Congratulations for having the wonderful story about James Dote and his search for facts on the roots of his family background (Feb. 6, 2015, edition).
My family . . . the Nii family is also from Hiroshima and I often think about my ancestors. I know that two of my father’s sisters died due to the atomic bomb. My father died a long time ago. I am 83 years young and ninth from the bottom. I have lost everyone who could have given me information. Too late, much to my regret.
Thanks for all the wonderful articles in the Herald. Keep up the good work!
Edith T. Kawashima
With humility — and on behalf of other families interested in learning about their roots — I thank you for publishing our Dote family’s account, “In Search of Grandfather’s Spirit,” in the Feb. 6, 2015, edition of The Hawai‘i Herald.
I wrote the article for several reasons: First, I wanted to encourage those who wished to chronicle their past and let them know that everything may not fall perfectly into place at the start. I also wanted to emphasize that this is seldom a voyage one sets out on alone. Finally, keep in mind that time waits for no one.
For a number of reasons, I encourage you to begin your search now. I heard recently that some Japanese prefectural government offices periodically purge very old koseki-töhon documents, which, in Japan, are the official family registers, and are vital in tracing genealogy. Another reason for the urgency is life itself, as elder family members forget details or pass away. And, oftentimes, younger generations move away and lose touch with their past.
In the weeks since the article’s publication, two families — strangers to me — have told me that they have renewed their search efforts. Another man asked his daughter to follow up on researching their koseki-tohon, which they already have in their possession. I have been stopped in the supermarket, at temple, at restaurants and even by my neighbors. Most memorable was a very kind Latter-Day Saints church member, who tracked me down and spoke with me for nearly two hours, thanking me for writing about the importance of knowing our family ties and roots.
But the most important result is that this search process can open invaluable family communications and connections in our all-too-hectic world. The extended family is given new reasons to reunite — fun reasons from which we all can learn. Confucius said, “Study the past if you would define the future.” I believe this quote helps to set the proper stage for launching a family roots search.
Researching more about the challenges my grandparents and parents faced in their lifetimes to make our lives better has made me prouder of my twin heritage — being an American from Hawai‘i and being Japanese with ancestral roots in Saka. Additionally, because of our gracious an host-culture, I feel that a similar pride can universally cross-connect those who came from somewhere else, but are blessed to call Hawai‘i “home.”
I owe a lot to the Hawaii Herald and here’s how:
Back in the 1980’s, I was living in California already, but on my visits home to Hawaii, I embarked on interviewing all my relatives. With my cassette recorder running, I asked my aunts and uncles and father to tell me stories about their lives, how they grew up. Everyone was willing and my normally quiet dad got into it describing growing up near Kolekole Pass and his years in the Army during World War II.
The box of audiocassette tapes followed me through all my moves and eventually, I “upgraded” them to the mini-disc and finally to CDs which I shared with my siblings.
All this time, I did not remember how I became obsessed with the project until last year when going through my junks I found the original Hawaii Herald issue from the 80’s that was devoted to tracing one’s family history. I give that issue full credit for inspiring me, allowing me to have those precious conversations and a priceless record of the past. Thank you very much!
San Jose, Calif.