You can fly from Detroit Metro to almost any major airport in the world in a single day, although sitting for 14 or 15 hours on a direct flight can make it feel like a very long day. Nowadays, it usually takes much more time to plan a trip overseas than to actually make the journey.
Our son Lee’s recent Japanese adventure took a lot longer to develop than most. Its genesis was a casual conversation four years ago between his mother, Sandy, and a fellow shopper in a
Kalamazoo store. As proud parents often do, Sandy found an
opportunity to mention that her son was a stained glass artist who produces beautiful
Unknown to Sandy, the lady she chatted with was connected to the Kalamazoo-Numazu Sister City Committee. Committee members make a cultural exchange trip to
in odd-numbered years to stay with Numazu citizens and serve as hosts to sister city
friends in even-numbered years.
|Lee putting finishing touches on the gift from Kalamazoo to Numazu|
Committee planners soon contacted Lee about the possibility of getting an original stained glass piece from him. Two years later, several representatives visited Lee’s studio near Plainwell. They needed something special to mark the 50th anniversary of the sister city association. They requested and approved a preliminary drawing. A few months ago, Lee was commissioned to create the work of art that would be carried to Numazu as the official gift from the City of
to recognize the long-time friendship.
Lee’s creation features two symbolic birds—a Japanese Crane and a Cardinal representing the
a banner proclaiming “Understanding, Friendship, Kalamazoo-Numazu 1963-2013.” The
biggest part of his compensation was an all-expense-paid trip to Japan as part
of the 41-person American delegation visiting their sister city. Lee gave a
brief speech at an evening banquet where his work was presented to the Mayor of
Numazu. By all accounts, the mayor and
the other Japanese friends loved the gift.
|A banner at the Numazu City Hall entrance greeted the Kalamazoo delegation|
Lee stayed with a Japanese couple in their home for eight days. Much of his time was spent on organized tours with the visiting group of area sites that represented ancient and modern Japanese activities. However, during times reserved for host family-visitor interactions, Lee’s “house father” and “house mother” liked to just stay in their home and talk. Lee said those discussions were highlights of his visit. The fact that his house mother is an English teacher was a big plus.
Lee found he liked traditional Japanese food, which in some cases surprised his hosts. They also were amazed to discover he was proficient with chopsticks. He acquired that skill years ago when his mother and I often took him to Asian restaurants in the
U.S. As a little boy, Lee developed
an exceptional ability to eat with chopsticks, much more advanced than ours.
|Lee went traditional at a cultural fair sponsored by the Japanese committee|
Lee had to cut his visit short because of a commitment to display his art at a show in
His house father provided a final kindness. The trip to the Tokyo
area’s by train involved two transfers,
a very difficult situation for a tourist who spoke no Japanese. The house
father escorted Lee all the way. Although they got lost for a time in one of
the world’s busiest airports, the host found the correct departure point. In
parting, he offered a final bit of house fatherly advice: “Go home and continue
to produce beautiful art.” Narita Airport
Thanks to the house father’s train route navigation talents and his quick thinking in the airport, Lee got on the plane just in time. His art will stay in
Numazu, however, on permanent
display in the city’s . Cultural
Lee’s creations now are owned by discerning people in
Italy, and Germany as well as many states in the U.S. If you want to take a look at representative
pieces of his work, the easiest way is a quick visit to www.kladewerks.com. Enjoy.