Keeping Family Connections Alive

One of the many reasons I like to visit Japan is to keep in touch with relatives.  It is so easy to lose touch with family members from another country who speak a different language than you. I am actively working to make sure that doesn’t happen for my family.

My mother was from Japan. She actually was born in Taiwan in 1940 where her family was living due to the war. Their family was allowed to move back to Japan and she grew up in a town called Kashima in the Saga prefecture on the island of Kyushu.  There were six in her family~three boys and three girls. My mom was the only one of the six children who moved away from Japan. It must have been so hard for her and her parents. We didn’t have much money while I was a young child so my mom didn’t get to visit home very much.

Visiting with my Osaka relatives when I was in the sixth grade.

I remember going to Japan with my mom when I was in the sixth grade and seeing my grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins on that trip. My relatives lived (and still live) in the cities of Saga, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Osaka, and Tokyo.  What a fun time we had traveling all over Japan. After that trip, my mom was only financially able to visit Japan again after my brothers and I were grown. How far away my mom must have felt from her family during the time when she could not visit. To this day, my Japan relatives tell me that she is the one who kept the family connected. Otherwise, as they are today, due to distance and busy schedules, they wouldn’t see or talk to each other very much. My grandparents and my mom and one uncle have since passed away.  I hope they are spending time together in heaven and watching over all of us right now. I hope my mom is happy as she watches us spending time together. I think she is.  I feel it in my heart as tears come to my eyes as I write this post.

L to R:  Uncle Eiju, Mom, Obaachan, Ojiichan

I was able to make a visit to Japan with my mom before she passed away and it was wonderful to be able to see my obaachan and my mom together as they spent time with my children.

Steven’s second visit to Japan, Sammie’s first in 2004.

Ironically?  Coincidentally?  The person who is keeping in touch with the Japan relatives the most today is me. Each of my mother’s siblings live in a different city in Japan and still don’t see each other very much.

 

Osaka Family

On this most recent trip that I took to Japan during spring break, I was able to see my Osaka relatives for dinner one night. My mom’s brother lives in Osaka with his wife.  His daughter, my cousin Satomi, lives in Osaka too.  We got together for a buffet dinner and had a great time. I learned some family history that night. I never knew that my grandmother’s maiden name was Nakajima and that she was originally from Kashima. My grandfather was originally from Kobe. My uncle also shared some memories of my mom with me. He talked about the time my mom was telling my grandmother that she wanted to marry my father and live in Hawaii. My grandmother was not too happy about my mom’s choice, but my mom gave her the choice of either allowing her to do what she wanted or else she would move to Africa and be a Florence Nightingale there.  My uncle also talked about how my mom was one of the top runners in her high school.  I wonder if that is where Steven got his running genes from. What a nice dinner and visit to the Umeda Sky Building for some sightseeing and picture taking.

Sake

One of the days in Japan, we made a visit to my mother’s hometown of Kashima to see the old house and take some photos. If I understood my uncle correctly, the house may be demolished one day soon and so this might have been the last time we are seeing it.

Sake tasting out of an ice glass in Kashima

I recently learned that Kashima is well known for their delicious sake.  Oh my~this is just one more reason why I’ll go back to Kashima to visit. I made friends with the sake shop person who allowed me to taste sake out of this ice glass!  My fingers were freezing.

Another visit with family was with my Fukuoka cousins. My cousins Naomi and Kazumi who are so much fun made time to have dinner and drinks with us one night. We connected so easily and so well despite our cultural differences. Great company with good sake, beer, and food made for an unforgettable evening. As I look at this picture below, I miss them very much.

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Cousins Kazumi, Anne, and Naomi

Naomi’s daughter Chifumi joined us after she finished work and she played hanafuda with Steven. They were all amazed that we were familiar with the game.

This turned out to be a longer post than I intended.  I was feeling so much emotion as I  reflected on my family connections.  I hope this post inspires you to call or visit a family member who you may not have seen in a while. Keep family connections alive. Living Hilo Style.

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