Meeting New Cousins
by Linda Okazaki
Sometimes when researching long deceased ancestors, we have the opportunity to meet previously unknown living descendants. Once in a great while the encounter turns into something wonderful. Such was the case with Hiroko Kumashiro. A lifelong resident of Okayama, Hiroko was trained in the traditional Japanese arts of flower arranging and tea ceremony. Her grandfather and Ted’s grandfather were brothers, making Ted and Hiroko second cousins. To complicate matters further, Hiroko’s maternal grandfather and grandmother were first cousins (their parents were siblings Sasanji and Tami Okazaki). Regardless of the connection, Ted had never heard of Hiroko before she graciously invited us into her home. The front part of the building was where she conducted her business as a wholesale antiques dealer and ikebana instructor. Behind this old storefront was her residence where we sat at the kitchen table and exchanged photos and family stories, after which Hiroko served traditional sugar sweets and matcha which she whisked right at the table. Somehow our lack of a common language became irrelevant and the afternoon was a unique combination of culture and family like none I have ever experienced.