The way we come across long-lasting friendships is often unexpected. But when you’re part of a military family. You learn to grab hold of the good people you meet and carry those friendships across states and oceans. You mark your friendships based off of what base you were stationed at when you met them and know those friendships can withstand just about anything because they’ve been tried.
So for an American family stationed in Japan, there was no doubt at least one lifelong friendship would be made. It just may have been surprising that the friend wasn’t affiliated with the military. Instead, the friend was an older Japanese man who didn’t speak English and lived next door to the young family in Yokosuka, Japan.
But this isn’t the first time this unique story went viral. In 2013, Reddit user Theresa52 posted a picture of a note that she received from her neighbor-turned-friend. People loved the letter and sweet story attached. Theresa explained that after moving to their new neighborhood in Japan, she and her husband passed out beer and chocolate to their neighbors. A few hours later, they met, Hiroshi Yamashita, their new neighbor and one of the recipients of their gift.
When Yamashita knocked on the family’s door, he presented them with gifts of his own—toilet paper, stuffed animals and a note. In the thread Theresa noted, “Things that are consumable and household necessities are popular gifts. We have heard lots of stories about people getting laundry soap,” after someone asked if toilet paper was a common housewarming gift in Japan. The stuffed animals were for their infant daughter at the time.
But the note is what keeps going viral. It starts out, “I can’t speak English. Thank you for the present. My name is Hiroshi Yamashita. I’m 52 years old. [I’m divorced] and I live alone.” Since Yamashita didn’t speak English, the note had some spots that were difficult to understand but the intent was clearly pure.
Theresa wrote in the comments of the post that it appeared that he was asking if her husband was in the Navy. While the sentences are out of order a bit, if you reorganize them a little, it seems Yamashita is attempting to say, “I have stuffed animals and toilet paper. You can use it if you’d like.”
The man concludes the letter with “Thank you for your friend operation.” It seemed that he was thanking the family for their hospitality, but Reddit users surmised that he was referring to Operation Friendship in 2011 when the United States aided Japan after an earthquake. Either way, it was still friendship operation because what says friendship like taking time out of your day to write in a language you don’t speak just to make sure your neighbors feel welcomed?
“It was adorable! We had brought him a six pack and some chocolate and tried to introduce ourselves to him. A couple hours later he brought over this letter with a pack of toilet paper and some stuffed animals for our daughter,” Theresa wrote in the comments while joking that their initial introduction probably amused Yamashita.
Further explaining within comment threads, Theresa said that they used pointing and Google Translate when they initially met Yamashita, and in turn, he used a translator app to write the note.
Theresa shared an update in the comments about six years after the story originally went viral saying, “We all exchanged gifts and food regularly for the four years I lived there. We would go to neighborhood festivals and have dinners together as well. I miss them all and think about them often.”
You never know when being kind will turn into a life long friendship. We certainly hope Yamashita and Theresa are doing just as well today and are continuing to spread their kindness around.