Friday, November 24, 2006

Oh Yeah! Thanksgiving happened

This is Japan related.... Well it was that time of year again. Thanksgiving! One time of the year that I get to see the clan... note I say clan, not family... My family has more than 100 people... But luckily only 49 were supposed to show up. But as plans go, this plan fell apart. 5 more people somehow made it to the party. Friends of cousins we were told, but in the end our Thanksgivings have always been accomadating for those uninvited. What made this Thanksgiving different than others was that this year I had two friends over from Showa Boston. Showa Boston is the overseas campus of Showa University, the oldest all girls university in Japan. Twice destroyed, once by the 1925 Great Kanto Earthquake, and again by the fire bombing by American B-29's during World War II. To give my two friends, Tomoe and Manako, a 1st person view of an American family holiday I decided this would be the best one.

Me, Tomoe, and Manako

Now before I go any further I should note this is there first time in America, and that they only arrived here during the last week of September, 2006. They write and read English very well, but speaking is not as strong for them. But that is why they're here.
The night turned out to be quite overwhelming for them at first. For the 5 hours they were here I made I stood by them to help translate and make sure they weren't lost amongst my relatives. All of my relatives were execptionally kind to them. Whenever someone would come over to speak with them, they would always begin by saying that they adored Japanese food. Tomoe, Manako, and I found this to be very funny. The most interesting part of the evening was that I learned of some of my family's connection to Japan. My aunt Beverley's brother joined the army in 1945. In 1946 he was stationed with the occupation forces in Japan. At the time any Japanese person who hadn't lost their income and wealth during the war had to sell all of their belongings on the black market to fend off malnourishment, and potential starvation. Because of this many GI's on tiny army salaries brought home to the states priceless family heirlooms of all sorts. It just happened that my aunt's brother back in the late 1940's returned with a collection of beautiful kimonos. In mondern day Japan to buy a kimono is incredibly, incredibly expensive. The prices range from $10,000 and up. To rent one for a day costs a few $100's. So when my aunt told Tomoe, Manako, and I that she had these kimonos sitting in her closet for 60 YEARS(!!!) untouched, their eyes grew wide. I too was shocked. I quickly began to try and explain to her how special of a gift her brother brought home.

Another interesting story happened when my aunt Lida came over to speak with us. She grew up in Shanghi before WWII. She was born in 1930 in China. Her family, Russian Jews, fled the progroms in the 1890's and came over to the city of Harbin, Manchuria.(present day China). Harbin at the time was a city of Russians, ex-pats, and Chinese merchants. While I was translating her story into Japanese, I got to use for the first and probably one of only few times in my life, the Japanese name for Manchuria in a conversation with a Japanese person. When Japan annexed Manchuria in the 1930's they renamed it Manchuko. Knowing that seemingly random piece of knowledge paid off! My aunt's family did well, and decided to move to the international quarter in Shanghi. After the the war she moved to America where she studied Japanese. She's forgotten how to speak, and she's forgotten most of her kanji, but she still remembers katakana and hiragana. Although she forgot Japanese, she still speaks Russian, German, French, Italian, English, and is in the process of learning Spanish. She is simply amazing. The party went well, and I think for all of the overwhelming experiences that come with being in America for the first time, and going to a Thanksgiving party at my house with 50 people, they held up admirably. By the end they were trying to get pictures with all of my family members.

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