by Linda Okazaki
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.