it accepts many immigrants each year. It might cause problems, but that's why America still has vitality. Japan would face hard times with such immigration.

During Christmas vacation, I traveled around the United States on AMTRAK. I visited New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. It was a great trip. Especially the Grand Canyon. It was the most impressive place I have ever visited. I was just saying "Wow Wow Wow!!!"

I could say the United States is not as dangerous as I expected. I never once saw a gunshot or even a thief. But I was embarrassed when I saw many homeless people. One man even asked me for change even in a hamburger shop. I was sad and sometimes scared. I gave some change to some people, but I know it couldn't solve the problem. Don't they have a family or relatives?

Since I have been here, I have not missed my family, but I miss my girlfriend and Japanese food. Hamburgers are OK but I don't want to eat them every day. I hardly ever cook in Japan, but I'm cooking almost every day here. I can't believe there are people who eat hamburgers every day, even Mr. President. Eat vegetables more. Less meat.

-Masaru Kuwae

(c) 1994, 1999 by The Beaver Times

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