An Ambassador of Culture
During World War II when Hideko Kato was 19 years old, U.S. forces firebombed her home during an air raid of Tokyo. Just a few years later, during the U.S. occupation of Japan, she found herself working for U.S. Gen. Douglas McArthur in his headquarters as a translator and English stenographer.
“We were all so fascinated by him. He really was always smoking that pipe,” she remembers.
Her understanding of the English language and work ethic impressed Atlantan Floyd Cossitt, who at the time led the Natural Resources Division at the Occupation Headquarters. When he returned stateside in 1957, his family welcomed Kato to Atlanta where she lived with the Cossitts and studied at Georgia State, then the Georgia State College of Business Administration. While studying here, she worked for the Georgia Newspaper Association and was a contributor to The Signal, Georgia State’s student newspaper. In 1957, the Signal published an article about her and her journey to the States.
“I rode in a cargo ship from Kobe, Japan to Vancouver, Canada,” she said. Three days after landing on North American soil — and more than 3,500 miles via rail — she arrived in Atlanta.
In August, she visited the Georgia State campus for the first time in 55 years.
“My memories of being here were of ‘Gone With the Wind,’” she said, laughing. “The university is very different now.”
These days, Georgia State is an international campus with students from more than 150 countries. In the late ‘50s, however, things were different, Kato remembers.
“Everyone was very, very friendly,” she said. “But there were no other Japanese students here. There was one at Georgia Tech and one at Emory, and we saw each other once a week.”
Her experience at Georgia State served her well. Upon her return to Japan, she went on to teach English at the International Education Center, Seisen University and the Tokyo Culture Center, and enjoyed a successful career as a corporate trainer.
Today, now 87, she continues to teach the beauty of Japanese culture worldwide and “the Way of Tea,” the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
“The philosophy of the Way of Tea is simply sharing with one another,” she says. “If everyone could understand the Way of Tea there would be no more war.”
Photo by Steve Thackston