My name is Linda Sakamoto, and I used to work with Miki Sawada at the Elizabeth Saunders home in Japan.

 

My road to the Elizabeth Saunders Home started in 1968 during the Vietnam War.  All my life I loved children and dreamed of going to a foreign country and working in an orphanage. 

 

While I was in High School I became aware of the plight of Amerasian children and I found my calling.  I had read many of Pearl S. Buck’s books about China and her work establishing an orphanage for children that were Vietnamese-American babies, so I started contacting her and she was kind enough to answer my letters and questions about Amerasian children.  She suggested I contact Mrs. Miki Sawada, the great grand-daughter of the founder of the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu.  She had started an orphanage post WWII for Japanese-American babies that were born after the war. 

 

At that time, I had started my University Education at the University of Washington. I had heard that the then Ambassador to Japan, Edwin O. Reishauer, was going to give a lecture at the University, so I attended with butterflies because I planned on asking him about the best way to work with Amerasian children. 

 

After the lecture I went backstage where other students and professors were getting their books signed, but when it was my turn, I shocked him by asking the best way to work with Amerasian children. I’m sure he thought I was a cheeky young lady. My heart was beating about 200 beats a minute I was so excited to talk to an Ambassador! 

 

Again, I heard about Mrs. Miki Sawada. I was working part-time to pay my way through University at a Newspaper in the advertising department when an ad came through for an English teacher for Japan.  I jumped at the chance.  I interviewed and got the job.  It was in the Osaka area of Japan.  Little by little I started to learn the language and I saved my money and all by myself, took the new bullet train up to Odawara and on to the little seaside town of Oiso where Mrs. Sawada lived and the Elizabeth Saunders Home was.  (Remember I was only a very young nineteen years old and Japan was only twenty years post-War, the Japanese were not used to a lot of foreigners like they are today.) 

 

I arrived at the Elizabeth Saunders Home in the early evening. I didn’t even think ahead to tell Mrs. Sawada I was coming, that was how naive I was, but she was very kind to me and took me to play with the children.  She asked me where I was staying that night and I looked up at her with innocent eyes and said, “here”.  So, she got out another futon and put it on the floor for me to sleep on. 

 

The next day she sent me on my way with the advice that I return to Seattle after my year’s contract for teaching English was over and finish my education first,  which I did almost ten years to the day I received a letter from Mrs. Sawada asking if I still wanted to come back to Japan and work at the orphanage. Of course, I answered, “yes!” It had been my life’s dream. 

 

Soon I was packing my bags to meet my dream of working with Amerasian children. The year was 1978.  I waited and held on to my dream for ten years, and that dream has led me on a lifetime of adventures in Japan--forty years of them.   My time at the Elizabeth Saunders Home was the best time of my life, but more was to come! A wonderful Japanese husband and four wonderful adopted sons. I have had such a full life and I have been so lucky along the way. And have met such interesting people, like the members of the Reunion group started in the U.S. I have enjoyed communicating with the members and helping them in simple ways and actually meeting some of them. I hope to meet more of them in the future. 

 

Pearl S. Buck one time told me in one of her letters that the time between childhood and adulthood is swift, well that held true for the young girl from Seattle that came to Japan the first time at nineteen with a big dream and is still in Japan forty years later.

​©2018 by Ana Johns all rights reserved.​  author photo credit ©caseyandhercamera

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