Linda's Orchard

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Month: May, 2013

Hello Luna

This blog was originally supposed to be about gardening, genealogy and family. Not necesarily in that order. Due to my recent obsession with genealogy, gardening has definitely been on the back burner. My roses are a little dreary looking. Weeds are poking out all over the place. No summer veggies have been planted and pumpkins are nowhere to be seen. And pumpkins are my specialty. But alas, there is hope. We sent some seeds to Shinichi and he is growing some giants in my place, in Japan no less!

Kinichi, Asami, Shoko, Ted, Kyoko

Shinichi, Asami, Shoko, Ted, Kyoko

Ted and Shinichi checking out the fruit trees

Ted and Shinichi checking out the fruit trees

Asami (hiding from the sun) and Ted, picking strawberries

Asami (hiding from the sun) and Ted, picking strawberries

Ted and Luna

Ted and Luna

My veggies are going to have to wait until next season. Shinichi, will you come and help plant our seedlings?

Tokyo Family History Center

5-12-29 Minami Azabu, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, 106-0047

No research trip would be complete without a visit to the local family history center. For the second time, we met with Yumiko Sase.  She addressed our questions about the immigration indexing project underway in Salt Lake City. We asked about hiring researchers in Japan and about other options for genealogical discoveries, beyond the basic koseki, otera, kakocho and ohaka. On our way out, we met Vicki Maetani, a sansei from Utah currently serving a mission in Japan with her husband, Howard. We discussed research related to Nikkei in Japan and in the US. Elder Maetani is a retired judge, well versed in the issues related to Japanese Americans during and after WWII. What a rewarding way to spend our last day of research during this trip.

Family History Center in Tokyo

Family History Center in Tokyo

Finding the Golden Egg While Chasing Wild Geese

Since the beginning of our trip, we wanted to go to the Diplomatic Archives Facility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and see what we could learn. Would we be able to get in the door? Would access to documents be restricted? Exactly what documents did they have that would be genealogically relevant? And could someone help us read whatever it was that we were looking at?

Diplomatic Archives With Map Showing Us Where NOT To Go

Diplomatic Archives Map Showing Us Where NOT To Go

I really wanted to find Sasanji’s immigration record but knew that would be like finding a needle in a haystack. I have been searching for his arrival in the US for quite some time. There were several possible hits, but nothing solid. So, we hopped in yet another taxi and were dropped in the middle of Azabudai, perplexed as to where the building was even located.

Wandering in the hot sun, we stumbled upon a large brick building that looked promising. No, just the post office. Then we found a sign for the right building with arrows directing us to the entrance. It was closed. Backtracking to the original sign, we boldly walked into the building, feigning gaijin ignorance.

Stopped at the front desk by a timid woman who seemed skeptical about our intentions, we kept at it, filled out the Japanese forms in English, placed our possessions into a locker and were escorted into what appeared to be a research room. It looked familiar. Computers? Check. Microfilm readers? Check? Rows of books that looked like finding aids? Check. Pleasant employee who spoke English? Double check. Filled out more Japanese forms in English then presented our passports. Oops. Left mine in the hotel. Not a good move. But we continued to ask a steady stream of questions. What records were available? Could we get emigration records? Fortunately, I had my laptop ready, complete with database AND copies of the Okazaki koseki.

Yonai-san explained that the immigration/emigration records were housed in the Legal Affairs Department and they would be “difficult” to find. Not sure if that meant we couldn’t search or if the records didn’t exist, or something else entirely. It’s hard to decipher that level of Japanese. He did, however, have microfilm records equivalent to passport applications. And there were no restrictions on access. If we knew the approximate time the ancestors left Japan, where they arrived in the US, the kanji in their names, their addresses and where they applied for a passport/visa, there was a remote chance we could find something. Hmm. Didn’t sound good. He looked in a finding aid to see what microfilm we might begin with. Sasanji may or may not have come to the US in 1898, he may or may not have come through San Francisco, he lived in Okayama-ken and may have applied for a passport there or Kanagawa-ken or Kobe or Yokohama or… oh my! So we decided to start with the applications in 1898 from Okayama and see how quickly we would become glassy-eyed.  At least they were in alphabetical order.

At the Microfilm Reader

At the Microfilm Reader

Sasanji's Application

Sasanji’s Application

And there it was. On 11 April 1898, Sasanji Okazaki was issued passport (or travel) #5462. The name and address matched that on the koseki. Although the date of emigration and the ship were not listed, he was bound for British Canada and planned to farm there. Canada!? I always knew that was a possibility, but now I had evidence. It got even better when we found Sasanji’s son, Ichimaru. The icing on the cake? Not only did we print the images from microfilm, Yonai-san brought the original documents for us to view and photograph. He told us it was a miracle. He really couldn’t believe we found this so quickly and so easily. This really was a golden moment.

Kyoto

An ancient city. Once the former imperial capital. Largely unharmed during WWII.

Ikebana at Hiiragiya

Ikebana at Hiiragiya

We arrived May 23 via the Shinkansen. Soba for lunch. A visit to the Kiyomizu Temple. Then check-in at Hiiragiya; the second oldest ryokan in Kyoto was established more than three hundred years ago. Simple and unassuming, the high walls and gate hid the treasure inside. Several employees greeted us with deep bows in the genkan, a stone entry. We changed into slippers and followed a kimono-clad attendant to our room then removed our slippers before stepping onto the tatami mat. The smell of clean tatami is a little like freshly cut grass. Surrounded by shoji and glass, we had a garden view from both the main room and the ofuro, or bath. It was hard to believe that we were in the middle of a bustling city. After our ofuro, we donned yukata and were served kaiseki, a multi course traditional meal, and a flight of sake. Miyuki was our attendant for the duration of our stay. After dinner, it was back to the ofuro before collapsing into the heavenly futon. Sweet dreams.

Ryokan

Ryokan Hiiragiya

Itadakimasu

Itadakimasu

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Kampai!

Kampai!

Ofuro

Ofuro

Day 2. Miyuki arrived to put away the futon and serve a traditional Japanese breakfast. Fish, fresh tofu, vegetables, rice, miso soup, tea. Another bath. The ryokan has been in the current owner’s family for six generations. She and Miyuki gave us a personal tour, then suggested some sites to visit in the city.

Room With Gilded Screen

Room With Gilded Screen

First stop, Nanzenji, a series of temples nestled in the hills, surrounded by maple trees. Next stop, Okazaki Shrine (we couldn’t resist!); the kanji is the same as for our surname. Locals call this shrine “Usagi Jinja”. After that, a stroll through Gion, best known for it’s Geisha, at least at night. During the day it is mostly a tourist spot. Fresh Kyoto-style udon for lunch, a little shopping, then off to Nijo Jinya, a former inn used by feudal lords. We took a tour and saw secret passages, hidden doors and stairwells, low ceilings with trap doors and tiny hallways which curtailed the use of swords. The building is privately owned  by the Ogawa family, decendants of the original owner. Then to Ninomaru Palace adjacent to Nijo Castle.

Nanzenji

Nanzenji

Nanzenji Aquaduct

Nanzenji Aquaduct

Okazaki Jinja

Okazaki Jinja

Nijo Jinja

Nijo Jinya

At the end of a long day, it was back to the ryokan and another ofuro. Another meal served by Miyuki, this time shabu shabu with French chablis. Ofuro in the main bath. Back to the ofuro in our room. Collapse again into the futon for a good night’s sleep. I dreamt of samurai and ninja, sword fights and Heian period clothing, geisha and zen gardens.

Miyuki-san

Miyuki-san

Morning arrived too soon, so it was off to the ofuro again. Why not? We are leaving soon. My skin feels so soft from all of the scrubbing, soaking and minerals. Miyuki arrived at 7:30. Green tea. Coffee. Umeboshi. Breakfast is served while church bells ring in the distance. Tofu with natto, crab omlette, oshinko, miso shiro, an array of local fish and vegetables, fruit, tea. And more. After breakfast we are served shiso tea.

But alas, it’s time to return to reality. I love staying in ryokans, but my back and knees are starting to complain about sitting on the floor.

Having Some Fun

No trip to Japan would be complete without goofing off…

Silly Boy

Silly Boy in Okayama

Silly Girl

Silly Girl in Naoshima

Where's Gaijin Girl?

Where’s Gaijin Girl?

 

A Reasonably Exhaustive Search. In Japan.

Imagine one civil document that included birth, adoption, marriage, divorce and death information for every member of a household. That’s the beauty of a koseki. The good news lies in the rich biographical information. The bad news? First, due to strict privacy laws, the data is only available to those who can prove their descendancy. Second, language and geography restrict the ease with which most Japanese Americans can access these documents.

Once lineage is established and the first koseki obtained, additional information is available. From the original Okazaki koseki, we were able to learn the maiden names and addresses of Ted’s grandmother and great grandmothers. And then we obtained those koseki. Same for the Miyake side. The process takes time. Koseki are located in the municipality of a particular family group. Each time the household changed, so did the Koseki. Time is needed to translate key pieces of information, but also to travel from one government office to another. Most application forms are available online. Finding a person to help with reading and filling out the forms who is both young enough to be comfortable with computers and old enough to decipher dated writing styles is a challenge.  Equipped with translations and addresses, it is possible to locate the original property of the family.

How far back can a genealogist go? Civil record keeping didn’t begin until the Meiji period, (about 1870).  If you can locate direct descendants currently living on ancestral property you may be able to find new details. The Japanese equivalent of a deed passing land from father to son over many generations may still exist.  The family may also possess a kakocho, or Buddhist death record, somewhat like a family bible. A family cemetery may have rich biographical information engraved on the ohaka (gravestones). Older stones may not be legible or only have the kaimyo listed (death name). The last stop would be identifying the local temple. Sometimes finding which temple can be a challenge. Yokoyama-sensei from Temple Daianzi mentioned research he is doing for a family who said they “might be” affiliated with that location. This is not so different from figuring out which church a family may have attended in the US or Europe. And like some traditional European cultures, Japan is a patrilineal society. Land and surnames are passed from father to son. Cemeteries typically only include first-born sons, their wives and children who died before marriage.

Deed Held by Maihara Family

Deed Held by Maihara Family

Kayasuga Ancestral Home at Katsuo

Kayasuga Ancestral Home at Katsuo

The koseki is the first step in finding your Japanese ancestors. Collecting and translating all available koseki, visiting the ancestral farm and cemetery, contacting living desendants, viewing the ohaka, researching documents at the temple? Now that’s what I call a “reasonably exhaustive search.”

I’m Confused. Are You My Cousin?

Lunch with Setsuko and Hiroko

Lunch with Setsuko and Hiroko

Last November, we met Hiroko, Ted’s second cousin. Yesterday she introduced us to her first cousin, Setsuko. The pedigree gets muddled with heir adoptions and marriages among family members. Ted, Hiroko and Setsuko share the same great grandfather, Sasanji Okazaki. But Sasanji’s second son, Namita, married his first cousin (daughter of Sasanji’s sister). Since civil records don’t exist before about 1870, it’s difficult to say how often adoptions and marriage among cousins occurred.

Hiroko and Setsuko took us to the ancestral farm of Namita who was born an Okazaki in the village of Tabara, but adopted into the Kayasuga family in the neighboring village of Katsuo. Second sons are frequently adopted as a means of continuing a surname when there are only daughters, or when the eldest son is unable to continue the line. Namita’s elder brother, Ichimaru, also adopted a “yoshi” from the Maihara family to carry on the Okazaki surname.

Namita had been living and working in California for a few years between about 1914-1918 but returned to Japan with his younger brother who succumbed to Spanish Influenza on that voyage. Namita then married Makio Kayasuga, had a daughter named Matsuko, and then returned to the US where he worked for approximately three years in the laundry business. Namita saved his money and when he came back to his wife and daughter around 1923, he was able to build a beautiful home. His son, Kazumasa was born about 1924 or 1925.

During World War II, while the Okazaki family was interned in the United States, the city of Okayama was nearly obliterated by bombs. The remote mountain villages, however, were spared. Kazumasa recalled many relatives staying in their home. They had space but their farm also provided much needed sustenance at a time when many Japanese were starving.

After the war, the Okazaki’s returned to their ancestral village of Tabara. With no food or money, Namita and the Kayasuga clan helped the Okazaki’s by offering them a bag of rice  when they first arrived, something more valuable than money at the time.

Today Kazumasa, son of Namita, lives alone on the farm. Many of the villagers have abandoned their land and homes for economic reasons. But even as an octogenarian, Kazumasa operates his tractor, plants his rice and visits with friends. His daughter, sons and grandchildren visit him often as they all live nearby. The view from the  mountaintop is spectacular. Cool breezes provide relief from the humidity. Wildflowers are in full bloom. The fields are ready to be planted with rice. Traveling to Katsuo has really been a step back in time.

Ted and Great Uncle Kazumasa

Ted and Great Uncle Kazumasa

Setsuko, Hiroko and Linda in Front of the Home Built by Namita

Setsuko, Hiroko and Linda in Front of the Namita’s Home

Mountaintop View

Mountaintop View

Ohaka of Namita and Makio

Ohaka of Namita and Makio

Temple Daianzi

Yokoyama Sensei and His Wife

Yokoyama Sensei and His Wife

Temple Daianzi is nestled against a hill in the Daianzi neighborhood of Okayama city. We arrived promptly for our 10:00 AM appointment with Yokoyama-san. Prepared to politely sip tea and learn that no documents could be found, we were thrilled when the priest handed us a copy of the “Danshin-tocho” which recorded Okazaki deaths dating back to the Tenpo period, roughly 1830- to 1844. It will be interesting to get the paper translated. Unfortunately, some of the individuals are only listed by Kaimyo, or Buddhist names given at death, as opposed to birth names. Regardless, it was an interesting find.

Finding Obaachan’s Family

Researching the lives of women in a patrilineal society is challenging. Tradition in Japan dictates that property is passed from eldest son to eldest son. When no male heir exists, one is adopted. Although current laws have changed, farming communities still practice this pattern. So what is a genealogist to do?

 The current heir to the Okazaki ancestral farm was adopted into the family in 1958. He was the second son in his own family, ineligible to inherit property. These adoptions are fairly common in traditional Japanese farming communities and can be the key to discovering maternal lines.

 Motomu was born a “Maihara” in the remote mountain village of Ota. His brother, the eldest son, still lives in the original family home. We drove along narrow winding roads cut through deep canyons until we arrived. Twelve families still live in the village and six of those are from the Maihara Clan.

Overlooking Ota Village

Overlooking Ota Village

We were warmly greeted by Satoshi and Mitsuko Maihara. After cursory bows and formalities we entered the home through the front door where there was a dirt floor, tightly compacted from generations of visitors. From there we removed our shoes and walked into a tatami room, probably the most formal part of the home. The four surrounding walls were composed of handcrafted sliding doors, the beams and ceiling were nearly black, the walls were traditional yellowish clay. There were mysterious sliding panels on the ceiling. We learned that years ago (but within the lifetime of our hosts) most families raised silkworms; charcoal was burned in the center of the room to keep the worms warm and the ceiling panels were opened to act like chimneys for the smoke to escape through the steep roof. This also explained the rich darkness of the wood.

Motomu, Satoshi, Mitsuko and Shizuko

Motomu, Satoshi, Mitsuko and Shizuko

Mistuko stood barely 4’ 8”, stooped from decades of farm work. Her smile was far bigger than her stature. She brought us tea and manju, bean filled mochi wrapped in leaves, while Satoshi told  us about the family history. He showed us a document which was the equivalent of a deed, a written family history passed down through the generations which accompanied the inheritance of the land. He also gave us a handwritten genealogy going back several generations earlier than the civil records.

Manju

Manju

Linda and Satoshi

Linda and Satoshi

Once we understood the pedigree, Satoshi and his brother shared family stories. Kinichi Maihara and his wife, Iku, had six children. Eldest son, Hisao, inherited the family farm which was then passed to his son, Satoshi (our host). The next two children died young. The surviving children were renamed so that the spirits would be confused and not take away any more children. Hamako, the eldest of the surviving daughters was then called Yoshiko. Youngest daughter Isoe was renamed Yasuko. Hamako married Ichimaru Okazaki. When their American born sons chose not to live on the farm, Satoshi’s younger brother (and Hamako’s nephew) was adopted. He changed his surname to Okazaki, but remained close to his Maihara family.

After visiting for several hours, we paid our respects to the ancestors. We hiked up the mountainside through a bamboo and cedar forest. All of the gravestones belonged to various Maihara clan members. Satoshi showed us which ones belonged to his direct lineage. There were hundreds of “ohaka” along the trail. He explained that the small stones belonged to children who died. Larger stones were heirs and their wives. Most of the engravings had worn down over the years and were illegible. Others only had the “kaimyo” (Buddhist name given at death) and since those were created before the time of civil records, there was no way to know their birth names.

Following Satoshi Through The Forest

Following Satoshi Through The Forest

Maihara Cemetery

Maihara Cemetery

Our hosts were gracious and seemed to enjoy our interest in the Maihara family history. Satoshi shook our hands but Mistsuko grabbed us both and embraced us as if we were family. She kissed us goodbye and made us feel not only welcome, but glad that we were able to experience this adventure.

Saying Goodbye to Mistuko

Saying Goodbye to Mistuko

The Adventure Continues

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Off to Japan again. Second time in five months. Mostly for research. This is a genealogist’s dream. Cemeteries. City offices. Visits with previously unknown cousins. Visits with cousins only met on the last visit. I’m bursting with excitement, as well as a bit of trepidation. What will they think of the gaijin this time around? What about the not-quite Japanese and not quite American spouse who is a requisite companion? I don’t speak Japanese and he does. He is expected to know all of the subtle cultural nuances of the region, even though he was raised in Tokyo, rather than Okayama, and has lived in the United States for nearly forty years. Last time around we visited with the familiar. This time around we are headed into a genealogical no-man’s-land. Found an obscure name and address on a microfilm at NARA? Going there. Trying to find some villages of remote maternal lines? Yep! Renting a Prius which feels about the size of a suburban in order to navigate the streets near the temple? Absolutely! This trip will either be genealogical pay dirt or a total bust. Either way, it will certainly be an adventure. I love the ancestral hunt and I’m ready for this one.