Koseki and Kakocho and Otera, Oh My!
by Linda Okazaki
After visiting relatives, walking through the ancestral home and cemetery, making copies of the kakocho and obtaining the paternal koseki (family register), I needed to reevaluate my research plan for the Okazaki line. Next stop, grandmother’s family koseki. After that, a visit to the otera (temple), and possibly a drive through the village where Ted’s paternal grandmother was born.
Obtaining the koseki turned out to be relatively easy this time around. We needed to identify the city where the family was registered (in this case, Okayama), bring appropriate documentation of lineage (the Okazaki koseki, birth certificates, passports), and cross our fingers. Each prefecture has a different process and its own forms, but only those who are direct descendants can obtain the documents. Everything is in Japanese, requires writing in Japanese, and in most situations the clerks will not speak any English. Between Ted being the direct descendant with proof, his maternal aunt being able to read and write Japanese, and me being the one with the genealogical information, we accomplished our goal through teamwork. Of course, the pages still need to be translated.
During our visit with the relatives on the farm in Tabara, we learned the location of the otera and scheduled an appointment with the priest. Driving through the narrow streets on the way to temple Dai Anji was a bit like Mister Toad’s Wild Ride. The rental car was a Prius, but still too big for comfort. We met Yokoyama-san and his wife at 10:00. Unexpectedly, he was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt rather than his robes. He was apologetic but I found the experience to be refreshing. Yokoyama-san explained that the temple was rebuilt about 17 years ago and the original temple was about 90-100 years old. We prayed in front of the altar, paying our respects to the Okazaki ancestors, then enjoyed tea, sweets and conversation with the priest and his wife. They were so pleasant and welcoming and we shared stories of our grown children. We discussed our interest in learning as much as possible about the Okazaki family. Yokoyama-san explained that the scrolls with the names do exist and that he would research them for us. He also told us that the information we already had was quite extensive and that there may not be more to learn. Regardless, he was enthusiastic about researching the matter, though it would be a time consuming and tedious process, probably not unlike scrolling through microfilm or pages upon pages of church records. The visit was productive and enjoyable for all of us.
Hamako Maihara was Ted’s paternal grandmother. Now that we have her father’s koseki, we hope to drive through the ancestral village of Ota. Visiting with descendants will need to wait until the next trip to Japan.