(Reproduced from Kinfolk magazine, volume 8.)
“Furusato means where you are from, your hometown and birthplace. It made you who you are today; it is where you go back to visit relatives and pay respect to your ancestors. You can have a second furusato, a place where your heart feels at home – you give to it like it gives to you.”
Some of my favourite songs are about ‘home towns’. I grew up in Ulverstone, on the north west coast of Tasmania (Australia). For many years Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees and to a lesser extent, John Mellancamp’s Small Town touched something deep inside. Even though he had Grafton in mind, Jimmy Barnes could have been singing about Ulverstone.
Maria spent her childhood in the remote towns of west and south west Tasmania, where, after arriving from Italy, her dad Nick worked for the Hydro Electric Commission as the hydro electric power station network was built. It was a stark and wet environment, if stunning in its natural beauty. When she left to attend year 11 in Devonport she never went back.
A few years ago, some 20+ years afterwards, we left the kids with her mum and hired a car for a week to visit the places that shaped her childhood. We walked around the drizzly streets of Tullah as she recalled houses, netball courts, local characters and childhood memories. We stood where thriving communities had once lived in Strathgordon, the only primary school in Australia with a covered playground, where it once rained non stop for 6 weeks. As we drove from there through the rugged mountains toward Hobart I still recall my breathe being literally taken away involuntarily by the beauty of the mountains. Travelling with Maria as she felt her past was an important part of me understanding who she is.
A different life and a different country, but a few days ago I wrote about my reunion with the Kunitate’s in Gifu Japan, 30 years after living in their home helped shape who I am.
Time passes. We learn and grow. But our heritage has shaped who we are deeply and profoundly – no escaping. Our story is our story. Sometimes we might want to run from it, deny it, or suppress it. But embracing it for what it was can help us be more fully who we are today with freedom.