Linda's Orchard

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Month: January, 2013

The Enigma of Sasanji

L-R: Ichimaru and Sasanji Okazaki, San Francisco, circa 1912

L-R: Ichimaru and Sasanji Okazaki, circa 1912

Sasanji Okazaki has perplexed me for some time. Based on references from two passenger records and the 1930 census as well as family lore, he probably arrived in San Francisco from Japan in 1898. But I need proof! Of course, he could have arrived later. Given the birth of his youngest child on 20 June 1898, it’s unlikely that he left Japan much earlier than that. He could have come through Canada, Washington, Los Angeles or even Mexico. Unfortunately, the passenger records are incomplete. Those that do exist for San Francisco arrivals are difficult to read and first names are typically abbreviated to the first initial. Japan does have un-indexed passenger and immigration records, but it would cost a fortune to have someone pore through those documents and then have them translated. For the moment, I am waiting to hear back from the USCIS to see if he or one of his family members is indexed. I do have a Resident Permit number (R.p.) and an Alien Registration number (A.R.) which may aid in that search. What complicates things further is that Sasanji returned to Japan before WWII. It appears that he always intended to return to his homeland as his wife never left the farm and the property remains in the Okazaki family to this day. This means that there is no A-file for him and there are no WRA or INS internment camp records. There also are no land or voter records, as U.S. law prohibited Japanese immigrants from land ownership or citizenship. I have been able to follow some of his address changes by the immigration records of his three sons, but he hasn’t turned up in any directories that I’ve searched. Sasanji Okazaki was born 20 September 1875 to Yujiro Okazaki and Sumi (maiden name not known); he married Kiwa Kobayashi on 14 May 1892; he died 13 January 1941.

SLIG: Day Four

Day four of SLIG; I’m energized and eager. Though I’ve used FamilySearch and NARA websites extensively over the years, this course has given me a deeper understanding of archival access. The attendees generally are focused on early American records but I have been able to apply my new-found knowledge to Japanese American data. Now that I can search the Library of Congress website with confidence, I’ve been able to discover a wealth of information related to the pre-WWI history of Japanese in the United States. Of course, I can also apply these new skills to my colonial ancestors. Today the instructors will continue the discussion of maps, newspapers, regional NARA centers and land records. I can hardly wait!

What’s a slig?

I arrived in Salt Lake City to attend “SLIG”, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. Though I may have been “doing” genealogy for about 15 years, truly “researching” is another matter. I’ve been doing that for about three. And this is my first big  conference; genealogically speaking, that is. Oh, I’ve attended a smattering of small events, gone to lectures, watched webinars, listened to podcasts, but this is on a completely different level. On the first evening, attendees were to sit at tables according to the courses they selected. Mine was “Researching in Washington D.C. without Leaving Home”. I had wanted to meet the instructors for some time. In fact, a professional genealogist who I hired for extensive assistance with Japanese research recommended them to me ages ago. What I didn’t realize was that the instructors would be at the table with the attendees. It was a casual and comfortable way to get to know one another. Not stuffy. Not intimidating. But still, I faltered and fluttered when  the woman next to me started chatting. Lovely, personable, very easy to talk to, yet someone I had previously only read or heard about. Usually cocktail party chit-chat is my thing. I love to sit next to some anonymous person and strike up a conversation.  But this was different. It may not be Hollywood to you, but it is to me.

The Year of the Spider

Lulu le Muu Muu

2012 Scaregirl

Overgrown Weeds in the Orchard

Overgrown Weeds in the Orchard

Last year, life got busy and the garden got neglected. I should have expected that from the moment I created my annual scarecrow;  she was a pathetic attempt to start the season. The vegetables never were planted, the dwarf fruit trees grew too big, the weeds took over, and the giant pumpkins didn’t produce. And pumpkins, especially giant ones, have always been my forte. My only saving grace was the rose garden. It’s a funny thing about roses; people think they are so difficult to grow, but all they really need is water and a lack of attention.

2013 is going to be a bumper crop in terms of the garden. Denise sent me the most amazing Amaryllis for the holidays; not your typical deep red but a very vibrant coral now getting ready to open its fifth bloom of the season. I got so excited about that Amaryllis that I decided to take an early peek at my worms in the compost bin. The best way to tell if the worms are happy is by the number of black widows sleeping under the cover. This isn’t the year of the snake, it’s the year of the spider. And I’m betting that my roses, dwarf fruit trees and even the soon to be planted veggies and Big Max pumpkins are going to be very happy come spring.

Roses from 2012

Roses from 2012

Lucky Snakes

Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu

photos by Samantha Okazaki



Kagome Mochi

Kagome Mochi

On New Year’s Day, most American families lounge in their pajamas, watch football, take down holiday ornaments and perhaps recover from the previous evening’s festivities. But in our house, as with most Japanese families, January 1 is the biggest holiday of the year.

Cleaning begins in the middle of December.  It’s bad luck to bring old dirt into the new year so every nook and cranny is scrubbed; bills are paid; social calls are made. After that, the food and decorations are ordered and family is invited. Around December 28, the kadomastu is placed at the entrance to welcome the ancestral spirits. Envelopes of money (otoshidama) are prepared for children. The kagome mochi is placed to symbolize the coming and going of the years.

The 31st is a buzz of activity. Food is prepared, sashimi is picked up from the fish market, last-minute dashes to the grocery store take place. Much of the food is traditional, some is just tasty. Just before midnight, the family eats toshikoshi soba; the noodles symbolize a long life. Early on the 1st, the final preparations are underway. Breakfast might be a warm bowl of ozoni or some grilled mochi. Then the sashimi is sliced, the sushi rice is seasoned, and all of the other dishes are readied for the party, including teriyaki, kara age, oshitashi, curry and sushi. Much of the traditional food is eaten for good luck. With that feast, I’m thinking that the year of the snake is going to be a very lucky year.

Making Kara Age

Making Kara Age