Happy 80th, Fumiko
From Flora Hidaka:
I was not a true sister to you Fumiko for a long time. It took my moving >away to appreciate you.
Thank you for being so kind to Mom.
You are a very sincere person and speak your truth no hidden motives.
I have stayed with you before and after my stroke and I have been a witness to >your Christian faith and kindnesses. I don't live in Chicago and I appreciate her help for Karen like babysitting Emiko and getting her to dance practice. Things that a grandmother would do.
Have a great 80th birthday, I'll be there in spirit and please live to celebrate about 20 more so I can show my appreciation enjoy you company.
I love you,
From Ruth Hidaka:
Happy 80th Birthday, Fumiko!!
Make room for me as I will be joining you next year.
We all have been blessed with a lovely, kind-hearted, intelligent, educated, healthy, and caring sister.
I am very sorry that I cannot attend the celebration but will be thinking of you all togetther in Chicago as I am with Flora and Bill in Las Vegas.
Congratulations and many many more.
From Carey Hidaka:
Dear Auntie Fumiko,
Tanjoobi-wa omedeto gozaimasu.
That awkward attempt at expressing myself in Japanese is probably a good representation of the challenges (and frustrations) I've always faced in >trying to get in touch with my ancestral side.......and in communicating with Obachan, Ojichan, and you (even though I know that we can otherwise converse in English).
I can also tell you that I always felt encouraged by you whenever I've >attempted to speak Japanese, although I have to admit that I am always >embarrassed to try (even under the expert tutelage of your friend, Yoko Doi-san). I think of how my Chris and Sean had no inhibitions about karaoke >recently at Uncle Junior's and wish that I could be similarly motivated to >have expressed myself more in Japanese. I know it's still not too late to do it, but I'm pretty rusty by now.
Anyway, happy 80th birthday! When I think back over the time I've known >you, since the time you returned to the USA from Japan in the '50's, I've always marveled about how different your life must have been, when compared to the lives of your siblings. I also think about how difficult it must have been to have been separated at such an early age from your immediate family.......not just geographically, which would have been hard enough, but emotionally and culturally. To have been reunited with them after many years (and the war) must have been very satisfying and very, very >challenging, especially in bringing your husband and children with you.
I'd like to know more about that part of your life and hope that we can talk about it sometime.
As you celebrate your 80th birthday, I want you to know that I've always admired your quiet dignity and I've always appreciated your support of my family, at family gatherings or whenever we have seen each other. You've also carried on Obachan's tradition of making maki-sushi or enari-sushi for family celebrations, and for that, my stomach also thanks you!
Thank you also for supporting my mother. As my mother's older sister and having lost Uncle Sei some time ago, I believe that you may have come closest to understanding when my father passed away last year. I hope that you and she have the opportunity to rebuild some of the sisterly relationship that you may have sacrificed from your early years away.......I think as a result of rooming together during your trip to Europe some time ago this may have already happened.
Have a great 80th birthday and enjoy your time with your family. I am honored to be able to celebrate with you.
When Claude met Fumiko
In 1947, soon after my 19th birthday, I was able to take leave
from my military duties in Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture to
visit Okayama Prefecture and Mazoroi for the first time ever. It
was only the second year of the occupation of Japan and the U.S.
military, with our Godhead MacArthur, ruled Japan as only
Americans can, authoritarian where it's not needed, loosely where
it is and always with a sense of humor. Occupying forces in Japan
were always required to be in uniform so I traveled in
"Class A," tie, Ike jacket, reverse tucked pant legs
(held in place, appropriately, with a condom each), combat boots
and the twin pointed cap that was the trademark of Americans. It
was the accoutrements of identity that a parolee from Minidoka
needed for continuing a long search.
An 18 hour train ride from Tokyo got me to the Okayama Railroad Station where a student in uniform, Hiroshi Ohashi (nee Morita) met me. Hiro-chan, as Fumiko always calls him, is a cousin and one of the more imaginative ones around. Initially, I had to overcome some biases because Hiro-chan seemed to fit the wartime caricatures of full-teeth Japanese soldiers. It did not take too long because he was expressive, intelligent, helpful and spoke the brand of Japanese that I love, Okayama-ben. He probably knew more about the state of the Morita clan in America than Grandma. And he certainly knew more about Fumiko's travails than any of her siblings in America.
We went to the local Railroad Transportation Office (every train station worthy of its name in Japan had U.S. military authority presence, the good old warm RTO where you found refuge on cold winter nights waiting for trains and RTOs are where Homer Hachiya found initial employment) provided me with instructions on how to get to the Military Government Hqs somewhere in central Okayama City.
By the autumn of 1947, I had found Japan to be quite different than the images I had from Pop's, Mom's and Grandparents' endless stories of beautiful farmlands, forests, well-mannered honor-bound people, and harmonious society. Encounters with poor, undernourished people, beggars, limbless war veterans in white who asked for help on trains, orphans, shanties, street walkers, black marketeers, wannabe yakuza, and others encouraged my early tendencies to hold judgment in abeyance. I could make the acceptable noises about occupiers and occupied when needed, but they did seem hollow.
At the Military Government, I wandered from office to office as I looked for a place to "sign in" and get a Jeep for transportation to Mazoroi. I walked into one office where I met Rose Yoshii from Hood River who I had not seen since leaving Tule Lake. I will always remember all the pretty girls in the camps who made life for everyone, especially teen agers, so wonderful. Rose and June Yoshii were the type that I could only moon over from afar. I sorely wanted to talk to her, but she found many reasons for being "too busy." I wanted to tell her of my own experiences and that it made no difference that she had come to Japan over a different route than I. But I was not the most eloquent teen ager and she felt an unease of a different kind. A pretty, somewhat somber, ribbon-in-her- hair Rose Yoshii sitting behind a typewriter is the last image I have of her.
I sat beside the jeep driver while Hiro-chan sat in back to explain how to get to Mazoroi. With very few Japanese vehicles on the road, it would have been safe for me to drive except for the absence of guardrails. With scarce resources, Japan's military leaders had scoured the country for metal of any kind. As a result, bridges had no guardrails so you had to be careful not to drive over the edge. Gravel roads and levees are nostalgic for some reason. Gravely roads have predominated in my life and I still feel uneasy and out of touch with asphalt and concrete. Since it was early in the day, Hiro-chan explained that Fumi-chan would be teaching at her school.
Out of a compulsion that only a Morita sibling could understand, I suggested immediately that we should go to the school so I could meet her. Meet a sister that I had not met in 19 years of my existence. Or from Fumiko$B!G(Bs perspective, a sibling, among eight of us, who she had never met. So the driver, long accustomed to imperious American occupiers, drove into the main school grounds since they had no parking areas in those times.
Hiro-chan went into the school to fetch Fumiko, literally to interrupt her second grade class, to bring her to the courtyard. By this time, every child in the elementary school was looking out the windows at the American Jeep and the American Occupying Presence and wondering what was happening. Hiro-chan brought Fumiko to within ten feet of the Jeep where I stood waiting. She stopped and began to cry. There was high drama, but a 19 year old does not cope too well with a girl's tears. There was no flying into each other's arms. There was no dancing on the hood of the jeep. The gulfs could not be crossed that easily.
To this day, I do not remember what I said or how it was conveyed. Knowing Fumiko she probably clutched my arm and would not let go.
She did get permission to leave her class. She boarded the jeep with us and we drove to Mazoroi to meet my Great Grandmother and Grandmother.
All the children in the school saw Morita-sensei get arrested by the Shinchu-gun and get carried away to some military court.
A Tribute to Fumiko
From Diana Cole
On my last trip to Reno, I went to Borders to peruse the Metaphysical Science section, as the psychic arts are now euphemistically called. One of the books I picked up indicated that Scorpios are people of many transformations. And I thought, "how fitting a metaphor for Fumikos long and useful life."
From the time she left our family in America up until her 80s birthday, all of us have observed, some from the perspective of Japan or the orientation of America, the dramatic path of change Fumiko has traveled.
Upon reflecting on Fumikos life, I know few of us would offer to trade places with the baby girl who was uprooted from her family and country to go to a far away place as a living symbol of the familial obligations existing between the Morita family in the New World and the Terada family in Japan. What must it feel like to be a symbol when one is only two years old? Is babyhood over? How very different Fumikos life is from the American Dream.
I dont know much about Fumikos life in Japan, although I can see her being fussed over by our grandparents and definitely being given a hard time by Obasan. All of us know World War II was difficult for the Nikkei on both sides of ocean. Fumikos path must have been far more difficult than ours because she traveled it without the comfort of her brothers and sisters. I think it was on her one trip to London, Ontario when Fumiko told me that she spent much of the time during the war, begging relatives for money on behalf of the old people who were still alive. That must not have been very easy. As well, growing up knowing that one was singled out for loneliness must have been a very heavy psychic burden to bear.
Welcoming Fumiko, Bob and Dave to America was fun for me, although it was obvious that the transition was not very easy for Fumiko. She missed Sei, I knew. Cultural differences and petty intolerances that occurred on a daily basis must have made it difficult for a woman who grew up waiting eagerly for that one day when she could return to her home to find it not the comfortable place of her youthful imaginings.
I had heard from Dad that Fumiko was a teacher in Japan so I remember as a teenager feeling a marked sense of deference for a sister whose intellect had been cultivated in higher education. I was surprised when Fumiko accepted a job at the Wrap-On factory with Mom and Dad. But not surprised when Mr. Russell recognized her intelligence and diligence by appointing her a supervisory role at the plant. There at Wrap-On, Fumiko enjoyed the respect of the employees just as she had from her students as a teacher in Japan.
Counterpointed against the educational successes of Bob and Dave and the fulfilling work at Wrap-On was the death of Sei, whose early passing was something very sad and unusual in our family. His death became yet another transformation for Fumiko: this time one from happily married lady to a self-reliant widow.
From Fumikos perspective, I believe the greatest spiritual metamorphosis in her life was the decision to become a Christian. As a result of her devotion to her faith, she has become one of the most important members of her church--someone that both congregants and minister hold in high regard.
After Dad died and Mom became more dependent, Fumiko became Moms nursemaid and traveling companion. Fumiko was the loving one in that unfairly balanced relationship. I remember Fumiko and Mom visiting us in London, Ontario and Fumiko swimming in our pool.
It is a remarkable thing that in the many years I have known Fumiko, I have never known her to speak a harsh word in return for criticism. She has been a most gracious example of forbearance and intelligence to us all. Looking back on our lives, I wish I had done more to make her life easier. Right now, my wish is to see her laugh more in the future. There is no doubt that her life is filled with accomplishments, both at the spiritual and material levels of life.
As the youngest of the Morita siblings, I can see that each one of us has been enriched by her presence in our lives. Her departure diminished our circle by one tiny link; on her return, she infused our society with new mystical meaning. In the crucible of life set-aside for special souls, God transformed Fumiko into gold. She is that essential aspect of the Morita Mandela, the veritable still point of our lives.
Growing up without any knowledge of the Japanese language made
communication with some of my older relatives cumbersome on
occasion. I had accumulated only a cursory knowledge of what my
mother spoke in Japanese over the telephone, which often
consisted of "ano" stuttered many times throughout her
lengthy gossip conversations (er, I mean phone conversations)
with Obaasan and Auntie Fumiko. I concluded "ano" must
be the American equivalent of "unhhh" or "you
know", both phrases my mother uses in English conversations
with great relish, not unlike a chef mixing a smidgen too much
sugar into his icing. Thus, my mother's conversational Japanese
often sounded comical to my young ears, even though I hadn't the
faintest idea what she had said.
> Years later, in Chicago, I remember being in Obaasan and Ojiisan's apartment, surrounded by my mother and several of my aunts, who were all loudly and excitedly discussing, in English, where the best place would be to order Chinese food. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the varying opinions and the cacophony of voices, I looked around confusedly from face to face until my astonished glances fell upon Auntie Fumiko. Strangely, she had not joined in the conversation. Instead, she smiled at me, and in that moment where nothing was spoken between us, we understood each other completely: I was shocked and thought the conversation would never end; and Auntie Fumiko, in turn, who probably didn't understand every nuance of her sisters' English conversation, was sympathetic to my bewilderment; I think we both heard a lot of noise (good natured and excited noise--but noise nonetheless)! I doubt she remembers an insignificant discussion her sisters may have had a long time ago in Obaasan and Ojiisan's apartment, but when I think of Auntie Fumiko this event holds a lasting impression with me. While my mother and my other aunts were often boisterous and outspoken, Auntie Fumiko, to a young boy from Canada, appeared reserved, proper, and soft-spoken. I am not sure if this impression is due to the language barrier between us, but it struck me as though Auntie Fumiko had been raised in an entirely different culture from the one my mother grew up in. I too am accused by my parents, Freda, and Brian of talking excessively on occasion. I think Auntie Fumiko reminds me, and perhaps you as well, that one can say so much by saying so little.
Thank you, Auntie Fumiko for being so kind to me during my
trips to Chicago! Happy Birthday!
> All the best,
From Betty Shibayama:
Thank you Diana for a beautiful tribute. You have expressed so well many of my thoughts and feelings about Fumiko.
Fumiko is such a good example of how to live. She has had many challenges and has overcome each one. Separated from her family as a child, grew up and cared for elderly great grandparents and grandma, survived the war and its aftermath, married and with her young family came to the US and started a new life. Became a loving caregiver to Sei, Dad, and Mom and a widow much too soon. Fumiko is a devoted mother, dear sister, and faithful believer. A great example for us to follow.
O me de to, Fumiko!! We will be waiting in San Jose for your visit, so that we can celebrate your birthday, together.
Happy Birthday, Aunt Fumiko!
We wish we could be there to celebrate this very special day with you. We hope the year will continue to be full of happy and memorable events.
My family almost always lived in the same building with you and your family, and I can remember when you first arrived in the U.S. after leaving it as a child. It must have been a great change from your life in Japan, but your sons thrived and you and Uncle Sei worked very hard to establish a new home in Chicago.
When we visited Okayama together a few years ago, I realized that you are a very important link between the "family in Japan" and the "family in the U.S." Your memories go back several generations further than mine - back to your great grandfather and great grandmother - Shinsuke Morita and his wife. The warm memories you shared with me about them reminded me a lot of my memories of Ojichan and Obachan. They must have been similar in many ways. Your knowledge about the family history is precious and I hope some day there will be an opportunity for them to be recorded.
I enjoyed staying over at Mrs. Yamamoto's house in Takahashi with you and her four children. It was so much more meaningful for me because you were there. You were the link that made it possible for me to share in that intimate event.
Your good health and strong faith are admirable and enviable to us, and we hope the years ahead will bring you continued fulfillment and the energy for a few more trips to Japan!
Donna and Yasuyuki
TO MY SISTER, FUMIKO, THE SURVIVOR
As you approach 80, I, as one who also shares the same wonderful birth date want to wish you the happiest of birthdays and hope that one day I too can celebrate my 80th in the shape that you are in. I sit back in awe of your great strength - for you are a survivor.
Growing up alone without the presence of siblings or parents and caring for great grandparents first, then a grandmother next, enduring periods of great deprivation, getting yourself an education through teachers college and caring for the Morita property and surviving WWII without knowing the status of family required perseverance and strength.
Moving here to this country and starting life anew in mid-life in a foreign land then losing your husband at a relatively young age must have been devastating and disheartening.
Today I look at you in admiration of in spite of what for some individuals could have been insurmountable obstacles you have grown into a truly strong, independent, self-sufficient individual and a contributing member of society. Many of your fellow church members and friends who happened also to be patients of mine would tell me what an extremely capable leader you are at church. One lady told me that you were the main reason for her attendance and membership in the church because you set such a fine Christian example for her and that she had the greatest respect for you.
You make me very proud to call you my sister.
Happy Birthday dear Fumiko,
Although I've had the least time with you of any of my sisters, I feel I was lucky enough to get to know you quite well the last few years I spent in the Chicago area. The Japanese custom of sending a child to Japan to take care of an grandparent, is quite archaic and should be discontinued!! You were deprived of living in Hood River and growing up within our family group, although it was quite a struggle!!
Congratulations on raising two fine sons, although you were widowed at a young age!! Your strong affiliation with your church has kept you quite busy, and kept you going through all your critical times. Thank you for taking excellent care of mother in her later years. I marvel at your excellent physical conditioning, surviving your latest accident with the van!! I hope to be lucky enough to be able to celebrate your 88th birthday!!
Tributes, communications to and from family members: Junior, Dorothy