The date is January 3, 1954. Pictured in the center is my grandfather Yukio (known to me as Ji-chan, Japanese for Grandpa). My dad (pictured on left) is 9 here, his brother a couple years older. The three of them are getting ready to leave Japan for the first time and emigrate to California. My Japanese-American grandmother (born/raised in Calif.) had earlier left her family in Japan in order to find a job, a place to live, and get settled here. Then she sent over for her husband and kids to come and join her in the States.
This photo of Ji-chan reminds me of a Japanese Indiana Jones with the leather jacket and fedora, ready to go on an adventure in a far-off land. He always looked sharp when he went out.
Ji-chan was always a bit of a mystery to me as there was a language barrier (he spoke only Japanese) and he was a quiet man. But I really loved him. He would sneak behind my grandmother’s back and smoke cigarettes in the garage or in the car. I’d always laugh at him becuase it was so obvious. He would awe me with his yo-yo tricks. When I was little I’d hold his hands and he would let me step on his toes while he’d walk around the house. And he was a highly regarded gardener in the Japanese community and won awards for his amazing bonsai plants. He was in his backyard garden, sitting at a chair next to a little table tending to one of his mini-tress when he passed away when I was 14. When my grandmother discovered him she thought that he was simply taking a nap because he looked so peaceful.
When I saw the pictures of my graceful compatriot on your site, I felt the urge to send some of my most cherished family photos too, those of my paternal grandmother Theresa Moreira Reis. She was born in 1903 in Recife, Northern Brazil, daughter to the city’s most sought-after tailor. Politicians and other affluent people were part of his clientele, and her father’s work influenced her sense of style throughout her life. Grandma Theresa was congenitally chic, and unpretentiously glamorous before fashion was in fashion. Her European taste in dressing must have made her stand out there and then.