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Internship experiences in the U.S.A.

Former Times Record intern finds a Japanese glimpse of Maine

Shoko Hisanaga, Special to Neighbors
Kanagawa, Japan


From late October to the end of November, my friend from Brunswick, Cliff Fisher, visited Japan. This was his second trip to my country, and he was there to learn shoji and fusuma (Japanese sliding door) making in Aomori prefecture. He also did volunteer work rebuilding an old traditional Japanese farmhouse, called a "minka," in the city of Enzan, Yamanashi prefecture, which is in the mountains three hours west of Tokyo.

Cliff and I spent time together while he was in the Tokyo-Yokohama area. One day, Cliff and I went to Kamakura to meet a photographer who has a connection to Maine. He is a friend of Cliff's Japanese tutor in Portland, and comes to Maine nearly every year to photograph lighthouses all over the state.

On his last trip in the United States, he had to leave behind some of his things, including a tripod, because he had too much to carry. Cliff's teacher asked him to carry the tripod to Japan with him. And, I went to Kamakura to help with translation when they met to return the tripod.

The photographer, Fujio Mino, was a nice man. He appreciated the favor very much, and he showed us around Kamakura, which was an ancient religious and government center in Japan.

He also took us to nearby Enoshima Island, where a beautiful lighthouse is located. On the way to Enoshima Island, we stopped by a shop owned by a friend of Mino's.

As soon as I entered the shop, I was surprised. I felt as if I was back in Maine! In the shop, I saw many lighthouse-related items from Maine, as well as lobster paraphernalia, American maps, balsam pillows and so on. Yes, this shop was the only shop in Japan dealing with American lighthouse products by importing from the parent company, "Lighthouse Depot," in Wells, Maine.

Mino's friend, a Mr. Yoshi Yamaguchi, is the owner of the shop called "Lighthouse Keeper" and also the president of ASAP Co., an exclusive distributor for Lighthouse Depot in Japan.

We introduced each other and soon noticed one common association between us. It was "Maine."

I went to Brunswick, Maine, to work for The Times Record. Cliff is living in Brunswick. Mino went to Maine to photograph American lighthouses. And, Yamaguchi used to work for Don Devine, former CEO of Norton Co. in Worcester, Mass. He became an owner and president of "Lighthouse Depot" in Wells, Maine, and started to distribute American lighthouse products throughout Japan.

At "Lighthouse Keeper" we spoke in English. As soon as I heard Yamaguchi speak English, I was so shocked. His English, both in accent and intonation, was excellent. If I heard him speaking with my eyes closed, I would have thought he was American. I have heard many Japanese people speaking English, but this English was different. I think his English was the best I have ever heard by a nonnative speaker.

When I first met Yamaguchi, I thought he was just a store manager, but I realized he is much more. I found him to be a good businessman, and a very interesting person as well. I asked him how he learned to speak English. He said that he graduated from an American university, and later worked as president of an American company in Japan. I am glad to know "Lighthouse Keeper" and Mr. Yamaguchi.

I will go to the shop when I miss Maine. I will try to study English more when I face difficulties, because I will become a businessperson who handles English skillfully like Mr. Yamaguchi.

Shoko Hisanaga of Kanagawa, Japan, was an intern at The Times Record in 2002.

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