In addition to myself, my city employs seven other English teachers. Due to a sister city relationship, all but one of my fellow foreigners is from Kentucky. As strange as it sounds, Hokuto and Kentucky have had a long and intimate relationship. It all began in 1938, when Dr. Paul Rusch, a Kentucky native, came to our mountains as a missionary. He introduced the Japanese townspeople to dairy farming, American football and the Anglican Church. Paul Rusch’s legacy lives on today at KEEP, an outreach center he established in Kiyosato. KEEP serves the best ice cream in Yamanashi (made of milk from Jersey cows) and hosts an American Festival every fall, complete with barbeque, football, cheerleading and Japanese people wearing overalls and Confederate-flag bandanas. A small church also graces the KEEP compound. After Mass, the congregants serve tea with cookies and speak Japanese very slowly, which I am particularly grateful for.
Kiyosato is Kentucky territory as far as English teachers are concerned, too. Sarah, Russ, Gus and JD all live up the mountain, just down the road from KEEP. Kim, Eric (my fellow non-Kentuckian) and I share the same apartment complex farther south in Sutama. In the east part of Hokuto, Beth lives all by her lonesome with only her crazy landlady to keep her company. Her landlady is going to teach us how to make sushi next week, though, so no hard feelings. Just this week, we all turned in our re-contracting papers, so I have at least another year and a half with these folks as my neighbors.