Japan - A very Memorable Birthday

When I served in Peace Corps in Tonga, we were not the only international volunteer organization there.    JICA, is a similar program run by the Japanese government.    On Vava'u, the island where I served in Tonga, there were four Japanese volunteers and during my two years of service, I became friends with all of them.

Two years after I finished my service in Tonga, my friend Rafael Bello invited me to join him on a trip to Japan.   I contacted my friend Takako and told her I was coming.

We made plans to get together in Kyoto for my birthday.  She suggested Kyoto because she wanted to invite my three other Japanese friends to join us.  They all lived in different parts of the country and she said that would be a good meeting place.

On the morning of December 28th, 2011, I boarded a train from Tokyo and headed west to Kyoto.  Takako and my friend Rika were waiting for us at the station.   We did some sightseeing and then they surprised me with a big "Happy Birthday" sign, which you can see in the photo below   

Takako Fujise, Rafael Bello, Steve Hunsicker and Ito Rika in Kyoto, Japan

Later, we met up with my other two friends from Tonga: Tomoko Asahi and Ryuichi Honda.   Takako had reserved a private room at a restaurant for dinner.   They had all brought gifts, as is the Japanese tradition, along with not one, but two birthday cakes.  

I greeted everyone by speaking Tongan and we had a good laugh.   (The short video linked below shows everything.)  We all sat on the floor and enjoyed a traditional Japanese dinner.  It was delicious.

But what made the evening really special was being with my four Japanese friends again.  They had not seen each other since Tonga so it was also a mini-reunion for them.

I've had a lot of great birthdays over the years, but this one was special and a memory I will always treasure.  


 My friend Takako is a dentist and gave me a root canal during my service.

Dates of Travel

  • December, 2011

Places Visited

  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto





This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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