Looking to the Past for Life Lessons

Part of our unit that started our whole blogging adventures, was to learn about the stories of the past and how these stories shape who we are.  I launched the unit with telling the students about my own family history.  Below is a little sample of my story to the keiki.

Mrs. V’s Family History

Grandma helped to raise me.  I went to Japanese School.  I ate home style Japanese cooking that my Babachan (Grandma) made. 

I grew up with the hanabada days stories of life on the plantation on Kauai.  Babachan was born on Kauai and was a nisei.  My great-grandparents sailed from Japan on a contract to work on the plantation.  All they had were the suitcases they brought.  The work was backbreaking, but my great-grandparents worked hard.  My great-grandfather, Tomosaburo, became a supervisor on the plantation.  He was a tall and proud man who was the owner of the only car on the plantation.  “Mr. Matsumoto!  Take me to the hospital in Lihue!” was what my great-grandfather would often hear.  

My great-grandmother wanted to go back to Japan, so Babachan went with her back to Niigata, where she met Grandpa in an arranged marriage.

My Babachan and great-grandmother.
My Babachan and great-grandmother.

My great-grandfather, Tomosaburo, stayed behind on Kauai.  He served for a while in the Japanese military.  With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. entered World War II.  My great-grandfather was arrested and sent to an internment camp on the mainland. 

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My great-grandfather Tomosaburo.

My Uncle Tom, Babachan’s older brother, volunteered to serve in the U.S. military.  He was stationed near by the internment camp my great-grandfather was in.  He would visit my great-grandfather and because my Uncle Tom was a serviceman, my great-grandfather was treated well.  But, it was still tough.  My great-grandfather was forced to give up everything.  

My Uncle Tom.
My Uncle Tom.

Meanwhile, back home in Hawaii, my paternal grandpa, a nisei, also signed up to join the fight.  He became a part of the heavily decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  Along with some of his friends, he was shipped off for basic training at Camp Shelby where he made a promise to his best friend.  If one of them died, the surviving friend would name his first born son after the friend who died in combat.  My grandpa later would fight on the European front in Italy where his best friend was killed in action.

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Standing on the far right is my paternal grandfather at basic training in Camp Shelby. Soon after, they were shipped off to Italy.

In Japan, Babachan was a young mother of two children when war broke out.  Grandpa was drafted by the Japanese Imperial Army and was captured by the Russians.  My grandpa became a prisoner of war in Siberia for two years.

When the war ended, my grandparents picked up the pieces.  “Shikata ga nai” is a famous Japanese saying that means “it can’t be helped”.  My grandparents never complained.  They did their best and worked hard to live a good life.

I am so proud of my family.  I appreciate all the struggles and sacrifices they made.  Babachan always put education first.  She was so proud of me when I became a teacher.  Today, she is 98 years old and still going strong.  It is amazing to think of all the changes she has seen and lived through.  I am honored to be able to pass on these stories.  

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Raechelle Villanueva

We are a group of 3rd grade student bloggers. All our blog posts are written by students. We love food and having a good time! Lead by our fearless teacher, join us on our adventures through learning and fun.

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