Traveling miles across the world from Japan to the United States is a first-time excursion for Japanese citizen Takeshi Narabe. Narabe lives in Nagoya, the third largest city in Japan, and is a staff writer for the country’s largest newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun.
The Asahi Shimbun prints eight million papers a day, prints seven days a week, and employes approximately 1,500 reporters. He writes for the economic news section and the car industry section. He has been a staff writer for six years.
Narabe came to Mississippi on assignment to see how Mississippians in New Albany, Blue Springs, and Tupelo live, work, eat, and entertain themselves and to see how the fairly new Toyota plant is affecting the way of life here. Before coming to Mississippi he went to an auto show in Detroit, Mich. and traveled to New York City to speak to some professors at New York University.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc. started officially producing cars in Nov. of last year. Narabe talked to many Blue Springs residents at the local hot spot, Gentry’s Grocery. He said that he got a lot of insight talking to local patrons there, talking to Toyota employees and talking to an employee from one of Toyota’s Tier 1 suppliers Diversity-Vuteq. Narabe interviewed Blue Springs Mayor David Boland as well while there.
He said, “Blue Springs is a very small town with a lot of beautiful trees. The accents that the people have in Blue Springs are a little bit difficult for me to understand, but I was very happy to communicate with them. They seem very warm-hearted. But at night I was scared to drive because there are no street lights.”
On this trip to the United States was Narabe’s first time to drive a car and he said that we drive opposite of how people drive in Japan. He said that the city he lives in is very big and there is a lot of public transportation, so he normally takes the bus, high-speed train, or a taxi cab, and hardly ever drives a car.
While here, Narabe was also able to talk to an employee at the Blue Springs Toyota site as well as meet the president at the Mantachie Toyota Boshoku site. In New Albany, Narabe visited with the New Albany Mayor Tim Kent, Union County Heritage Museum Director Jill Smith, Union County Development Association Executive Director Phil Nanney, and tour the city of New Albany.
He said, “I think the people in New Albany are very warm-hearted. They have so much hospitality and have welcomed me so much.”
“New Albany is bigger than Blue Springs, there are a lot of fun things to do there and a lot of places to eat. I will never forget the taste of fried catfish before – I had never eaten it before. I loved it,” said Narabe. “In Japan, before earthquakes happen, catfish swim away to warn others that an earthquake is coming. In my country, catfish is a holy animal.”
He said that fish is a common delicacy in Japan, especially tuna, eel, and swordfish.
Narabe commented on the landscape here and said that in Japan there are a lot of mountains you can see all of the time, but here the landscape is flat and the land seems endless. He also said that oak trees are rare in Japan but seem to be common here.
Narabe’s hobbies include spending time with his wife Mayuko and their year and a half daughter, Haru. They enjoy going to the park as a family, going bowling, and going to the movies together. When Narabe isn’t working, he also enjoys playing tennis and playing the piano.
When he gets back to The Asahi Shimbun, he will write a series of articles about New Albany, Blue Springs, and Tupelo in his paper, which will make this area of Mississippi be represented across the world.