My Grandmother Kono could not have possibly foreseen her future pain in solitude… But the anguish she endured seven decades ago brings our family together today along with a message to the world.
Born on October 6, 1888 in a Hiroshima village called Furue, Grandmother Kono came into Seattle on February 4, 1909 via the Shinano Maru. She was a picture bride for my Grandfather Hisakichi.
She gave birth to seven children; all but one was born in Seattle. They were American citizens.
Uncle Suetaro (Soo-e-ta-rou) was #6 and born in Seattle sometime late in 1920 although I have been unable to locate his birth records on-line. His name (末太郎) implies “last boy (or child)” but as you can see in the damaged photo above, Grandmother and Grandfather appear to have had an “oops” moment. That’s Mieko, their youngest sister; she became truly the last child.
While growing up, Uncle Suetaro was my father’s favorite sibling. Suetaro and dad were inseparable from what I am told. Dad’s nickname for him was (and still is) “Sue-boh”.
Suetaro was a happy child and always made people laugh and feel good – like Grandmother Kono. Suetaro and Dad played “oninga”, or tag, together frequently; there was no Nintendo or footballs to throw around in the 20’s. When Suetaro got old enough, they picked “matsutake” mushrooms together on Grandfather’s mountain property as told in “Masako and Spam Musubi“. When Grandmother made fish for dinner, Dad wouldn’t eat it – but Suetaro did. Suetaro ate everything.
This is my favorite photo of three of the youngest siblings; we uncovered it just this month in Hiroshima thanks to my cousin Toshiro:
Dad says they had one bicycle to share between them. On school days, they would walk to the train station together in the morning while one slowly rode the bike. They would leave it at a little shop which was still quite a ways away. However, whoever got to the bicycle first AFTER school got to ride it home – quickly. Leaving the other brother in the dust. And it was a long walk – especially in the summer heat and humidity. Perhaps it was the bicycle in the early portrait shown in “Souls of Wood“?
Dad left Hiroshima soon after graduating from Nichuu High School at 18 years of age; he arrived back in Seattle on May 18, 1937.
Grandmother, Suetaro and Mieko were left behind in Hiroshima.
He would never see his favorite brother Suetaro or Mieko alive again… and Grandmother Kono will soon experience a demonic dread that will stay with her for the rest of her life.
To Be Continued… A direct link to Part II is HERE.