December 1, 2009

CHINA: Grandma Mi, 'Lady With the Lamp,' Came from Japan in 1945

. BEIJING, China / China Daily / Life / December 1, 2009 Japan's lady with the lamp By He Na, China Daily Kyoko Nakamura has two sets of clothes neatly arranged in her closet. One is a Japanese kimono, the only present from her mother; the other is an Eighth Route Army uniform that she wore more than 60 years ago. "That uniform is my favorite. I look very nice in it," says Nakamura. She was just 15 when she arrived at Jinzhou Nurse School, in Northeast China's Liaoning province in May 1945, to pursue her dreams of becoming a nurse. As the three-month training period ended, she heard Japan announce its unconditional surrender to the Allies over the radio. The nursing school was taken over by the Eighth Route Army of the Communist Party. The 20 odd Japanese students were given two choices: Return to Japan, or join the Eighth Route Army. Nakamura weighed the options - and chose the army. Thus began the Japanese woman's 64-year-long stay in China. Today she lives in an old house at the far end of Youqizuo Hutong in Beijing, and looks like any other elderly Chinese woman of 79. Nakamura has witnessed first hand China's founding and development. And she is highly regarded for her great contributions to China's healthcare system with her German husband Hans Mueller, who died in 1994. "My husband and I met and fell in love in China. Almost all my good memories are linked to China. China is my home, I won't go anywhere," she says. Known to her neighbors as "Grandma Mi", Nakamura narrates how her courtyard fills up with people who come to enjoy the cool shade, and how her neighbors often drop in bearing gifts of fruits. Japanese medical expert Kyoko Nakamura displays her Eighth Route Army uniform at a Tianjin TV program which honored foreigners who contributed greatly to China's development. Wang Jing "I feel very close to, and comfortable with, them. They never take me as a foreigner, but just an old lady who needs care," she says. She says her decision to join the army turned out to be a good one. The diligent girl grasped every opportunity that came her way to learn from more experienced medical staff. It was in 1946, when she volunteered to join the frontier-line surgical team, that she met her future husband Mueller. "I was surprised when I met Dr Mueller, for I never thought that a foreigner with blue eyes and a big nose was in the same army," she says. Born in Germany in 1915 to a Jewish father, Mueller fled Germany and earned his PhD in medical science in Switzerland. He arrived in China when he was only 24 and joined the Chinese people in the fight against Japanese fascists. Mueller headed the surgical team and Nakamura became his assistant. She soon realized that Dr Mueller enjoyed the same popularity and respect as Canadian doctor Norman Bethune and Indian doctor Dwarkanath Kotnis. Both were prominent medical experts who made great contributions in China's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45). Nakamura admired Mueller's skills while Mueller was drawn to her intelligence and diligence. But at that time they were only comrades. Nakamura was soon transferred from the frontline hospital, and neither of them knew that only two years later, they would meet again in the suburbs of Tianjin. "Maybe that is what Chinese call 'yuan fen' (fate)," Nakamura says happily. They got married in the spring of 1949, just months before New China was founded. Mueller didn't understand Japanese while Nakamura couldn't speak German, so Chinese became their language of communication. Full-scale reconstruction was under way in the early days of the People's Republic. As medical experts, the couple took up the mission of establishing China's first batch of medical staff. They worked in many places, such as Changchun, Shenyang, Tianjin and Beijing. Nakamura worked as a pharmacist while Mueller was, variously, President of the Affiliated Hospital of Changchun Military Medical University, Vice-President of Beijing Medical University, and member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Mueller also initiated and developed the hepatitis B vaccine. Although he died 15 years ago, Nakamura has changed nothing in the house. "The cup is still there, the chair is still there, and to me Dr Mueller has never left. I often tell myself that he is just on duty in other cities and will come back in a few days," she says. She retired from Beijing's Jishuitan Hospital in 1990, but is still a council member of the China International Friends Club and active in charity work. She was granted permanent residence in 2004. Talking of the country's impressive development, she says she clearly remembers the countless bikes on Beijing's streets in the 1980s. When she visited Japan 10 years ago, she thought China still had a lot of catching up to do in urban construction and transportation. But when she visited her younger brothers this May, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the gap had narrowed considerably. Nakamura says her 9-member family is like a mini-United Nations, as her daughter and son's families have moved away, sharing five nationalities among the grandchildren. But when they gather together in China, Chinese is their only "official language". [rc] Copyright 1995 - 2009. China Daily Information Co (CDIC).