Nara Love Story

Nara Love Story

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East Confronts West in This Story of Love

Mike Matsuno

Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Originally published: Feb. 11, 1994

No one could have imagined what kind of performance the player “fate” had in store for two young people — he, a sansei from Hawai‘i; she, the daughter of a prominent and very traditional medical man.

Kayo was a young, attractive, well-educated Japanese woman who was born into a very traditional medical family in Nara. As the eldest of three daughters — there were no sons — Kayo grew up knowing it was her duty to marry a physician who would be willing to adopt her father’s name and continue the family medical clinic and thus the family line.

The circumstances were not unusual for a strongly traditional, upper-class family in Japan, especially in Nara, a region steeped in so much history and antiquity; Nara was the ancient capital of Japan. It had been the capital of Japan even before Kyöto. The Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) in Nara was the oldest wooden structure of its kind in the world.

But with tradition and culture come aspects of legacy and social protocol. The internal forces — the nearly obsessive continuance of ie (home and family) and legacy — are as much a part of the Japanese being as it is its culture. Most Americans would have a hard time fathoming the inbred social convention of continuing the family name in Japan.

If a very traditional family has only daughters, it is the duty of one of them — usually the eldest — to perform yöshi, a very important social concept in Japan. Yöshi literally means to adopt someone, in this case, a son-in-law, into the family. The eldest daughter must find a husband who is not an eldest son and who is willing to take her family name and continue the lineage.

Kayo’s legacy was an unbroken family line of medical doctors that spanned 21 generations in Nara history. Her ancestors had been the personal physicians to the lords of Koriyama Castle. Kayo’s father represented the 21st generation, and it was his duty and obligation to both his ancestors and his descendants to ensure that the family line remained intact.

As the eldest daughter, it was Kayo’s duty to perform yöshi, to carry on her family line. She had grown up knowing her responsibility to her father and to her family name.

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