In 1954, as a twenty-nine-year-old grad student, Dick Jorgensen was selected to be one of four “ambassador” teachers in a first-ever exchange program with Japan. Jorgensen would represent the University of Michigan, where he was studying history, and would spend the next two years teaching at the University of Hiroshima, founded in the wake of the dropping of the atomic bomb on that city in 1945.
Thus began an incredible journey for, as he describes himself, a Kid from the Midwest. Those two years in Japan were the start of a lifelong love affair with travel and with Japanese culture, architecture and history. While there, Jorgensen met luminaries in the fields of history, politics and education, 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.
While there, Jorgensen visited many parts of Japan – including Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Sapporo, Nagasaki and many other communities. Jorgensen 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 (Friend) provides a perspective on postwar Japan that is both historical and accessible. As memoir, O Tomodachi 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.