More than 70 years ago, a group of women living in Yokohama founded the International Women’s Club. They devised lively social programs and gave their attention to welfare work. The outbreak of World War II meant that the club ceased its activities.
In 1948, however, Yokohama women revived the association under the name of The Colonial Women’s Club. It changed its name to the Yokohama Women’s Club, and in 1956 added a significant word to its name. It became known as the Yokohama International Women’s Club, a title that endures.
This well-established club is keenly aware of the social needs of women from different countries coming together in Yokohama. It is also strongly committed to fundraising in order to help those in need.
Cindy Fueki found her way to YIWC a decade ago. Since she became this year’s fundraising chairwoman for the club, she has been especially concerned with three special events. She said: “The first was the Christmas bazaar. The next was the Christmas concert, for which we had some well-known musicians. Now we have the biggest one, the Azalea Tea. During these events I have made many friends, and whilst we are working for others we have fun in our lives together.”
Cindy, the youngest of five brothers and sisters, comes from Taipei. At Tamkang University she majored in Japanese. “Japan did a lot of business in Taiwan,” she said. “I thought if I studied Japanese I would have the chance of a good job.”
She did better than that. As well as finding the kind of job she wanted, she married her boss.
He is a Japanese who had one Chinese grandparent, through whom he learned to speak Pekingese. Cindy spoke Pekingese too, though since she came here with her husband 18 years ago Japanese predominates in her home. She also speaks her native Taiwanese.
The couple’s two sons, born in Japan, speak “mixed languages.” Cindy’s husband runs a dim sum wholesale company and two restaurants, one in Ginza, Tokyo, and one in Yokohama’s China Town.
For Cindy, YIWC was a lifeline. “I was a foreigner too, and for some years I continued to feel I was a foreigner in Japan,” she said. “In the club I could meet people from many different countries, and make friends. In time I stopped feeling foreign.”
In Yokohama she is close enough to her home in Taipei to be able to return frequently. “I miss my family, and I miss the food,” she said. “I also like to wear Chinese dress, and in Taipei I get a wide choice of suitable fabrics.”
Nowadays, she said: “I love Japan, Japanese food, Japanese beautiful hand-made things. Most of all I love Yokohama, where I live.” She lives in the neighborhood of Sankei-en, a celebrated and outstandingly lovely landscaped garden that, holding as it does a historic Tokugawa villa, a small temple from Kyoto, a 17th century teahouse and a farmhouse from Gifu, serves as a dignified outdoor museum.
Cindy has put her expertise to good account by translating Japanese books into Chinese for publication in Taiwan. She is also a singer. “When I was small I joined a school choir,” she said. “I stayed with it until high school. Singing makes life more fun.”
Many years ago YIWC assumed a major commitment when it secured a building for one of the orphanages it cares for. It keeps close contact with two children’s homes and an old people’s home. Members of the club visit the homes, and go to their Christmas parties and special occasions. They help at outings.
The club has made a name for the true warmth and concern it puts into its charity work. It has an emergency fund, enabling it to be quick in responding to the needs of disaster victims.
The club has received commendations from the mayor of Yokohama, citations from the prefectural government and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and most recently an award from the Yokohama Community Foundation for the Handicapped. Last year Geraldine Willcox, outstandingly devoted to YIWC and several other organizations, was made a member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for her many years of community work.
This year’s Azalea Tea will be held April 27 from noon at the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel Nikko. A guitarist and a mandolin player will entertain. “You do not need to be a member to attend, and some of my neighbors will be going,” Cindy said. “I am glad to have this chance to help people who need our support.”