Ancestors, Part Three: The Old House

This is a photo of a Japanese family standing in front of its house in 1940. By 1940, this family had already lived through hardship, discovered a new world and come back to tell the tale. Unbeknownst to anyone in this photograph, this family was about to be torn apart by an ocean, a war, love, and life.

Most of the people in this photo have passed away, but the descendants of these people returned to this exact house seventy-six years later. I am one of those descendants.

After visiting our family's traditional temple, we drive down the road to see the house where my grandfather had spent his Japanese childhood. We passed a stream where he had played with his brothers and gazed at the green hills he saw every day.

Our Aunt Kimiko, my grandfather's younger sister (and my sister's namesake), showed us her old home and posed in front of it - that lady is a hoot. I thought we were going to ask the current residents to look around, but it turned out that the house was abandoned, its garden overgrown.

My grandfather, who had been born in the United States, returned there in August of 1941 and was interned a few months later after Japan declared war on the United States. He never lived in this house again. His youngest brother Kiyoji, who walked the grounds with us, had not even been born when my grandfather left - they first met when Kiyoji was in his twenties.

This old house felt heavy with memory and history, sad and proud.

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