They were best friends, then pen pals — until one day, the letters stopped coming | Finding Fukue
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They were best friends, then pen pals — until one day, the letters stopped coming | Finding Fukue

When I was nine years old, my parents got
English teaching jobs and moved us all
to Japan for a year. I was a blonde kid, and that made me of interest
to all the Japanese people like ‘cos they had
never really seen a blonde-haired person before. (piano playing) JESS: They would point
at me or my sister, touch my hair, talk at me-
I didn’t understand
anything yet. JESS:
The day after we arrived I went to school for the first
time and then that was crazy. JESS:
I didn’t feel that anyone was interested
in getting to know me, except for one person
and her name was Fukue, and we became best of friends. JESS: She was really
curious about me and that made me
really curious about her because she was so
different from everyone else. We’d go down the dirt roads,
we’d explore the little shrines. We would find frogs
in the rice paddies. JESS: She was
the closest friend that I had, and she was a creative,
beautiful human. After a year in Japan,
my family returned to Vancouver. Fukue and I became
pen pals immediately. And then all of a sudden,
I just stopped hearing from her. At the time, I just wondered
if something prevented her from writing to me or if she
stopped of her own will. JESS: Fukue was my
surrogate family at school, and I protected her
from the bullies. Now that we were apart, I was scared that the bullying
had started again. JESS: Years later, when I
became a professional musician, I reconnected with the koto,
and that made me think a lot about my time in Japan
and Fukue. This song is called
‘Lost Friends’ and I hope one day to find her. (drum beating) JESS:
Scarf. Guitar. Chord. JESS: So, I started
looking online for Fukue. There was no record of her name, There was no social media
accounts, no photos. Nothing. In the back of my mind,
I was always worried that something bad
had happened to her. So, I’m going back to Japan to
see if I can try and find Fukue. The most important
thing for me to say to her is how much she meant to me, and that how much
she affected my life, and showed me some important
lessons about humanity. I might not be able to follow
the trail to anything that is current, but maybe
Fukue is still out there. (accordion music) JESS: The place that we
ended up living is a little town called Saku. So Saku is referred to
as the boonies by Japanese people. Dirt roads, rice paddies
everywhere, little shrines… We were so notable as a family that we were asked
to be the stars of an educational video to teach
Japanese kids English. But that was of course when Saku
had absolutely no foreigners and it was a small,
rural village. It’s now a regular city
of 100,000 people, so finding Fukue
is going to be a lot harder than it would
have been before. JESS: Wow, this is what
it looked like, for sure. This is what
everything looked like. The first place I’m going to go is the school that Fukue
and I went to as kids. I have a meeting set up
with the principal, and I’m really hoping he can
give me some information that leads us to finding her. JESS: The morning of
the Halloween party me and Fiona woke up at 6:10
we put away our futon Made breakfast and ate it after we had prepared
and carved the pumpkin children had started to come. Ah Halloween! JESS:
Halloween party also. JESS: So when Fukue and I
would play after school, she would always come
to my apartment. The only time that I actually
came face-to-face
with that thought was when I was formally
invited to come to her house. When I got to the place,
it wasn’t a house at all- it was like a shack, basically. It was poverty. JESS: I remember just
standing outside the house, not knowing what to do. Before anyone inside saw me,
I just ran back home. Just realizing that
my best friend lived in this type
of a situation, and all of the things
that I’d heard, coming around the corner
at school and seeing kids surrounding her
and pointing at her and clearly saying
something not nice to her even though
I couldn’t hear it. JESS: What I saw that day
has never left my mind’s eye. JESS: Is there anything else
that comes up here? I see Iwamurada. JESS : I still sort of
speak Japanese like a kid, so I’ve brought along
a translator and guide, Ryo, to help out. JESS: We’re looking at
the yearbook I picked up from the school, and it shows the father’s name
of every student. So we looked that up online and
we found a record from 2000, which is 11 years later than
our nearest other record so that’s like
an improvement. Even if he has passed and so his
number isn’t listed any more, his wife might still live there
or maybe his son lives there. Maybe she lives there. I think we should go to the
personal residence address that’s listed. RYO:
93 2-10. JESS:
Ooh. Here we go! It just feels good to do
detective work, exactly. It’s kind of like
my childhood dream. All my childhood dreams
meshing together in one trip! JESS: Dammit!
This is definitely all new. RYO: According to the map,
it’s probably this house. JESS:
Right. Like this one. JESS: You know we probably
should have asked those women. JESS:
Oh really! Really! Wow! JESS: I can’t believe
that when we got to City Hall that there was a full press
conference waiting for me. The most important thing
about the press being here is that it makes me
really hopeful that we’re actually
going to find Fukue. JESS:
Fukue-san. I want to find you. (dramatic music) (cell phone ringing) RYO:
(speaking Japanese) JESS:
Okay, great. RYO:
(speaking Japanese) JESS:
Yes, please. JESS: So now,
like we gotta call her. JESS: I don’t think I actually
thought that this would happen. Like, I hoped but… JESS: I always felt
I left Fukue behind, knowing her life
in Saku was not easy. She never said anything to me
about hard things were. She was strong
way beyond her years. JESS: She could
be using her intelligence and her creativity,
and having a wonderful life. She might
have a family, she might have accomplished
all of her goals. But on the flip side, maybe
she doesn’t have a good life- that would be a crazy
smack in the face of reality. (telephone ringing) JESS :
I became emotional immediately when I came to this city because
it only existed in my memory and in my imagination. And then along with that came
this idea that like those times were a time
I could never access again and the most important person
to me from that time of course was Fukue. We just got
along so well again and easily. It was so natural.
It’s just unreal. She has a steady job,
a husband that loves
her so much, and two awesome kids. I think she loves
her life, and I think she has
a wonderful life. I’m so happy
that even though she had to drop out
of elementary school, she’s been able to get to
where she is today. It’s like definitely
renewed my belief in things turning out
in the way that is right. JESS :
Now that I’m back home, Fukue and I are going to
keep in touch regularly, like we did when
we were kids. She went through
such a rough childhood, and the fact that
she is where she is, despite what she was
up against, makes me so happy. (dramatic music)

100 thoughts on “They were best friends, then pen pals — until one day, the letters stopped coming | Finding Fukue

  1. More short documentaries that will hit you right in the feels:

  2. Such a beautiful story! Thanks to Jessica ('cause it did my heart good) for never forgetting her best friend in childhood. Fukue is a beautiful person. They each deserve to have the happiness that relationship brings them, that they bring to each other!

  3. she doesnt change a lot still that shy kid i wonder if that happen in Japan i meant the bullying so it could happen everywhere how shame looking for ur friend after 30 years and still feel guilty u didnt in that day makes everyone love u

  4. thats happen to me my father was teaching in the north of Syria and old Kurdish woman was helping my mom and take care of me but she was dead before i could see her still feel so sad now i am 52 years old we still talking about her still remember her Kurdish words and she walked after us 10 km waving good bye for me and was crying i will never forget her never

  5. “Finding Fukue”
    Is an Amazing title and actually could’ve been an Anime! It would’ve been so interesting anime! Like an American girl finds her long lost Japanese friend. But to make it more interesting let the Japanese girl be in some kind of mansion with full of witches and the American girl goes from all these struggles to save her! And she saves her and they cry and then they save everybody else and everybody cry’s ya know? I’m not even joking, it would’ve been good anime… some kind of like remind of that one legendary anime called “Spirited Away”.

  6. Dang I feel like I want to find my old friend. My first friend, we only became a friend for a year but I really like her since I was a lil narcissistic and she gave all her attention to me, never disobey or fight me. Lol. She also never talks and always listen to me, I was probably a terrible friend since I only know her first name. That's all I know about her XD, but I was 7 , so..
    I only have one picture of her and it's a class photo . I didn't get to say goodbye to her and I was her only friend, she was really really introverted. My family Made me change school without even knowing it. I was dumb so i thought that I didn't actually left her. I still miss her :/. What sucks the most is the fact that my 2nd and 3rd Grade school was really really close to her school , so I can visit her before but my parent won't let me. We're like teen, so I highly doubt that she will still be in elementary echool

  7. I need films on these real documentaries. They should write a book cuz this short made me cry my eyes out. Amazing story and a proof that genuine friendships still exist. Also i loved the principal such a caring and sweet man.

  8. I thought I’d be crying of sadness because I thought something bad happens, but this? This was just wholesome

  9. This is the happiest thing I’ve seen since yesterday (Saturday Oct 5th 2019 10:30am). When my my mom got married to the best step dad someone could ever ask for. After that this is the happiest thing I’ve seen in a while

  10. u only find this kind of stuff in old school gen but nowadays gen meets each others in street and pretend they dont see each other

  11. I wish this was a movie or something. Because I would beg my parents to let me see it, and then cry to myself in the cinema.


  13. I'll be honest, I'm crying right now seeing them meet, such a beautiful story of friendship and love. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I had a bestfriend since I was like 1 or smth but when I was 5 we moved to a different city and we lost contact but then like 5 or 6 years later my mom found my best friends mother on facebook and we met a few months later and became best friends again
    but now we are not really texting and meeting each other so thats nice

  15. I cried watching this. Jess is such a lovely friend and caring person, I'm happy that Fukue has a happy family and life now. Thank you for sharing your friendship story Jess & Fukue! It's inspiring to us


  17. What a wonderful account of respect and love .How I wish other people understood that this is why we are here. To be happy and to have opportunity and a pathway that we are all entitled to. To love and be loved without prejudice and jealousy and without weak minds. You made me cry for I know all about these feelings. Feelings that I sometimes think the world has forgotten .My love to you for your determination to find truth and I hope you have happiness and respect in your life. Edward Lugsdin

  18. They both needed each other back then. They were both scared. Fukue being bullied and Jessica being new and scared and different. I love this so much.

  19. Lovely story, nice to see that the two friends finally came to meet again. As for more or less dropping out of schooling when young, I know hat first hand, and becoming a scholol scipper became tradiitional for me, but with years, I still managed to do college and university. This is now tardy, Oct. 13, 2019, around 8:55 am, but I wish these two women well for their friendship. Wish them both well.

  20. I had a pen pal from Japan back in 6th grade in the 1980s. Our school had a cultural exchange with a school in Japan and each student was paired up to have a pen pal, boys for boys, girls for girls. However, something must have gone off with the numbers because I got a girl. We had written a few letters and then it just stopped. I can't remember all the reasons why. I do not have any of the letters but one day, quite some years ago, an empty envelope (from her) made it's way back to me from a slew of personal effects left over from my younger years. I never forgot the experience of writing the letters, but never thought i'd again see any physical trace of the event. I do remember the letters a bit. They were on neatly folded rice paper. We wrote of basic things, likes and such. Nothing was too profound but nonetheless intriguing and memorable for me.

    Of course, I never had a connection such as Jessica (PS: reunions like this are emotional for me). I had never been to Japan nor have I ever seen my pen pal. But this documentary did strike a bit of a chord with me, if not in finding my pen pal, at least to kindle and remember my own past experiences and that they were important to me. I made an attempt to see about locating her probably over a decade ago, but after a 'returned' letter and no encouraging answers, I figured I'd leave it to memory.

  21. When they met again I cried so hard. What a sweet story. I am happy for them but now I feel very lonely. I'll never have a friendship like that 🙁

  22. my childhood friend found me on fb after 8 years its so crazy to see eachother look older we talked about how both our dogs passed away n stuff. but sadly we arnt as close as we use to be. we have different lifestyles. but we still cool

  23. beautiful friendship right there – even had me mist up thank you Jess for not giving up on your friend – bless you both 🙂

  24. Whoa….I wonder if I can find my childhood friends, eventhough I don't know these people, I felt that overwhelming nostolgia.

  25. I wanted to cry, but the sadness A silent Voice left on me made me not. Although this was absolutely beautiful… I'm sO HAPPY THEY FOUND EACH OTHER ;^;

  26. Thanks for sharing this heart warming story. That picture with Fukue and Jessica standing back to back is beautiful.


  28. This is a beautiful story about two people who had similar personalities even though they were raised in different worlds. But they had similar values. A lot of people thought something bad would happen to Fukue. My mind didn't even go there. Based on what Jessica said about Fukue I just knew she would be happy. The way she treated Jessica said a lot about her resilience.

  29. Omg i don't have any word for this ture friendship is always there. Ur so great n so soft heart. Wow super friendship story.😥😍

  30. Omg i don't have any word for this ture friendship is always there. Ur so great n so soft heart. Wow super friendship story.😥😍

  31. Yes, time stands still between true friends. As long as there was love there it will always come back around when you meet again like it was yesterday and not decades. Love does that. It is the glue.

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