They were best friends, then pen pals — until one day, the letters stopped coming | Finding Fukue

Almost 30 years after receiving the last letter from her pen-pal, Jessica Stuart returns to Japan to try and solve the mystery of her long-lost friend, Fukue. #CBCShortDocs

Produced in Association with Real Stories.

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It’s a mystery that spans decades, continents and cultures, and bridges one Toronto woman’s life with her childhood in Japan: what happened to Fukue?

In 1988, Jessica Stuart was nine years old. Her family embarked on a cultural odyssey that would greatly influence her life: the Stuarts dug up their middle-class roots in Vancouver’s Jewish community and replanted them in a rural Japanese town called Saku for a year.

It was during this absorbing year that Jessica met Fukue, a bright and bubbly girl with rosy red cheeks and an endless smile. Fukue and Jessica became like sisters, spending their days frolicking in the autumn leaves, dancing under snow-blanketed trees, watching hot air balloons illuminate the skyline in spring and sneaking through rice paddies in early summer.

Strangely, Fukue never invited Jessica to visit her family home. One day after school, Jessica insisted. Fukue reluctantly brought Jessica to her house; it was a derelict shack on the outskirts of town. Shocked and disturbed, Jessica started to make sense of the name-calling and bullying that Fukue suffered at school.

As the Stuarts’ year in Japan came to an end, Jessica and Fukue assured one another they would keep in touch. They became pen pals, writing letters back and forth for two years, until the letters from Fukue stopped — with no explanation.

Now a musician in her 30s, Jessica has never forgotten Fukue. Her memories of their time together are beautiful, but haunting. And so her thoughts turn to the unknown. Where is Fukue now? Does she remember Jessica? Why did her letters stop all those years ago?

Now, nearly 30 years after she left Japan, Jessica is going back to find the answers to these questions. She’s going to find Fukue.

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A special thanks to The Stuart Family, Norie-Ichikawa Doyle and Saku City Junior High School.

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95 comments

    1. sylentshooter I can’t believe I’m texting you about something so petty but what you wrote was even more petty. If your just a kid I apologize. I sure hope my spelling and punctuation are not going to send you off the deep end. Anyway she simply asked where she went to high school. WOW just be silent ,shooter

    2. nigling you can purchase lots of cheap friends cheap in California,if you say you don’t like Trump. The best we have by the way. TRUMP 2020. And it won’t cost a dime,also might get you some good friends.

    3. toddvandell85 I think your just not picking up what Ken narville is putting down. I would like to think what Ken is trying to say is if people don’t want to talk to you then they don’t. It’s that simple. He is trying to be funny while also saying she just didn’t want to write or talk anymore. That’s my take on the subject,while you try to turn it into a racist comment.

    1. @Ken narville if you wish to be left alone don’t leave inflammatory comments in a place that will be seen. How old are you by way? I’m guessing you are a young person. I don’t know what you have against the Japanese but it could have been India, Germany, etc. where her parents took her. The point was she never forgot her childhood friend.

  1. Imagine how this must have been from Fukue’s perspective. She’s going about her life, having made the best of herself and living well. Life is good. Then all of a sudden your sister calls you up and is like “yeah so your best friend from childhood literally came here looking for you because she misses you and wants to reconnect.” Like. Just having an ordinary life and thinking the next day will be the same when suddenly you’re having this emotional meeting with someone very important to you who you never thought you’d even hear from again.

    So happy to see this worked out the way it did!
    EDIT: I forgot to mention, I love that photo of them both standing back to back. They look like sisters, related or not. That’s exactly the kind of picture I’d expect to see with me and my sisters 😛

    1. I was happy being alone at home when I watched this video because I was crying the whole time. Only at the end I was able to dry my tears. And then I read your comment and it startet all over again. Beautifully written.

    2. Ya….but wondered what happened to Fukue’s home? Like….was she poor to the point she lived like povo? Or her family just don’t believe in cleaning? Wonder what the deal was with her parents when she was younger?

    1. “And the LORD will provide for those who grieve … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor” Isaiah 61:3

    2. I mean, she probably isn’t completely fine from a mental health standpoint. But she has a great support structure so she has more than a lot of people who struggled with bullying nearly their entire childhood.

  2. It is a story of genuine humanity. My both eyes were full of
    tears in watching this video clip. If people think like this, we can make a
    beautiful world.

  3. I definitely wasn’t expecting this to be a happy ending! I’m too used to murder mysteries & true crime lol.
    I’m so happy they were able to reunite!! Sad, but beautiful story. ❤️

  4. This gives me hope to find my best friend that left school, he went on my bus and I could’ve had that one chance to hug him and say goodbye but I was so scared of the thought I would never see him again, he was always so shy and cute I always still to this day think of him and it’s been a long 5 years since I’ve seen him. I gave him my number so he could call me whenever so every time I get an unknown number pop up on my phone I always answer with hope it’s him, I will find him one day and give him that hug

    Edit: hey guys I have a really good update, one of his friends had told me he has loved out of all social media so he hasn’t seen my messages but his friend told him about me and my username on Instagram and he logged on! He instantly remembered me and we had a whole conversation on how things have changed so much in our lives, I’m so happy to be in contact again this really does mean a lot to me and thank you guys for all the support 💗 I finally found my best friend 💕

    1. I’ve only recently found this comment and you might not care about this anymore but I’m so glad you found the friend you were looking for! The world is big, but you’ve managed to find someone important to you! I wish you both all the best, though I’m a complete stranger.

  5. This has to be a live action anime. The perfect photo to go with the perfect title, “Finding Fukue”, the emotional buildup with the suspense on whether she would find her friend or not and having the ability to make me shed tears.

  6. What a heart warming story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was hoping she would find her friend after all the years. I’m 73 years old, and have thought about friends I’ve had, friends who have passed, and new friends. Friends come for all kinds of reasons, some for a moment, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I am so happy for both of you! Namaste…from John in Texas

    1. I cried tears of joy I use my hand to wipe away my tears my wife was laughing at me she said that is the reason why I married you my husband you have a great heart and soul lmbo

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