A friend’s birthday party when I was nine years old changed the trajectory of my life. The party was the week before Christmas in 1981. My friend lived a ten-minute walk away from my home in a small town in Minnesota. I was expecting a fun party with friends, games, cake, ice cream and presents. Instead, a chance encounter at the party became a watershed moment in my life.
The encounter was with an exchange student from Japan named Kumi Okamoto*. Fate and my curiosity drew us together. I asked if by any chance she was from Osaka because my Dad’s major business client shared the same last name. My question surprised her. Yes, she was from Osaka.