Wind from Hanoi keeps a Japanese wife in Vietnam

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After following her Vietnamese husband to his home country 60 years ago, a 91-year-old Japanese woman is till here decades after his death


Nobuko Nakamura and her late husband, famous agriculturist Luong Dinh Cua / FILE PHOTOS

At 91, Nobuko Nakamura still reads news from Japan every day, a habit that she has adopted since­­­­ she left her home country with her husband, famous late agriculturist Luong Dinh Cua, and their two children in 1952.

Over the past decades, except for occasional short trips back to Japan, she has stayed here, even after Cua died 38 years ago.

"I'm 91 now. I'll live in Vietnam till I die," she said in Vietnamese.

Nakamura said she first met Cua when they were studying at Kyushu University.

While Japanese are reserved, the Vietnamese student, who was then studying cultivation, one day brazenly gave her a package of cloth and asked her to make him a shirt.

When she brought him to meet her family for the first time, he called them mother and father to her parents' surprise, she said, adding that she later learned southerners in Vietnam regularly address each other in such intimate and familiar ways.

"My mother loved to be called mother by Cua so much that not long after that she agreed to let her daughter marry him," Nakamura said.

They got married in October 1945 and moved to study post-graduate programs at other universities in Japan, before moving to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1952, and then to Hanoi two years later.

In Hanoi, Nakamura learned firsthand the hardship of Vietnamese farmers, when she followed her husband on field trips to observe cultivation methods and the husbandry of chickens and pigs.

She also had to adapt to living and raise her children with just the bare necessities in Vietnam, which had just gained its dependence from France in the north and was fighting the US invasion of the south.

Nobuko Nakamura, 91, now lives in Ho Chi Minh City. She moved to Vietnam 60 years ago

"When I came here, Vietnam was at war, so many people were worried that my life would be difficult. But, it was not like that. My life could not be as hard as those of Vietnamese farmers who had to wake up early in the morning, work in the extremely cold mud, and have poor meals," Nakamura said.

"Vietnamese people always helped me. Cua and the kids were by my side."

During the years in Hanoi, she also worked as a Japanese newscaster with the Voice of Vietnam radio station, translating Vietnamese news into Japanese and reading them on the radio. She also wrote replies to Japanese audiences to thank them for their words of encouragement to Vietnam in the face of the cruel war, or to recommend local foods and sites.

Nakamura once said it was an unforgettable memory that she read the news about the end of Vietnam War on April 30, 1975.

A few months after the war ended, as her family was planning to move to her husband's homeland in the south, the agriculturist, who invented many famous species of rice and other trees during his time, died from a stroke on December 28 that same year.

To Nakamura, her husband's funeral made her realize things that she had never known about him.

"I always believed that I understood Cua the most, but at his funeral, my belief fluctuated," she wrote in her memoir that was published in Japan in 2000 under the title "Hanoi kara fuku kaze" (The wind that blows from Hanoi).

According to Nakamura, many high-ranking officials, delegations from state agencies, large groups of students, and hundreds of farmers came to pay tribute to Cua.

"Only then did I realize that I only understood him as a husband and a father, not his social status."

The discovery encouraged the Japanese woman to move to Saigon along with her five children. There, she worked at the city's Department of Foreign Affairs so that she and her family could continue being by Vietnam's side as it worked through postwar hardships and economic transformation.


Born in 1920 in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang, Luong Dinh Cua is known for his invention of the first hybrid rice strain in Vietnam.

Later he created more strains that helped boost the country's rice output by millions of tons. Some of the species are still grown in the north.

Cua also created high-yielding tomato and sweet potato varieties and seedless watermelon.

He initiated new models of cultivation which enabled farmers to increase the productivity of their lands.

Cua was named a Labour Hero in 1967 by the government, and many schools and streets are named after him.

Three of her children followed in their father's footsteps to work in agriculture.

Her eldest son Luong Hong Viet, a veteran and a retired agriculturist, now accompanies her everywhere: to Cua's homeland in the Mekong Delta of Soc Trang, where they take care of their ancestors' tombs, to Hanoi to grant an annual award named after Cua to honor young agriculturists, and to her homeland in Japan.

Asked why she has remained here for many years while keeping her Japanese nationality, Nakamura smiled, saying that 60 years ago she came to Vietnam because, as a wife, she had to follow her husband, but after he died it is "the wind that blows from Hanoi" that keeps her here.

She said her most favorite Japanese proverb is "Ashita wa ashita no kaze ga fuku" (literally translated as "On the morrow, the winds of tomorrow will blow") which means "Tomorrow is another day," referring to the belief that good things will come to her and her family in Vietnam.

"Everyone said that had we stayed in Japan, we would have become wealthy and Cua would have had much more glorious achievements. But wealth cannot create happiness. Had we stayed in Japan, Cua would have never been happy.

"Coming here and being able to be his wife for 30 years, I felt I had already reached the ultimate step of the happiness stair," Nakamura said. and sites.

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