An Eight Decade Circle

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Unretouched image of Uncle Suetaro’s band.

My father’s decades old story about how he broke his elbow became the topic in the earlier story, “正覚時” (Shoukakuji).

Shoukakuji is the name of the Buddhist temple – a hop, skip and a jump from my father’s family home in Hiroshima.

Temple entrance.  My father's home is behind me and to the right.
Temple entrance. My father’s home is behind me and to the right.

The temple’s reverends supported my family’s religious needs for over a century now.

Aunt Michie’s wedding.

Funeral services for my grandparents and my father’s siblings.  Including my Aunt Shiz just this last September in “The Spirit of Aunt Shiz and Kharma“.

Including my Uncle Suetaro who was killed in action as an Imperial Japanese Army soldier on Leyte in the Philippines.

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When Masako-san, my son Takeshi and I walked to the temple in 2013 to investigate my dad’s story of how he broke his elbow, we were greeted by the Reverend.  He was 90 years old and still had his wits about him.

While he did not recollect my father, he validated the placement of a large round rock under the pine tree that hasn’t been touched for as long as he’s lived at the temple…. And that’s a loooong time.  I’m sure he was born there.

And that there was a big branch of a pine tree that has since broken off recently.

He said he knew my Aunt Mieko who died in 1939.

And miraculously, he mentioned Uncle Suetaro.  The reverend said they played together as children and that he was always a jokester and smiling…and that he could hear him playing his “fue”, or flute, from his second story room at the house.

Until then, not even Masako-san knew Uncle Suetaro played a flute…but there was no proof.

Just the recollection of a 90 year old reverend.

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My tennis elbow pain kept me from retouching the old vintage photographs I had brought back from Hiroshima last September.

And the project was at a standstill since late October.  That was as depressing as Obama V2.0.

But from three weeks ago, I am attempting to slowly restart the retouching project as my elbow pain has subsided greatly…and I came across the group photo you saw at the beginning here.

This was the backside since I know you ALL can read ancient Japanese:

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Written by Uncle Suetaro himself.  I believe – BELIEVE – it says, “February 21, 1939. Performed for First Sino-Japanese War anniversary.”

As retouched:

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As retouched. Uncle Suetaro is the slightly taller one just to the left of center.  If you click on the image, it will enlarge.  Look in his right hand.

But as I enlarged the image to begin retouching, something caught my (old) eye.

I noticed Uncle Suetaro was clutching something in his right hand.

A case.

A case more slender than the others in the group picture.

It’s not a trumpet or a trombone, that’s for sure.

Or for a cue stick.

It sure looks like a flute case.

Oh, heck.  It IS a flute case.

I say so.

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So words from the mouth of an old reverend started an eighty year old circle… to this vintage photograph of young boys.

All of whom likely lost their lives in a violent war.

As did my uncle who played a flute.

28 thoughts on “An Eight Decade Circle”

  1. Nice job on the retouching. Glad your tennis elbow is better–enough for you to do this. I don’t know how but I got side tracked onto your photos and landed on your flickr site. I love your cute dog photos (of course I’m passionage about dogs). Very cute. And, really enjoyed see the before and after with this one.
    Paulette

      1. It was a corgi, if I’m remembering correctly. I was so enamored and moved by this post that I went looking for more. It’s hard to remove the image in light of the last comment. It lingers in heartache for all the men & women… Glad to have connected with you (found you through Colleen).

  2. It’s an amazing happenstance when a chance remark proves true, and history is validated. Your uncle’s gift survives in the tiniest detail of a retouched photo, long after his life was erased in the war. Poignant and sweet–yours is a lovely post.

    1. Thank you! I am so far behind on WordPress…. Gotta catch up… But almost EVERY family lost someone in that great war. But my cousin Masako (last of that generation) informed me my uncle also played the trumpet….

  3. Oh geez Koji!!!!! I couldn’t wait to click on it, and enlarge it and enlarge it and enlarge it!!!!!!!!!! I would be so excited to find out something like this! What a wonderful story. How wonderful someone remembered Uncle Suetaro, and shared something so endearing. He could hear the music your uncle played. From your uncles flute playing, to the Reverend’s ears, to you!!!! An unbroken chain. HOW INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Fun story Koji. I’ve done quite a lot of genealogy and old photos are always fascinating with the stories they have to tell. And I remember the story about the broken arm.

  5. How lovely to have something revealed from such a chance meeting and recollection and then to get your proof! Glad your elbow is letting you get to your photos again – the results are super.

    1. Yeah… the elbow SUCKED big time. I couldn’t even hold my coffee mug in my right hand let alone turn the wrist to drink from it. I even had to shake hands with my left hand it was so painful.

    1. Yes, it is a “commemorative picture” taken at a music recital in celebration of the end of the First Sino-Japanese War. And that building in the background, it appears, was the main assembly hall/auditorium at my father’s high school in Hiroshima. But your link is interesting! Thank you!

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