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The Two Uncles

1949 Keiji Wedding.jpg
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1950 Michio Wedding.jpg
View it larger with additional information here


Both of my Japanese uncles, pictured here in their respective wedding photos, have passed away, but thanks to my Uncle Michio, I have many important family photos and details. The photos he sent me were always accompanied by detailed handwritten information including dates and names. He sent me two photo albums in the early 80’s that included a lot of older photos like these as well as current ones of his family.

Of my two uncles, Uncle Keiji was the more “traditional” Japanese man and the brother with whom my mom was closest. When I was visiting Tokyo with her, Uncle Keiji never tried to speak or write in English but through smiles and gestures, he was able to show me (for instance) how Japanese men drink whiskey (with a beer chaser). I had to show I understood by doing the same thing -- he got a huge kick out of that, though later he told my mom to tell me to stay healthy by eating well and taking a lot of vitamins. What we didn’t know at the time was that he was in the early stages of what might have been stomach cancer; he passed away a few years after our visit. Keiji had a Karaoke machine in his house and put on a performance for us the night we celebrated my 21st birthday. Throughout his life, Keiji remained in the neighborhood where the family had grown up and eventually served a term as mayor. When his youngest son graduated from college, Keiji tore down their family home and built a 4-story apartment building with what eventually became a flower shop on the bottom floor. Their home was on one of the upper floors.

Uncle Michio, the eldest son, seemed quite a contrast to his younger brother. He was educated at Tokyo University and then worked as an engineer at Shell Corporation in Tokyo until his retirement in 1982. I don’t recall seeing him laugh or smile very much while we were there. He was incredibly serious and prone to sitting on the sidelines observing and taking in every detail (and taking a lot of photos). He spoke English as much as possible and asked me a lot of questions about life in America and in Oklahoma. He was incredibly interested in American politics and world affairs and if he was still alive today (he passed away in 2002), he would be totally enthralled with what is going on in our country.

Both Keiji and Michio met us at Haneda airport when we arrived in Japan in May 1985. My first observation? They were both shorter than I am. After a hair-raising taxi ride from Haneda to Michio's home in Tokyo (we stayed half the visit with Michio and half with Keiji), the prevailing feeling for me was that I was in a comfortable and oddly-familiar place where everything was the right size for me -- from the heights of the counters and tables to the portion sizes of the meals. Even more importantly, however, was the feeling of having begun my task of unlocking the secrets of the past and discovering more about my Japanese heritage.

Comments

Beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing.

You know so much more about your family and heritage than most people do - it's very impressive and cool.

so lucky to know so much about the past.thanks for sharing,Janet.

Fantastic information about your Japanese heritage. The past can be quite amazing. :)

I can't imagine how it felt to find a place that was new and yet you felt like you truly belonged in a way. I love the information you are sharing, because (as you know) it makes me want to dig into my own families past. I'm glad you had access to your relatives and their papers and pictures to help you out in the discovery process.

It's truly fascinating reading the details you are uncovering about your family's past. It really makes me want to find out more about my own.

Who are the people in the back in the Michio photo? They don't look Japanese and the women are dressed in Western clothes, and the two guys are in military uniform that look American to me. I'm wondering how they came to be in this photo.

I think it's wonderful that you have this information about your heritage and background. Thanks so much for sharing it with us too!

How fortunate you are that you have such great photographs and that you are able to piece together these details. What a treasure.

What great photos.. I think its fantastic that your uncle sent them to you and shared! Just need to find a safe place away from hurricanes! :o)

I just Love your Japanese heritage stories. It is wonderful that you have these old photos to document your ancestral past. I really don't have anything because my parents had to leave everything behind in the Czech Republic when they escaped.

i love reading about your family and your heritage. it all seems so similar to my life, except that in my family, no one talks or documents(ed) much. One of my aunts has just begun some family research and it's very interesting. half of my family is Mexican; the other half Chinese. Thank you for sharing and i'm always eager to read more about your life and your heritage. you've done a wonderful job documenting your research.
hugs and love!

Another great post, Janet. I love the photos of the weddings. They are priceless. Thank you for sharing your family stories with us.

Another great post, Janet. I love the photos of the weddings. They are priceless. Thank you for sharing your family stories with us.

Wow Janet, these family stories are so engaging. I know what you mean about going to your mom's country and feeling like you fit it--that's how I felt as a young adult visiting England. I looked like everybody else (pale and freckled) at a time when everyone in the US was uber-tan!!

Mom didn't have a komino and didn't want one! Sounds like she was a little ornery in her younger years! Hmmm, now I know where I got it from!

Really enjoy your posts about your family. Very well written and always interesting. Love the photos.