going to Japan!
Is this trip going near where you are from?
So read the email from Maui that I received this morning from my
sister-in-law, Lei, who is married to my brother, Dino.
Carissa is the younger of their two daughters, who are also
my sweetheart nieces.
From the header, I saw
that it was also sent to my step-mother, Leilani/Kazuko,
originally from Japan, and that the question was really directed to
her. We have three "L-e-i" women in our
immediate family, so keeping "the cast" straight can be a
challenge here. This might help:
Lei is short
for Leigh, who is my sister-in-law, originally from the Pacific
Northwest and mother of my two nieces, Carissa and
who is my step-mother and my father's widow. She was
originally Kazuko when she came to live in Hawai`i from the
Tokyo area, Japan, but when she became a naturalized American
citizen, she adopted Leilani as her new name. I refer to my
father as Grandpa Andy, who is Carissa's paternal
Lei is short
for my middle name.
Attached was an
itinerary of an Autumn Tour of Kyushu
Island, Japan: Fukuoka,
Stone Buddhas, Yabakei
"She may not
know," I thought, "that she will be visiting the southern
Japan homeland of her Great-grandfather Matakatsu (we
knew him as O-Jichan
-- Honorable Grandfather). In
Kumamoto, she will be walking the land of her ancestors."
So excited was I for my
niece's good fortune, I replied right away. This is the edited and
revised version of that email. I've linked some excellent links for
Carissa to peruse at her leisure, with hopes the previews and
background info will further enhance her trip anticipation and
Aloha e 'Ohana (Family),
Did I miss something?
How is it that Carissa is going to Japan? School?
What a fantastic
opportunity for Carissa to travel, see more of the world, and get in
touch with her roots on her Daddy's side. I've checked the attached
itinerary and I was delighted to see that Carissa will be visiting Kumamoto on November
Although we've all
visited Japan, none of us, Carissa's aunts or her dad, have been to
Kumamoto. She will be visiting our grandfather's homeland for
us. As for me, Carissa has ignited my interest and curiosity,
and I shall be vicariously experiencing her trip via Internet
Most of us are intrigued
by our past. Maybe it's just human nature to want to know
where we came from, even if it is learn more about family
black sheep, who in our family was Carissa's great-grandfather, or
how our family ended up in Hawai`i.
November is over six
months away. That's plenty of time for Carissa to check out where she's going,
what she'll be seeing, and what's in store for her. For example, a
second's search at google.com
instantly brought this up:
Prefecture extends from the west coast to the center of mainland
Kyushu. Once the prosperous stronghold of a powerful feudal
lord, its history and tradition are still instilled in
Kumamoto's character as a culturally advanced Japanese
Kumamoto is where
Carissa's Great-grandfather Matakatsu was born and raised in the 19th century.
He is Grandpa Andy's father. As a callow young fellow,
Great-grandfather Matakatsu went gallivanting off to
City`s prosperity began when Kiyomasa Kato, one of the most
influential of Hideyoshi Toyotomi's generals, had a magnificent
castle built here in 1601."
This excerpt refers to
the striking, black-and-white Kumamoto
Castle, one of the Three Famous Castles of Japan that Carissa
will be seeing with her own eyes.
will see the gingko in fall colors?
"The city was
later granted by the Tokugawa Shogunate to the feudal lord
Tadatoshi Hosokawa. Throughout the Edo Era, Kumamoto prospered
under the rule of successive generations of the Hosokawa
Carissa's great ....
hmm, without checking the family tree, I don't know how many greats back ...
was a high-ranking samurai with the equivalent rank of a military
general -- who served under the Hosokawa family. I think you
have a copy of the family tree that was sent to us by Grandpa Andy's
Meiji Restoration, when Japan moved toward modernization and
democratization, samurai warriors who resisted the new
order fought their last battle in Kumamoto."
In 1876, the Meiji Restoration
had cut off pensions to the disbanded and abolished the samurai,
warrior caste," leaving large numbers of men without
The turn of the century was a rough time
for Great-grandfather Matakatsu's family. Stripped of their power,
authority and feudal lord (daimyo)
support, all they had left was their landholdings, albeit
substantial. His family was forced to make a living off their land
by leasing parcels to tenant farmers.
With his family's economic
woes already weighing heavily, Great-grandfather Matakatsu also believed
that his birth order limited his life options. There
were, I believe, (at least) two brothers older than him. They
were the heir and the heir-to-spare. Great-grandfather Matakatsu was
relegated to fief collecting duties. With little, if any, future
promise, this sinecure held sparse
appeal for him.
The dispossesed samurai
class comprised about 8%
of the population. American
industrialists were quick to take advantage of the unrest
and unemployment in Japan to insure "cheap" labor for
their expansion plans. Sugar plantation owners in Hawai`i sent their recruiters to Japan,
Great-grandfather Matakatsu who was itching to strike out on his own
was imagining the possibilities of fortune-making in Hawai`i.
with an adventuresome streak, and yearning for a new life, he was not about to be talked
out of it. Against his family's wishes, he signed up as a contract laborer to
work in Hawai`i's sugar canefields and embarked on an incredible
journey that took him to Hawai`i.
He was, thereafter,
regarded as his family's black sheep.
Dennis Ogawa &
Glen Grant: "displaced samurai,,,"
Ogawa & Glen Grant: Japanese in Hawaii, 1885-1920
Lucky for us, as in
Hawai`i, he met Great-grandmother
Satsuma (we knew her as O-Bachan -- Honorable
Grandmother). She was not a picture bride, but
hers, like the picture brides', was a challenging life of struggles,
triumphs, injustices, and glories in
a strange land, far across the sea.
These doughty diminutive
were international adventuresses and stalwart pioneers, who had to
overcome huge obstacles and fight staggering great odds to make a better life for
themselves, with hopes that the future generations might attain the American Dream
that was denied them.
Satsuma's family background was diametrically opposite of
Great-grandfather Matakatsu's. She was a priest's daughter.
Her family still maintains the family temple in Yamaguchi
Ken, and Grandpa Andy's cousin, her nephew, is the priest (otera)
today. Her ancestors were among the
first Christians in Japan, who were so terribly persecuted, they
went underground as Kakure Kirishitan (Hidden Christians).
Today, her family's faith in Japan is a melange of Christianity,
Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism.
was from Portugal in 1549, taught us Christianity about 400 years
ago. It was the first experience of this for the Japanese and
Christmas became popular throughout Japan from that time. The
first recorded Christmas Mass was celebrated at Yamaguchi
Church in 1552. Even today's there are 'KAKURE' (secret
Christians), who hide that they are Christians, and they still use
Latin when they sing Christmas carols. This style of celebrating
Christmas has not changed since the custom began 400 years
a very interesting read
Satsuma was as spiritual, humble, peace-loving, and shy, as her husband was not.
They could not have been more different.
She connected on a
spiritual level. Ascetic, hers was not the quasi-faith often seen at Japanese temples/shrines
with its bell-bonging, tintinnabulation, and selling of omamori (lucky amulets to
ward off evil), but a deeply-rooted, private one. Giving her inner strength, peace, and guidance
to confront each day's hell to pay, it was a quiet, unobtrusive
faith that she held to as tightly as a lifeline.
Five children later,
Grandpa Andy came along. And without him, there would be no letter
to Carissa today, as there would no Carissa.
At least, not as we know
reading on Jesus'...life in Japan!?
York Times: Christianity in Japan
often called the "forested city." The many trees
in every neighborhood of this lovely city help create and maintain
its fresh and pleasant atmosphere."
Coming from a samurai
family, overworked, underpaid and unaccustomed to manual labor as a
field hand in the cane fields of Pahala in the Ka`u district,
Great-grandfather Matakatsu learned the hard way that the respect
that he enjoyed in Japan was not echoed once he hit the Hawaiian
Being treated as a
second-class citizen was not his cup of green tea, and he moved away from the plantation as soon as his contract was
fulfilled, looking for the opportunity that would make him his
He moved to the
neighboring district of Puna, which was then densely and vastly
forested. He went there to log the 'ohia
trees, which were being felled and made into railroad ties that
were shipped to California.
that the "golden
spike" linking rail lines between the U.S. East and West
coasts was driven into a Puna 'ohia log when the two
railroads came together in Utah." ~ Source
Ties in the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific
Railways made from `ohia
logs from the Puna hinterlands exist to this
day . ~Source
The irony is that
Grand-grandfather Matakatsu ended up leaving one inland forest
only to arrive at another, the
legendary redolent rainforests of Puna.
As a couple, he and
Great-grandmother Satsuma were one of the first six Japanese couples
to settle in the logging camp that grew around the mill. It
became the village of Pahoa, which means "dagger," so
named because a railroad spur that went to Pahoa was like a dagger
cutting into the forest.
The sugar cane fields came
later, and only after the logging industry had stripped the Puna
lands of its verdant rainforests.
Another irony of his
Hawai`i (mis)adventure is that his older brothers died prematurely,
but because Great-grandfather Matakatsu was in faraway Hawai`i and
perhaps too proud to return as the ne'er-do-well, recalcitrant son, he forfeited his primogeniture
(right of succession). The stewardship of the family's landholdings
passed on to his younger brother.
Knowing what a prideful
man his father was, Grandpa Andy thought Great-grandfather Matakatsu
had "made up stories about his samurai lineage," as some
immigrants were wont to indulge in braggadocio, perhaps as a way to help bear the
indignities and discrimination experienced in a hostile land.
Grandpa Andy remembers,
as a boy, discovering two swords, the reverent symbols of the
samurai caste, high on a bedroom shelf, but shrugging their
"I figured my
father won them gambling," he said. "A son of a samurai
-- of privilege and rank -- would never have left Japan to labor in the canefields in
Hawai`i and be treated like a dog."
Ironically, in time, Grandpa Andy
would grow up and leave Hawai`i to fight for the United States of
America as a soldier. On the frontlines of Europe during World
War II, he was an American "samurai" of honor and
valor, buttressed by a deeply-grooved code of honor of his
Andy: The Veteran
Samurai and their Bushido Code of Honor
Warrior Classes of the East & West
a historical view: Amazon: SHOGUN, the book
the movie with Toshiro Mifune & Richard Chamberlain
After the logging
industry left Pahoa, Great-grandfather Matakatsu invested his
earnings in a homestead and then a car, one of the first in the
village. He disliked taking orders and was determined to
be his own boss by owning his own business.
In the Tokugawa/Edo
samurai were ranked highest,
followed by priests, doctors and teachers;
farmers; artisans/craftspersons; and merchants,
in that order.
"feeds the nation," the Japanese of that era traditionally held
farming in esteem; just below the samurai and
priest-doctor-teacher classes were the
Matakatsu felt farming was beneath him, but apparently not beneath
his wife and six children.
It was Great-grandmother
Satsuma, without class hang-ups
and with a genuine love for gardening and growing plants, who taught herself how
to best farm the volcanic land. With her strong faith, fortitude, backbreaking labor, and love for her
family, she coaxed beautiful fruit and cultivated prize vegetables out of that
The family labored hard under
Great-grandfather Matakatsu's stern
direction. Grandpa Andy remembers him as quite the taskmaster and
martinet, and a
mightily stubborn one at that. It is said that once a person from
Kumamoto makes up his/her mind, there is no changing it. ~Source
Because of Great-grandfather Matakatsu's
samurai pride (arrogance?), his wife and children were the
farmers, who became skilled and productive with time, while he peddled
their produce from his Model
He became his own boss,
and he took orders from no one. I've wondered,
though he found his métier, did he realize that he fell three rungs lower on
that old Japanese social hierarchy when he became a peddler, a
Satsuma taught her sons well. With her indomitable spirit and by her own example, she taught them to
take pride in their work, however humble, and to work hard with
focus. In time, she passed on her green thumb to Grandpa Andy, which lead to
his eventual success as a pioneer and founder of Hawai`i's papaya
industry and Great-uncle Katsuto (I knew him as Uncle K, a gentle,
kindly man like his mother), who pioneered the anthurium
industry as a breeder-grower.
Growing up, Grandpa Andy
watched his family struggle to eke out a living from the land, and
this, after paying
Great-grandfather Matakatsu's party bills. Apparently, he
never gave up his extravagant tastes and loved to entertain in grandiloquent
Kumamoto style, whether he could afford it or not.
Years later, when
Grandpa Andy visited his father's home in Kumamoto for the first
time, he was shocked to learn that his father's claims were all
true. The ancestral home was so well-built that it still stands,
hundreds of years later. A large home, especially by Japanese
standards, it has since been remodeled and modernized.
With its glazed blue
tiled roof, the house is as impressive today as it was when
Great-grandfather Matakatsu once lived in it.
Today, the stately house
is home to Great-grandfather Matakatsu's nephew, who is Grandpa
Andy's first cousin, and his family. These days, because land is so
scarce and valuable, our relatives in Kumamoto are well-situated in
When his cousin took
Grandpa Andy on a tour of the family's land, he got a taste of the
life his father once lived. As soon as the tenant farmers learned
that Grandpa Andy was a direct descendant of the family, they made
obeisance by bowing deeply and repeatedly and addressing him in low, respectful
Matakatsu wasn't making up stories, after all.
Bowing (Ojigi) Etiquette
prefecture has two extremely scenic national parks of its own.
Since ancient days Kumamoto Prefecture has been called the
"Land of Fire" because it contains twin-coned
volcanic Mt. Aso."
Matakatsu went from one "Land of Fire" to another, and
that volcanic fire in Hawai`i ended up in his own back yard!
In 1955, a volcanic cone
rose out of Great-grandmother Satsuma's cucumber patch in back of
their house on Kalapana
Road! Had he rebuilt on that land, he would have had his own onsen,
as these days, that cinder cone is now a natural steam
– Along Hwy. 130, near mile marker 15 you come to a scenic point
(on the ocean or “makai” side of the road) following a trail
you will find steam vents. Some of the cinder cones have been
turned into steam baths with wooden benches to sit on, while you
enjoy the warm earth heated air. Caution is advised, you should
always have somebody with you." ~Source
1955 Eruption: The first in lower Puna since 1840
Carissa's eyes will take in a beautiful view of the Maui coastline;
looking mountainward at home on Maui, she can see the grand Hawaiian volcanic mountain,
Matakatsu looked seaward from the windows of his Kalapana Road home,
his eyes held the spectacular vista of the lower Puna
coastline; looking mountainward, he looked at the majestic twin
peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
Matakatsu must have gazed at his adopted island home scenery with
nostagic thoughts of Mt. Aso and the striking Kyushu coastline.
He was never to return
to his homeland to see them once again. Two years later, in 1957,
battling illness and grieving the loss of his home in 1955, followed
by the sudden passing of his
eldest son, Katsuto, of a rheumatic heart in 1956, Great-grandfather
Matakatsu passed on, a broken, disillusioned and disconsolate shadow of the man he once was.
He never made that fortune that
he had sought, and though he gave up his primogeniture and forfeited
the family fortunes, I like to think it was not in vain. We came along!
In November, in Japan,
Carissa will look seaward and mountainward and take it all in with
her eyes, and perhaps thanks her Great-grandfather
Matakatsu for us.
We are in this present
time and space because of him.
So, indeed, as she
visits the area
of Japan that her Great-grandfather Matakatsu hails from, this trip
holds great personal and ancestral significance for Carissa. She will
experience her roots, first-hand. In person.
Perhaps, she'll appreciate
what it means to be American and a keiki o ka `aina (child of
Hawai`i), without forgetting what it means to be Japanese.
I was only five when I
last saw Great-grandfather Matakatsu, and I remember him as a lanky,
taciturn, yet irascible man with a shock of hoary hair, who gave an
impression of distance and seriousness. He was not well. I think of
him now, and inscrutable Great-grandfather Matakatsu with his
stony mien in life is broadly smiling now, happy to learn that Carissa will be
visiting his homeland soon.
And so is Grandpa Andy
(with wide open eyes),
who fell in love with his parents' homeland, although he loved his
own homeland, Hawai`i, much, much more. Especially the island of
Hawai`i, where he lived all his life, except for short stints away,
and always with deep Aloha and Mahalo.
Grandpa Andy, by the way, forgave his father for his difficult,
stubborn ways and shortcomings, thanks to Great-grandmother Satsuma who visited him
in his dreams and helped father and son make peace with each
other. Just before he crossed over, Great-grandmother
Satsuma and Great-grandfather Matakatsu, smiling and happy, came to Grandpa
bringing him much assurance and comfort, they helped smooth the way
Home for their youngest child.
Someday, I will tell you
more about that phenomenal woman/beautiful soul who was
Great-grandmother Satsuma. As I go back in time to learn
about our ancestors, I realize that every piece of our family
heritage is a gift. Although I do not have children, I hope that my
nieces and nephews -- and the future generations -- will one day enjoy all the
memories I now cherish.
Looking back at
our family's history, I have discovered an inspiring heritage of
struggle and triumph, strength and courage. It is a legacy
that I hope you will also pass on to future generations.
I hope, Carissa, you
will remember all three of them -- Great-grandfather Matakatsu,
Great-grandmother Satsuma and Grandpa Andy -- by offering some incense to their
memories when you are in Japan. They'll really get a kick out of
Hope this helps.
answer your question directed to Leilani/Kazuko: No,
Leilani/Kazuko is from the Tokyo area, specifically Kanazawa, which is way up
Me ke Aloha,
"Life is a Gift."
only gift is a portion of thyself..."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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