The Preface

Empty Suitcase: No.10 (Wow I already have 10 stories!):
The Pink Washtub


When I came to America for the first time, I was sixteen years old. Escaping from my high school in Japan, I was in Portland, Oregon for the summer of my senior year. The summer was the most important season if I wanted to pass Ivy League-like universities in Japan. Unfortunately, I could not wake up at 7:00am, take a subway at 7:45am, and run in to a private women’s high school before the teachers started to take attendance with a ruler.

In my high school, there was an appearance examination every morning. Students cannot wear their uniforms like characters in Japanese manga do; but of course, the students change their outfits after school just like Sailor Moon. But in the summer, I did not have any chance to wear my uniform because no matter how early I went to bed, I woke up at 3:15pm. My poor mother was stressed out about me, who was failing all her classes.

So, my father bought a one-way ticket. My mother kicked me out of the apartment.

I had no idea about real American life. One week before I left Japan, I watched American TV shows like “The Simpsons,” “Full House,” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” I observed and studied their lives. I especially looked for a washtub in their bathrooms. I desperately needed to know whether there was a washtub in American bathrooms or not through the shows.

Any sized washtubs are available in Japanese houses. The Japanese style bathroom is very different from the Western style. There is a big bathtub for keeping bodies warm and the tiled floor for washing their bodies. After they wash their bodies on the tiled floor, they use the washtubs for rinsing off soapy bodies. In addition, the toilet is not in the same room.

Anyway, I decided to bring a large, pink washtub with me three days before I left Japan. My mother and I picked up the perfect size of washtub for my suitcase, but she kept whispering that it was made in the USA. My host family just got married a couple weeks prior to when they had me. Their honeymoon was kind of destroyed by a Japanese girl with the pink washtub. They were speechless when they found it in my suitcase. They told me that I can get one at any place in America. There are tons of reasonable washtubs, which are made in China, in any store.

I brought my washtub because I thought that I could wash my clothes in it. I also thought that I could put my feet into hot water because I heard that there were no comfortable bathtubs in some American bathrooms. I needed the portable, private, pink bathtub.

I asked my friends who always visit foreign countries, “What do you bring if you are going to stay in a foreign country?” My friend brought supplies for washing cars including special 20 foot hose even though he did not have an American driver’s license and car. My other friend brought a real coconut for her religious ceremony. In her religion, she needs to float it on a certain day on the river; however, the St. Joseph River is not clean enough, so she went back home with her coconut for the next trip.

Now, I can collect washtubs from all over the world using the internet. All I need is my passport, driver license, visa, and some paper documents—they are just like a thick survival encyclopedia—, I do not need to import washtub-like things for living in America.

In the end of summer, I went back to Japan to graduate from my high school. My pink washtub was left with the family in Oregon. While it was used for their tropical fishes and dogs, I was reduced to take thousands of make-up exams—most of them were English and Japanese classes—and I really forced myself to be in classes on time. I was a nearly high school dropout, and now I try not to be a graduate school dropout.