Linda's Orchard

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Month: October, 2012

August 1978

My first trip to Japan was in 1978. It was a surreal experience in many ways. I had never before heard the language, tasted the food or observed the customs of this society. What surprised me more than anything else was the humidity and the crowds. One husband, two children and dozens of trips later, I now return with a different intent. While I will always be the gaijin, I no longer am the tourist, the new bride or young mother. This time I go as a genealogist, but I bring with me a sense of comfort with the culture, familiarity with traditions and fond memories of people and places. I hope to retain my sense of wonder and adventure as I explore the family history, just as I originally explored the country thirty-four years ago.

Gaijin Girl Gets Going Again

The U.S. Pilgrimage is complete, save for a trip to the jail in El Centro, a pass through Santa Fe, NM and a visit to Seattle, WA (currently scheduled for July). Also necessary for my research is a return visit to the National Archives in Washington DC and Maryland (currently scheduled for December). Next stop? Okayama, Japan; more specifically, the tiny village where the family farm and cemetery still stand. Appointments have been scheduled, distant relatives have been contacted, but still there is an element of the unknown. How will the Buddhist priests at the temple respond to this gaijin girl? What about the government clerks? Japanese privacy laws are extraordinarily strict. As per a law passed in 2008, no prefectural repository can divulge information to anyone not adequately documented as a descendant. I will hand carry the original koseki, along with birth certificates, marriage records, color copies of passports and driver’s licenses, plus any other documents I can think of. The rest will be up to Ted. Afterall, it is his lineage I am researching and conveniently, he is the one who speaks the language. While the Okazaki koseki is complete, I now seek the bridal lines of the Maibara and Kobayashi families, plus any others I am able to discover or the clerks are willing to print.

Sharing History

Maru, Sid and Tee

There is nothing quite like travelling in the footsteps of ancestors to make their experiences come to life. But listening to living family members tell their stories is something else entirely. Most genealogy research is all about the past, the very distant past. But for the Japanese Americans who were interned, their history is still alive.

It was with both sadness and delight that I videotaped three former internees, siblings who were American born teens when they were forced to evacuate their homes in 1945. Maru, Sid and Tee reminisced about the good times and the bad before, during and after World War II. Listening to them share stories was a special event. Geography and age make frequent visits difficult. I was honored to experience their memories and affection for one another during an intimate afternoon without interruption. Imagine what their children, grandchildren and future descendants will learn from their stories.


Texas Country Reporter

Texas is a world apart from California, especially for this San Francisco native travelling with a Japanese fellow.  But we met some really interesting people along the way. Carmel Dias (Vice Principal of the Zavala Elementary School) explained that The Texas Country Reporter recently published a “youtube” video about the Crystal City Internment Camp. They did a great job, especially in describing the German internees, something often omitted in discussions about this time period. Werner Ulrich, a former detainee and tremendous source of my historical information, is highlighted in the film. The Texas Historical Commission deserves many thanks for their dedication to this subject.