My Furusato – Spirits of My Ancestors Live On

My Furusato – Spirits of My Ancestors Live On

Photo of Lorraine Mito (holding camera) visits her Yamane family ohaka in Hiroshima. (Photos courtesy Lorraine Mito)
Group photo of Lorraine Mito and her cousins.

Lorriane Mito with her cousins in front of the Yamane family home. Kneeling, from left: Emiko Yamane and daughter Mayumi, Akiko Horimoto and Emiko’s daughter Minako. Standing, from left: Yumiko Kagawa, Lorraine and Clifford Mito and Aiko Fukuhara.

Dr. Lorraine S. Mito, Ed.D
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Dr. Lorraine Yamane Mito grew up in the coffee fields of Kona and taught in the Hawai‘i Department of Education for 36 years. She is a member of the Advisory Board for the College of Education at the University of Phoenix (Hawai‘i Campus), where she has taught for the past 21 years. Mito also assists schools with special projects, loves to travel and enjoys her three grandsons.

My father, Gisaburo Yamane, was born in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1909. At the age of 13, his parents sent him to Kona, Hawai‘i, to become the adopted child of his uncle and aunt, who were childless. Dad was the second son of his birth parents and one of their seven children. He was a mischievous child in his youth. When Dad died in 1963, we lost all contact with our relatives in Hiroshima.

I never imagined that a friendship made in 2000 when I was selected a Fulbright Teacher and spent three weeks in Japan would lead me to my Japanese roots in Hiroshima and Kumamoto. I was introduced to Aichi Prefecture, where I visited educational institutions from kindergarten to the university level. It was at Toyota High School that I met Mr. Yoshio Muro, the principal. I did not know it then, but we would become lifelong friends.

Photo of Yoshio Muro, who was instrumental in helping Lorraine locate her Japan relatives.

Yoshio Muro was instrumental in helping Lorraine locate her Japan relatives.

In his welcome address, Mr. Muro said he had graduated from the University of Hiroshima, where he had majored in geology. At our farewell banquet in July, Mr. Muro sought me out to tell me that his daughter Rika would be visiting Hawai‘i in August. I said I would be glad to meet Rika and did, in fact, meet her. With that, my friendship with Mr. Muro was sealed and continued to grow — we became Yoshi-san and Lorrie-san.

Yoshi-san and I got to know each other better by exchanging emails. In one of those emails, I asked him if he could help me find my relatives in Hiroshima, in Kabe-machi, Asa-gun, Kameyama-mura. I knew the names of my first cousin, Akiko Yamane, and my uncle, Sadao Yamane, who was Dad’s younger brother. My father used to require us to write letters to them, which helped us practice our Japanese language.

Within a day, I received a phone call from Yoshi-san, informing me that he had located my relatives through his contacts with principals in the area. He gave me addresses, phone numbers and other details. It was a miracle! I was elated! I told him he was a subarashii (splendid) miracle worker!

In the meantime, I wrote a long letter to my uncle — in my poor hiragana — informing him of his family connections in Hawai‘i. I also sent pictures of each of my sisters’ families. He said he was surprised and happy to receive my letter and that he had always wondered what had happened to his brother’s children.

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