Reporter's Notebook: Hope in Japan
O K I N A W A, Japan, July 23 -- For President Clinton, it’s a home away from home. Make that 7,495 miles away from home.
A local resort owner, who can safely be described as eccentric, created a full-scale replica of the president’s modest boyhood home as a tribute to Clinton, who attended his eighth and final G-8 summit as president. “I wanted to make something that will be memorable,” said businessman Takeharu Shiraishi. In Japan, nothing comes cheap. Building the house cost 80 million yen, or roughly $730,000. The home is an accurate re-creation of the house in Hope, Ark., where the president lived for the first four years of his life, according to Beckie Moore, the executive director of the Clinton Birthplace Foundation. Moore, who was brought to Okinawa to see the results of the project, says even the furniture and the photos are identical to those in the Arkansas house. “It looks exactly like it, exactly in every way,” Moore told ABCNEWS. “I think they did a good job recreating the place, pictures and everything.” The house, which is now open to the public on the grounds of the Kanucha Bay Resort, will be left in place permanently. While the real Clinton home in Hope charges $5 admission, access to the replica in Okinawa is free. One woman who toured the home said she was impressed. “To learn that a world leader grew up in an environment like this is very impressive,” said Shugi Mishihira. Another visitor said Clinton’s modest surroundings were superior to those of most Okinawans at the time. “Remembering how we lived in Okinawa back in those days, I am amazed that they had a bathtub and a gas oven back in those days,” said local Emiko Nagamine. Shiraishi says he hopes the Clinton home will inspire young people to achieve great things.“I hope that the young Japanese who come here to visit will have dreams to succeed in their lives like him,” he said. Moore thinks the fact that during his early years Clinton was raised largely by his grandparents has a special appeal to the Japanese. “Family here is very important ... That’s a great message the children will receive,” she said. While Moore says the home is identical to the one in the U.S., those running it aren’t entirely ready to part with their Japanese ways. As is customary in Japan, several pairs of slippers sit just inside the door so that guests can remove their shoes before entering. Funding the replica house did pay off for Shiraishi in one respect: as President Clinton left Okinawa today Shiriashi and Moore had a brief meeting with him on the airport tarmac. The president never visited the house during his three-day stay in Okinawa, but he smiled as he chatted with Moore and Shiraishi at the airport.
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