Honoring Yoshi's Memory

Posted by Jonas Stewart
August 14, 2008
Yoshi Hattori in Nagoya, Japan

About the Author: Jonas Stewart is the Director of the Nagoya American Center and Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya, Japan.

Earlier this summer, Masaichi and Mieko Hattori paid a courtesy visit on the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya in Central Japan. They wanted to introduce us to their friends, Holley and Richard Haymaker, as well as update us on the U.S.-Japan exchange program they founded to honor the memory of their son, Yoshi.

After the customary business card exchange, Mieko Hattori introduced the Haymakers, a friendly couple from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, then quietly explained the progress of their program. After casual small talk and discussion about how to work together on future programs, the Hattoris and their friends took their leave.

But this was no routine meeting about a cultural exchange program. The Hattoris were the center of a tragic episode in U.S.-Japan relations, and in the years since have used their heartrending experience to enhance U.S.-Japan relations via student exchange.

Their son, Yoshi Hattori, was a gregarious boy who was interested in sports and teenage life in America. At the age of 16, he seized the opportunity to participate in a student exchange program allowing him to live in the Haymaker's Baton Rouge home and attend a local high school during the fall of 1992.

Two months into his stay, Yoshi and the Haymaker's teenage son were invited to a Halloween party. While looking for the party, they unknowingly approached the wrong house. Yoshi and the Haymaker's son were mistaken as trespassers with criminal intent, and the homeowner shot Yoshi, who died shortly afterwards.

Back in Nagoya, Yoshi's parents received the horrible news of their son's death. In most cases, parents going through such a tragedy would understandably elect to have nothing to do with the country and other circumstances surrounding their child's death. Yet, after their initial shock and sadness the Hattoris decided to honor their son by using his death as a cause to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.

Since 1994, the Hattoris have hosted American students in Japan for 11-month homestay programs. The Hattoris introduce the students to Japanese culture and encourage them to meet with community groups. These meetings include discussions about how to make the world a safer and more peaceful place.

When we think about bilateral relationships, we usually consider politics and human relations on the macro level. We think about treaties, press events, and armed conflict. When it comes to the U.S.-Japan relationship, and many other bilateral relationships throughout the world, foundations instead often consist of occasionally tragic but often inspiring personal stories like the one shared by the Hattoris and the Haymakers. Thanks to the courage and vision of the Hattoris, Yoshi's tragic death has become a vehicle for stronger relations between the people of America and Japan.



Virginia, USA
August 15, 2008

Donald in Virginia writes:

14 August 08

I remember seeing this story on the news years ago. A very tragic story about an exchange student. My heart goes out to the family. We should of been honored to have YOSHI in our country! The people of Louisiana who was responsible for his death should of notified the police before taking the law into their own hands and maybe this situation could of been avoided completely! God Bless YOSHI and his Family!May he rest in peace in heaven!

God Bless!!!

New Mexico, USA
August 15, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Young lady from South Korea walked into the local paint store that I was placing an order with the other day and asked for directions to the local youth hostel.

Since it was on my way, I offered a lift. She looks at the guy behind the counter I've known for almost twenty years like "Is this ok?"

Guy says, "Oh don't worry, if you go missing we'll know where to find him."

To which all my fellow house painters and the staff nodded in solemn agreement till we all burst out laughing, including our lost guest.

After I dropped her off three blocks down the road at her destination I was struck by how similar my youth was to her's hitchhiking around the U.S., relying on the kindness of strangers and subject to a lot of random encounters not always pleasent.

Street smarts are not something taught in school, so my suggestion to State is to help exchange students acclimate their awareness in our society is to prep them to be able to avoid situations that may compromise their safety.

I don't know that this would have made a difference in Yoshi's case, as I don't know the details.

But it seems to me that getting lost halfway around the world from home shouldn't be an option.

Portable GPS should be standard issue to all foreign exchange students for the duration of their stay.

Tennessee, USA
August 15, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

This is wonderful, but again, it is not the People of the World, it is the people who become leaders that are the problem.

While you say this, Japan wants to sell its own munitions and military hardware... It wants to have an expanded Navy, missiles, etc. Not many years ago, there were symposium after symposium as to the problems the U.S. caused the Japan business sector by outsourcing to China and the mass loss of jobs. Their suicide rate was astronomical. It is amazing that South Korea and Japan are still our allies...and they shored up our business sector with bringing their auto business and computer business here.

Humanistic stories are everywhere and have gone on for a very long time, but if these children only remain citizens and not leaders, nothing will be accomplished but a group who peacefully follows poor leadership.

Postscript: Odd the family name is Haymaker: What happened to all OUR HAYMAKERS who became leaders? It is not about personal gain for leadership and money; but, overall gain for the Society of citizens. President Buchanan made note of that years ago...what happened?

Nice story though...and perhaps painting more of this can lead to a better society world wide...we become what we visualize....

Yoshinori K.
Louisiana, USA
August 20, 2008

Yoshinori in Louisiana writes:

I happen to know the Hattoris and the Haymakers as a volunteer interpreter during the criminal trial against the shooter, who was acquitted.

The Hattoris and the Haymakers are truly amazing. The former is the nicest couple I have ever known, and the latter is the most active couple (with a leadership) I know. I even got involved in their endeavors of student exchange and gun control (which is not mentioned in the story, for probably a good reason. The Hattoris collected more than 1.7 million petitions in Japan and delivered 35 cardboard boxed to the White House, making the Brady Law possible).

I would like to add to this nice story that the Hattoris are a part of another student exchange called Japan Louisiana Friendship Foundation, through which more than 40 high school students in Japan and Louisiana visited each other to understand the other side of the world. This has been life-changing experience for many of them, including a current NFL player (Jimmy Williams of Texans) who always mentions US-Japan relationship in his press exposure.

Thank you for letting people know what the Hattoris and the Haymakers have done, Ms. Stewart.


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