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A modern take on pen pals

Japanese origami peace cranes

When I was 12 I got myself a pen friend, through an old school pen and paper pen pal club. Befitting of my then burgeoning obsession with karate (due to having watched the original Karate Kid) I chose a Japanese girl to befriend.

I loved the anticipation of waiting for that letter, or what was more often a package full of cute and quirky gifts from Japan – from seaweed biscuits (oh so foreign to a teenager brought up in Yorkshire) and origami swans, to beautiful silk purses and scarves. I got to learn about life on the other side of the world, to dream about exotic lands and strange foods, and 13 years later I actually met my friend Chiaki Takamine in a bar in Hiroshima, relatively not too far from where I was then living near Nagasaki.

Years before I got to leave home and travel the world my passion for knowledge and experience of other cultures was developed through remote but no less meaningful insight into my new friend’s life. The distance between our lives was shortened and we learned that although there were minor differences, as teenagers our major preoccupations were the same. So technology moves on, pen and paper are used less and the distance between our lives in now made up by internet cables. We  can now access what each  other are doing every few second via social media platforms but so too has penfriending moved into the modern world and as an adult or a kid you could find pleasure in making new friends.

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1 comment

Comment by
Khuong Ngo
22 Jan 2012

Fab article Jo (I really am your number one fan!), it brought back memories of the friendship I built with my Canadian pen pal of 19 years and meeting her for the first time in London a couple years ago!