Karleen C. Chinen

Usagi oishi ka no yama

Ko-buna tsurishi ka no kawa

Yume wa ima mo megurite

Wasure-gataki furusato

Ika ni imasu chichi-haha

Tsutsuganashi ya tomogaki

Ame ni, kaze ni tsukete mo

Omoi-izuru furusato

Kokorozashi o hata shite

Itsu no hi ni ka kaeran

Yama wa aoki furusato

Mizu wa kiyoki furusato

I chased after rabbits on that mountain.

I fished for minnow in that river.

I still dream of those days even now

Oh, how I miss my old country home.

Father and mother — are they doing well?

Is everything well with my old friends?

When the rain falls, when the wind blows,

I stop and recall of my old country home.

Some day when I have done what I set out to do,

I’ll return home one of these days

Where the mountains are green, my old country home,

Where the waters are clear, my old country home.

“Furusato”— Music by Teiichi Okano, lyrics by Tatsuyuki Takano

Are you familiar with this century-old Japanese children’s song, “Furusato?” I’d heard the melody before, but I didn’t know the lyrics or what they meant until I attended a Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai event late last year at which there was group singing of this song. Fortunately for me, the lyrics and translation were printed on the program that was distributed to the attendees.

There are other songs that speak to the longing to return to one’s furusato, meaning “old home” or “hometown.” My favorite is a song by Japanese pianist/singer Mayumi Itsuwa titled “Shiosai.” The Obunsha dictionary defines shiosai as the “murmuring of a rising tide.” It was a recurring tune in former newscaster Bob Jones’ 1985 Japanese centennial documentary, “Land of the Rising Sun.” You can find the tune on YouTube.com.

Most of us probably feel little or no connection to these songs — after all, Japan is not our country; it was the country of our Issei grandparents or great-grandparents. Our country is America. But if we were to trace our family’s ancestral roots, they would take us back to somewhere in Japan. And that is what gives us one-half — the ethnic half — of our identity as Japanese Americans.

So, with this issue of the Herald, we are launching a new essay series around the theme of furusato, the Japanese word for “old home” or “hometown.” It’s a subject that has been on my mind for several years now and was reinforced by our recently concluded yearlong series, “Legacy of the Sansei,” which was suggested and coordinated by Herald contributing writer Gail Honda. Most of the contributors to that series are in their 60s, some even in their 70s. We are reaching that point in our lives — no, we actually have already reached it — when making connections with family in the ancestral homeland is imperative if we ever hoped to do so. If we don’t do it now, the ties will likely be lost forever.

For many Sansei, it may already be too late, or challenging at the very least, if their Nisei parents or close relatives have already passed on. Many Nisei provided that invaluable link to relatives in the old country because most of them could speak at least some Japanese. And, as the children of the original immigrants, they may have had some interaction with relatives back in the old country. When they pass, so, likely, will our link to our ancestral heritage . . . unless we make the connections now and share them with our children and other younger generation family members so that they can pass on the relationships to their children. Tracing genealogical lines on paper is valuable, but the human experience of actually connecting with family, face-to-face, heart-to-heart . . . that is priceless. And so we introduce this series of essays with the hope that it will inspire you to find and experience your furusato.

To launch this series, I reached out to Ken Saiki, who is Nisei on his father’s side and Sansei on his mother’s side. Ken’s “Legacy of the Sansei” essay in our May 6, 2016, edition, strengthened my resolve to get this series going this year. This is an open invitation to you, our readers, to share your furusato story with your fellow readers. Tell us about your efforts to meet or spend time with your relatives in Japan. This series is not about meeting with government officials in your hometown — unless they were an integral part of your search for your family. This series is about finding family and connecting with them — and then introducing younger members in your family to them so that in spite of the ocean that separates Hawai‘i from Japan, we will always be connected and we will always know where our identity as Americans of Japanese ancestry began. I look forward to receiving your stories at kchinen@thehawaiihochi.com.

Our identity as Americans of Japanese ancestry is the story of immigration. It is what will be the story of every new immigrant that arrives in America, seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Nothing makes them prouder in their new homeland than to become contributing members of their community by finding a job and taking care of their own families. So the chaos and fear Donald Trump, the new president, set in motion within days of taking office is almost beyond words. We have entered a scary, authoritarian period in the history of our country and we are going to have to stand strong with those he and his cohorts aims to persecute.

Since last year, I have been reminding myself that 2017 marks 75 years since President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, never imagining that we would be in a déjà vu-like situation as we near the anniversary of the order’s signing on Feb. 19. History has a bad way of repeating itself. But, history also has a way of teaching us that we must not allow what happened 75 years ago to Japanese Americans to happen again to people of the Muslim faith.

The Herald’s Feb. 17, 2017, edition will be devoted to a reminder of the lessons of Executive Order 9066. If your organization or business would like to share a message in the issue by way of an ad, please contact Herald advertising manager Grant Murata at 845-2255 or email him at grant@thehawaiihochi.com.

The Herald’s Feb. 17, 2017, edition will be devoted to a reminder of the lessons of Executive Order 9066. If your organization or business would like to share a message in the issue by way of an ad, please contact Herald advertising manager Grant Murata at 845-2255 or email him at grant@thehawaiihochi.com.


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