The Japan Times

 Martin Luther King Jr.'s Japanese Friend ('A Note of Concern')

On Sept. 20, 1958, Martin Luther King Jr. was sitting inside a Harlem department store signing copies of his book “Stride Toward Freedom” when a 42-year-old woman decided to walk up and stab him in the chest with a 17-cm letter opener.

MLK`s Fears of Nuclear Devastation Should Continue to Resonate

Even now, Hiroshima is one of the only cities outside North America to honor Martin Luther King Day, thanks in large part to former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who often used King’s words in his speeches to better articulate the argument for nuclear disarmament. For example, in a speech at a U.S. Conference of Mayors luncheon in Washington in 2005, Akiba spoke of the fiery way in which King rejected the notion of nuclear weapons. King once said, “I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation.”

USA Today 

King Would Note Progress, Push for More 

What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Think of the Events in Ferguson and New York...

Martin Luther King Jr. would preach cautiousness and remind the nation of the progress that has been made in the last 50 years, even though it may be hard to see when tragedies such as the ones in Ferguson, Mo., and New York occur. He would also, however, urge police officers to search more deeply within themselves and reflect upon the authority they have and to not abuse it.

Even though it was more than 70 years ago, Seattle legend Reverend Samuel B. McKinney can still remember the nickname he and his friends gave Martin Luther King Jr. during their days at Morehouse College.

Before his Nobel Peace Prize and “I Have a Dream” speech, and before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, there was a teenager who used to shoot baskets at a YMCA in Atlanta. He was the same height as Spud Webb, and although he’d never be able to dunk, he sure knew how to let it fly.




At what point can a person give up on the culture that raised them? Perhaps it’s after they’ve been embarrassed or heartbroken, or told in various ways that they were socially unacceptable, or, even worse, simply “not right.” Perhaps it occurs after they’ve been treated in such a way, day in and day out, that they are unable to separate the slights. In his early twenties, James Baldwin (born August 2, 1924) chose to give up on American culture by simply leaving. “The time has come, God knows, for us to examine ourselves,” he once wrote.
ON THE NIGHT of January 30, 1873, in his home at 17 Heriot Row in Edinburgh, Scotland, Robert Louis Stevenson told his parents that he no longer believed in God. He’d grown tired of pretending to be something he was not (“am I to live my whole life as one falsehood?”). His father, a strict Calvinist who always managed to justify his beliefs, was, for once, at a complete loss. His reply to Stevenson was a mental bomb of shame: “You have rendered my whole life a failure.” His kind, yet distant mother’s reply took away whatever stability had remained in the home: “This is the heaviest affliction that has ever befallen me.”
In the days that followed the bombing of Dresden, Vonnegut often had to dig holes into the rubble, where he found basements with perfectly preserved dead bodies sitting up, as if nothing ever happened.
For Charles Darwin, it was an invitation from his former Cambridge mentor J.S. Henslow that would change his life. Up until that time, Darwin had been given nothing more than what his uncle Josiah Wedgwood described as “an enlarged curiosity,” a phrase that may or may not have been a jab at his inability to fit in with society.

The invitation was nothing short of mind-altering. Henslow had been asked by one John Peacock to fill a position as a naturalist on a boat called the HMS Beagle. Darwin had already displayed a massive interest in animal life throughout childhood, but he hardly had any definitive qualifications. This opportunity came because of the connections he made at Cambridge, plain and simple. As Henslow stated in his letter: “Don’t put on any modest doubts or fears about your disqualifications for I assure you I think you are the very man they are in search of.”
I’m pretty sure everyone has had that moment at the dinner table, when we sit staring at the vegetables on our plate, praying our parents won’t make us eat them. All we want is that ice cream sandwich in the fridge, or those fresh-baked cookies grandma left on the counter, still warm on the oven sheet.

But in that chair we remained, staring at a heaping pile of, oh let’s say maize. Now, imagine staring at that maize for close to seven decades. In a way, that’s what cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock did, and she won a Nobel Prize for it too.

When Kato Shidzue was born in 1897, the only country in the world where women had the vote was New Zealand (1893). By the time she passed away quietly in her sleep in 2001, at the age of 104, Japanese women not only had the vote and access to abortion and scientific birth control, but one of the lowest birth rates in the world. One of Japan’s first female activists, Kato carried out her activities on behalf of Japanese women in the face of opposition even fiercer than that faced by her mentor, Margaret Sanger, in the United States.

For some, culture shock can occur suddenly. Perhaps dreadful experiences with customer service at a bank or on public transport begin to build up, like a snowball gathering mass down a mountainside. Eventually you succumb to the depression, and you begin to believe that you simply “do not fit” this culture. You are not as flexible or adaptable as you once believed. This despairing thought — that you are not limitless — leads to many silent walks alone, an experience that is both melancholic and therapeutic.
There I was, standing at a baggage carousel in New York’s LaGuardia Airport, thinking the world had gone mad. I’d spent the previous 16 months living in the city of Oita in northern Kyushu.

Compared to what was around me, Oita had been a cocoon of safety. Residents apologized for apologizing, and bowed their way out of giving directions. Once, a Lawson employee ran two blocks simply to hand me the rice ball I’d forgotten on the counter. Elementary school children, eager to practice their English, had walked behind me giggling, saying “Hello!” as I headed to work.
Although it has been largely ignored by history, the first unofficial English school in Japan was “founded” in the late fall of 1848 in a prison cell in Nagasaki. Lessons took place within a compound encircled by a 6-foot stone wall. On top of the wall was broken glass, in case any of the criminals, including the teacher of this “school,” wanted to escape.

The school had no name, but if forced to create one, it would have to have been “MacDonald’s,” in honor of the first foreign English teacher in Japan: Ranald MacDonald.

Teachers are trained never to generalize a student’s nature before getting to know them. For example, in a typical American high school classroom, you could imagine a few things when setting your eyes on the student in the back of the room with a hat worn sideways, chewing gum and slouching in his seat. However, when teaching ESL, these generalizations reach great distances, because they include having to know a little bit about how each culture has learned, or wishes to be treated.

The Writer

An Interview with Jessica Warman

May Issue 2015



Artist Trust Fellowship - May 2014

 Black Lawrence Press: Black River Chapbook Finalist, for ...Still Here



Other Non-Fiction

WAESOL World Quarterly-personal essay- “Create Your Own Country: The Story of an Activity”. Published Fall 2010

Glimmer Train- memoir - Finalist in Best Start Competition- ‘Shadow of the Rising Sun’- December 2009

Byline –Creative Non-Fiction Article- ‘Five Abandoned Short Stories’-published January 2007


Screenplay Festival - 'Abroad' - Honorable Mention Winner- January 2014

Extreme Screenplay Contest -  'Drive Around' - finalist 2013

Screenplay Festival screenplay – ‘Humble Trip’  –semi-finalist in Drama Category 2010.


In Vevey with my muse.

In Vevey with my muse.