Her name is Kana. She was my best friend in elementary school. She is Japanese, but as a child, nationality and race meant nothing to me. She was a companion, a friend that made my primary school days worth remembering. My mom always recounted the story of a birthday slumber party we had in a hotel room, and apparently Kana and I fell asleep holding hands. Mom always said it was one of the sweetest moments she had ever witnessed. I’ll take her word for it. Anyway, in the 5th grade Kana moved back to Japan with her family and even though she wrote down her address so we could stay in touch, that piece of paper got lost in the shuffle. After she went back, I never talked to her or heard from her again. That was 17 years ago.
I didn’t come to Japan in search of Kana, but I did bring some photos and hung them on my fridge as a reminder of our friendship. Every morning, as I went to eat breakfast, I would look at the photos with curiosity, wondering whether or not we’d ever cross paths again. Now that we were living in the same country, though I didn’t know this for sure, I felt like my chances of running into her or connecting with her again were greater.
Previously, I had looked for her on Facebook, but none of the photos or profiles that came up matched the Kana I knew. Then, just recently I searched again out of curiosity. A new profile I hadn’t seen before had popped up in my search. The girl in the photo had the same birthmarks on her cheeks, the same eyes and mouth and chin and smile. In her profile, she lists that she had once lived in Michigan and attended the same elementary school I went to. I found my Kana.
The part that gives me chills is that we were living in the same prefecture only 30 minutes apart by train. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see her before I left Japan, but it’s enough to know that I can reach her via the world wide web and it was definitely the best parting gift I could’ve asked for.
UPDATE: On my most recent trip to Japan in September 2016, Kana and I finally met up for a day for lunch, a bit of browsing in the dessert section of Shibuya Hikarie, and a trip to the top of the Tokyo Skytree. One day wasn’t enough to catch up on everything we’ve missed in the last 18 years, but it was one of the best days reconnecting with her.