30 Years, 30 Stories: Return Trip


2018 marks JCMU’s 30th anniversary since our founding in 1988. To celebrate, we will be posting 30 JCMU stories of 30 different JCMU alumni from 1989 to 2018 every Thursday from mid-February through September!

Have you returned to Shiga? For our thirteenth installment in the “30 Years, 30 Stories” series, read about JCMU 1990-91 alum Andrew Conti’s return trip to Hikone (originally included in our November 2000 newsletter), and discover how no matter how much the world is different from year-to-year, some things never change.

[In 2000], l had the pleasure of revisiting JCMU – almost 10 years after I first arrived as a curious, wide-eyed, Wayne State University student.

Now a decade older, several pounds heavier, with hair thinning in the right spots and thickening in the wrong ones, I felt like much had changed – within Japan, at the JCMU, and of course, in my own life.

Nostalgically clopping through the JCMU corridors in those stylish, plastic slippers (still three sizes too small for your garden variety gaijin), I gazed a bit enviably upon the new computer lab, the exercise room, and COCO’S restaurant – luxuries non-existent in my JCMU days.

I then peered out the library window upon the gorgeous picture Lake Biwa daily paints. I reminisced about the Japan I came to know in 1990: an increasingly confident, outwardly-looking, economic giant, striving for a greater role on the global stage.

Unfortunately, some things have changed in ten years.

Many of my Japanese friends and colleagues lament their country’s economic drift, the loss of faith in its political leadership, the disillusionment of its youth, the shock of its sensational crimes, of its natural and man-made disasters which so often fill the newspapers.

Perhaps it’s too easy for me to say as an outsider looking in, but I feel that things are not as bad as they seem here. I think today’s Japan is sometimes unrealistically compared to the heady days of the “bubble” era; while, overlooked is the fact that Japan’s current problems are not so different from those we face in the States.

Continuing to reflect, l then felt hopeful, on the other hand, that much remains unchanged here as well: the intelligence, diligence, and resilience of the Japanese people, the quaint elegance of Hikone-Jou (Hikone Castle); or more personally, the eternal kindness and generosity of my host families (I’m so sorry l could not visit all of you this time!), and of course, Mrs. Nishizawa’s cheerful smile and warm greeting of “Okaerinasai” upon a return visit long overdue. Yes, thankfully, some things never change.

Although my stay this time in town was but a couple hours as it was a work-related trip (I’m currently employed at Consulate General of Japan in Detroit), I’d like to thank all of those in Hikone and throughout Shiga who made my JCMU days so memorable and life-changing. To the current students, I’d encourage you to wring every last drop out of your Japan experience-in the classroom as well as the community. As one who walked in your slippers before you, believe me when I say that your efforts will enrich you in ways you cannot now imagine. Good Luck and Ganbatte!

Andrew Conti
JCMU Class of 1990-91

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