As a first grader, I pretended to write cursive. My friends and I felt very grown up, connecting our printed letters into a flowing stream of imaginary words. In second grade, I went one step further and began writing imaginary words in “Japanese.” Later, I became fascinated with “real” Japanese that I found in a book in my parents’ library. I painstakingly copied the Kanji, having no idea what the words were. In my rural Midwest community, there were no Japanese people, no Japanese language instruction, or even teachers knowledgeable about Japan to quench my inquisitiveness.
When I became a teacher and began to learn more about Japanese culture, I felt I was too old to learn to read and write Japanese, much less include it in my classroom lessons.