13 June 2010

Writing My First Letter to My Japanese Family in Osaka

My Japanese sucks. It really does. I speak nihongo like a college student trapped inside a 4-year old brain. I often forget to use in-group/out-group verbs like くれる/あげる correctly, I only know 320 kanji, many of them slowly disappearing from my brain, being a fiction writer, I often invent my own idiomatic expressions (which doesn't fly in Japanese), my vocabulary is staggeringly small + pathetic + I'm not even aware of many of the conventions I'm violating when I speak + write Japanese. And yet, even despite how bad my Japanese really is, I still speak it (if only barely) + after the terrible earthquakes, the nuclear plant crisis + the tsunami crushed and rolled Nihon like a sweet tamagoyaki, I decided that I can't wait any longer for my nihongo to be awesome before I wrote my family in Japan because my Japanese will never be awesome (unless someone dumps me from a cargo plane onto the shores of Okinawa + forces me to live there without a computer or cell phone for 5 years while also forcing the Okinawans not to speak in Okinawanese). Really, I have to get over my shit. I want to reach out to my family that I've never met there + make sure they're okay, even if my Japanese sucks ass, because what happened in Japan is so sad + disturbing. So last night, I wrote this letter to my cousin Eikichi + my aunt Shizuko + today I'm mailing it.

I know there a lot of mistakes in this letter--don't hate. But the intention is absolutely there. Really, I just want to make sure they're okay + re-establish a connection with my family in Japan. I feel like on the most elemental level, if I don't reach out, that connection will be lost forever. My sobo passed away in 2003, my mom has war amnesia from spending the first 8 years of her life in Iyo City + Yokohama, + no one else in my family in America speaks nihongo. If I don't write them, they will be lost forever + I'll lose the only heritage I've ever understood, celebrated or taken solace in. In my great sadness for what has happened in Japan, I find myself wanting to reach out to + reconnect with people I've never met before, people I love + care about even though they are complete strangers.

アメリカに テイーンエージャーの時、祖母は栄吉や静子についてよく語ってくれました。少年から、私の日本人のご家族を書きたかったですが、日本語を話すと書くことができなかったですよ。今でも、私の日本語は だめだと知っています。それにしても、私はテレビで 日本の地震や津波を見た後で、静子様に手紙を書くにしました。もし私の文法は失敗をしたら、私を許してください。実は、私達は(私や母—グローりあーや兄や私の妻は)ご家族を日本に心配しています。皆様は、あそこに大丈夫ですか。時間があったら、折り返し書いてください。
皆様にどうぞよろしく. お返事をお待ちしております。お大事に。

ブリス ジャクソン(ジョナサン)

ps。 残念ながら私の日本語はよくじゃないですから、栄吉さんに 同じお手紙を使わなくてはいけませんでした。ごめんなさい。