(PICTURE: Kensuke, Masumi and I waiting for my bus to go to Kyoto.)
When I first learned that I'd be teaching in Koryama, I was a little bit skeptical. I had asked to be placed in a small city in the countryside yet when I googled Koryama I only saw pictures of industry. Whenever I asked someone who had lived -- or was living -- in Japan they all had the same response, "Koryama?" Nobody had ever heard of it. Lonely Planet Japan is over 600 pages long and it doesn't mention Koryama once. In fact, there are only two and a half pages dedicated to all of Fukushima. That's two pages for the equivalent of a US state! I bet even South Dakota or Idaho get more of a mention than that in Lonely Planet America. Well, despite my fears, Koryama turned out to be a pretty amazing place. Sure it isn't totally countryside and sure it is a relatively new city but it still has so much to offer. Frankly, I couldn't have asked to be placed somewhere better the last three months.
Now be warned readers of Ahoy Hanoi or random people who happen to stumble on my blog while researching Japan: I have no illusion if you come to Koryama you will NOT feel the way I feel. My amazing three months in this "core city" really boils down to two things: Masumi and Kensuke. I often feel really lucky and meeting Masumi and Kensuke is now up on the list of the luckiest things in my life. These two people are without a doubt two of the nicest, most genuine, most friendly people I have ever met. I have a hard time imagining that anyone I know would welcome a complete stranger into their lives as openly as Masumi and Kensuke invited me into their.
When I walked Masumi home the first night I met her, little did I know that just two and a half months later I would spend my last 24 hours in Koryama as her house guest and unabashedly call her and Kensuke my two newest best friends. As excited as I am to get back to Hanoi to be with Huyen, I am really going to miss having such amazing friends in my life.
Thanks for amazing memories, Masumi and Kensuke!