Representing the University of Michigan, Dick Jorgensen arrived in Japan in 1954 and spent the next two years teaching at the University of Hiroshima, founded in the wake of the atomic bomb detonation in 1945. Thus began an incredible journey for, as he describes himself, a “kid from the Midwest.”
It was the start of a lifelong love affair with travel in general and Japanese culture, architecture, and history in particular. While in Japan, Jorgensen met luminaries in the fields of history, politics, and education. He lived with two Japanese families and discovered new ways to reach his young students, all of whom grew up in a Japan ravaged by World War II. Jorgensen visited many parts of Japan, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Sapporo, and Nagasaki. He treats readers to luscious descriptions of all those cities, while at the same time providing histories that deepen understanding and perspective.
As a work of history, O Tomodachi (which means “friend” in Japanese) provides a perspective on postwar Japan that is both historical and accessible. As memoir, it gives readers a wonderful sense of what it was like for a young American to go off to a foreign land, a place that had only recently been the enemy of the United States, and to open himself to new experiences and people. Jorgensen fell in love with Japan, and that love has lasted a lifetime.