Linda's Orchard

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Category: Japanese Genealogy

One Last Stop

There was one last stop to make before heading home: The Family History Center in Hiroo. We decided to go there without an appointment, a cold call, so to speak. We knew the address and the hours (M-F, 9-5). Addresses in Japan are interesting; buildings aren’t numbered in order the way western addresses are done. Instead, buildings are numbered in the order they were built. It’s virtually impossibly to find a location based on the address alone, at least in the traditional manner. Hint: be sure to check google maps before venturing out. We rode a taxi to the vicinity, then walked a block to the LDS office where we were greeted by a receptionist who walked us to the Family History Center. This was really just a small office with two volunteers, but the woman who met us was helpful, informative and bilingual. Our goal was twofold. First, to find out if we could get any outbound shipping records for Sasanji Okazaki in 1898, and second, to see what kind of resources they could provide for people doing Japanese genealogy. Regarding shipping records, she explained that they are in the process of  being indexed  by volunteers but that will take time. I suppose we could hire someone in Japan to look through these records, but that would likely be cost prohibitive. In terms of general research, she explained that the office could help with obtaining koseki records for people, either in Japan or in the United States. I asked if other Family History Centers within Japan should be contacted based on proximity to city offices, but was told that such requests would be redirected to the Tokyo LDS office.

The next step in this learning process will  be to give that a try, perhaps asking them to help with one of the many maternal lines that I haven’t yet researched. In the meantime, it’s time to head home.

A Long Journey

We flew from San Francisco to Narita, took a train to Tokyo, spent one night in a hotel, boarded an early Shinkansen and arrived in our destination of Okayama city, located between Kyoto and Hiroshima on the inland sea. Exhaustion from two days of travel hit hard and all we could really do was grab a quick bite to eat and settle in for the evening. Fortunately, the refrigerator was well stocked and the snacks came in handy when jet lag surfaced at 2 AM.

Our first destination was the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. So much of the Okazaki family history had to do with World War II; visiting the memorial was a fitting way to begin this leg of our journey. Pearl Harbor may have been the reason the Okazaki’s were interned but the end of the war was ultimately the reason they returned to Japan. In 1945, post war Japan was in ruins, poverty was rampant and food was scarce. Hiroshima was about 115 miles from the village of Tabara where the Okazaki family relocated and where the matriarch Kiwa still lived.

Following our visit to the epicenter of the bombing, we travelled to the sacred temple at Miyajima to pay our respects.

Epicenter of Hiroshima Bombing

Peace Memorial

Temple at Miyajima

Gaijin Girl Gets Going Again

The U.S. Pilgrimage is complete, save for a trip to the jail in El Centro, a pass through Santa Fe, NM and a visit to Seattle, WA (currently scheduled for July). Also necessary for my research is a return visit to the National Archives in Washington DC and Maryland (currently scheduled for December). Next stop? Okayama, Japan; more specifically, the tiny village where the family farm and cemetery still stand. Appointments have been scheduled, distant relatives have been contacted, but still there is an element of the unknown. How will the Buddhist priests at the temple respond to this gaijin girl? What about the government clerks? Japanese privacy laws are extraordinarily strict. As per a law passed in 2008, no prefectural repository can divulge information to anyone not adequately documented as a descendant. I will hand carry the original koseki, along with birth certificates, marriage records, color copies of passports and driver’s licenses, plus any other documents I can think of. The rest will be up to Ted. Afterall, it is his lineage I am researching and conveniently, he is the one who speaks the language. While the Okazaki koseki is complete, I now seek the bridal lines of the Maibara and Kobayashi families, plus any others I am able to discover or the clerks are willing to print.