August 22, 2015

Bridging Cultures Leads to Forgiveness, Life-Long Friendship

Today, I'd like to share a touching story of open-mindedness, forgiveness, friendship and a new understanding. This story narrated by Shintaro Tominaga is a reminder of the power of forgiveness and how it can build bridges in ourselves and with others in unexpected, amazing ways.

America means a lot to me. Japan lost the past war to the US completely with two atomic bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945 respectively. We had the 70th anniversary events in both cities this year (2015).

I don't intend to write about the victims and disasters of the atomic bombs. What I want to write is how much I like the US.

I was born and brought up in Sasebo where there has been a large US Navy base, which was actually the Japanese Navy base before the US Navy took it over after the war ended.

In 1970 I entered local college built by the Nagasaki Prefecture, where I studied international economics. Just before I went to college, my father retired from the job. His retirement benefit was loaned to his brother, and my father never got the money back. So, my family became very poor all of a sudden. I was wondering what to do in the future. I thought I might quit schooling because my father might not have been able to help me financially.

Then, I found a job at the US Navy base. The job was a waiter at the ball room in the EM Club. I wasn't able to speak English well around that time, but I studied English so hard, and only in three months I was able to enjoy conversations with US Navy soldiers using their Navy slang.

Thanks to this experience, I came to learn how cheerful, friendly and kind the US Navy soldiers were. They were engaged in the Vietnamese war. All of the Navy men were unexceptionally wonderful. I couldn't believe that they dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If I hadn't had this experience of mingling with the US Navy people, I would not have become a cross-cultural business coach, consultant and trainer.

When three months passed after I became a waiter, I was promoted to a bartender. I started to make many cocktails for Navy soldiers. The ball room was spacious. A couple of Japanese music bands often stood on the stage and played American pop music in the late 1960's and the early 1970's.

Among other things, I was so much attracted to two particular songs played by one of the Japanese music bands. They were "Listen to the Music" by Doobie Brothers and "I Shot the Sheriff" by Eric Clapton.

Listen to the Music, Doobie Brothers


I Shot the Sheriff, Eric Clapton

Whenever I hear these two songs, I remember those good old days when I was still around 19 or 20 years old, serving the US Navy soldiers with cocktails while dancing to the music. 

Photo credit: Indiana University Website

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