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My Japanese Ancestors

Sharing my family for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

My roots go back far but this is the earliest photo I have. Taken in 1925, Taisho 14 in Japanese way of marking time based on the reign of the Emperor in that period. The family is gathered in the town of Kuma on the island of Shikoku for the death of my great-grandfather, Shigematsu Shintaro. He changed his name from Yamamoto to hide his identity when he fled from a losing battle for the Shogun in Edo, now Tokyo. My mother, still here at 97, is the baby in the middle of the photo on my grandmother’s lap. I never met either of my biological grandparents—my grandfather is seated, second from left, but my mother was adopted by her older sister (top row, second from left) and husband (second row, far right) and I knew them as my beloved grandparents. I revel in the wonder that these are my ancestors and I am here through them.

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