Mother – pre-marriage
My mother was born in 1947, among other baby boomers of post-war Japan. Her father, my grandfather, ran a rice shop after returning from the war. He was a taciturn man who loved sake. My grandmother was from a family of a kimono fabric merchant in the Edo era. She had lived in Tokyo during the war, and survived the Tokyo bombing. Even with such a horrific experience, she had fond memories of Tokyo and would return to visit often. She was sophisticated and spoke with an elegant middle-class accent. My mother had two younger brothers, one of whom worked at the rice shop with my grandfather by the time I was born. He was also a taciturn man, but also studious, read many novels, and understood English and French languages. The other uncle was gentle and lived in a different city.
My mother was also gentle and soft-spoken. She loved music, and in high school, she joined the chorus group and participated in contests. We went on to a two-year college in Tokyo to study to become a kindergarten teacher. During the short period living in Tokyo, she’d often visit a Utagoe Kissa, a cafe in which the guests sing songs together accompanied by live music. She liked Russian folk songs and would often sing me Katyusha. The Utagoe Kissa was known to be associated with the leftist movement. When my mother lived in Tokyo in the early ’70s, the most prominent activism was the retrocession of Okinawa from the United States. She recited the chant she heard and told me about journalists who were involved in the activism, whose books I later read. I remember she was vocal about anti-war and read the leftist’s newspaper, though she was never directly involved in the politics.