Ken Lewis ’67
Reunion With Japanese Host Family
You really can go home again. Just ask Ken Lewis ’67. His “home” during fall 1963 was in Japan, where he stayed with the Sogabe family as part of Lewis & Clark’s then-new overseas study program. The visit had a profound impact on Lewis, who now lives in New York and keeps an eye on things international through his work in the travel industry.
The Sogabe family also had fond memories of Lewis’ homestay. In spring 2004, Yurimi Sogabe sent a handwritten letter to the College’s Office of International Student Services asking for help in contacting Lewis. The family had last heard from him more than 25 years ago.
“Although it was only a two-month stay, we visited many places,” Yurimi wrote. “My mother always remembers him and is wondering … if he still remembers us. She wants to meet him again during her lifetime. I want to have my mother’s wish fulfilled.”
Sugaya Satomi ’06, a physics major from Yachiyo-Machi, Ibaraki-ken, offered to serve as a translator for the College, Lewis, and the family. “Hearing this story was inspiring for me,” she says. “I could feel so many strong feelings between the family and Ken.”
On September 18, 2004, Lewis flew to Japan. Two days later, he rode the hotel elevator 29 floors to reunite with his host family and his nearly 90-year-old “mother.” He wondered if they would recognize each other after 41 years.
As he stepped out of the elevator, Lewis heard a familiar voice. “Oh it’s Ken-san!” shouted Hideki Sogabe, Lewis’ Japanese brother.
Then Lewis saw his okasan (mother). “She was standing in front of me—all 4’8” of her,” says Lewis. “She was crying and shaking her head back and forth as if to say that she couldn’t believe that we were meeting again after all these years.” The gathering soon totaled nearly 20 people from the Sogabes’ extended family.
Lewis realizes what a special family he met through the overseas study program. “The Sogabes were warm, funny, generous, and loving back then, and nothing had changed,” says Lewis. “I know I will see them again.”
As a matter of fact, the Sogabe family is talking about a trip to New York in the next year or two.
—by Tania Thompson