14 April 2011

A Small Triumph of the Digital Era: Finding my Japanese Family on Facebook

1。Yesterday, I got back two letters in the mail that I'd sent to Japan two weeks ago--my first genuine effort to write my cousin Eikichi + my Great Aunt (grandmother's sister?) in nihongo (Japanese). More than anything, I wanted to make they were okay in light of the tusnami, the daiichi reactor fallout + the multiple earthquakes. Something about all of those disasters affecting my Japanese family--even if I had never met them--really upset me.

2。I have to say, my heart sunk a little bit when I saw those two letters returned because I didn't have any other leads to contact them. In a way, I felt as if Japan was somehow rejecting me + since I'm the only person in my family who speaks Japanese + who celebrates the Japanese heritage of my family at all, this was a crushing loss to me. The only thing I had to contact my family was an old list of addresses of my family in Japan that my sobo had written down with pen on a piece of lined paper years ago. As I've written before, my Japanese is pretty bad: barely functional, barely there, syntactically, kinda like a college student trapped inside a 4-year old's brain. Out of the three foreign languages I speak/write, it's by far the worst + also (not a coincidence) the most difficult to master.

3。So, after weeks of dramatic anticipation, rejection + then the swallowing of my sadness, as a last effort, I decided to look up Eikichi on Facebook. And of course, in ten seconds I found him, just like that. In his profile picture, he's standing in front of a car like a businessman-gangster. I recognized the school he'd graduated from (Chuo University), noticed he was from Osaka. I just knew it was him. I don't know how, but I did.

4。What this means: In other words, where letters (+ other concrete objects, written documents, tiny cultural productions like a letter) can fail in some definite sense because they're slower than the speed of culture, slower than the speed of human migration, slower than the speed of technology, social media can cross geographical + cultural boundaries in a flash. What letters fail at, this digital era redeems instantly.

In any case, here's the deeply flawed + badly written email I wrote him last night on Facebook. I know my Japanese is really bad--don't hate!--but here it is:


失礼ですが、でも、角家栄吉さんは、角家静子の息子ですか。私の日本語はだめだと知っている、でも、私のそぼは 金橋(漢字は、違う?)ゆきよだったので、彼女の大坂のご家族を 見付け出しているんです。。。とにかく、ぼくは 彼女のアメリカ人まごです。。。時間があったら、E メールでご返事ください。


―ジャクソン ブリす(aka ジョナサン)

p.s. ところで、これは 私の祖母の写真ですから。。。(ぼくの母と兄とぼくものですよ。)

FYI: Here's my mom, my sobo, me + Chad, my older brother, at my Oberlin graduation back in 1998.

Even more amazing, not only was it the right Kadoya Eikichi, but he already wrote back. Here's his response:

Dear Jackson

That's right.
I am a son of Shizuko Kadoya(角家静子).
It's after a long time.
How are you?
I actually also wanted to contact you.

Sorry, I'm not good at English.
However, because English is skilled to the wife, you may give the reply in English.


And here's the response I sent Eikichi:


Holy Shit. やった!!!!I finally found you. Yo, that's amazing. I've been trying to find you for years + last night, in a moment of desperation, I find you on facebook. Crazy!

Listen, there's so much I would love to catch up on, about you + your life, your family, your life in Tokyo, your wife--all of that stuff. But for now, can I ask a favor? Can you give me your address + your mom's address? I tried writing both of you letters in Osaka but they both got sent back. I used the 1-丁目 . . . 西成区 address, but both letters were sent back. Did your mom move? I considered sending you a letter at your Shinjuku address that my sobo saved, but I didn't know whether you still lived there or not.

For now, please give me your address + your mom's address so I can at least resend the two (sad little) letters I'd written earlier. ところで、一緒に 日本語や英語で 書きましょう、ね。お互いに 私達は 進んででしょう。

Great to finally be in touch with you. Please give your wife my regards.

Peace, Blessings,


p.s. Please call me Jackson if you don't mind. Jackson was my middle name, Jonathan was my first name but now I go by my middle name, Jackson. . . just so you know. Of course, when my grandmama said my name, Jonathan became Jonasan.

p.s. 2 Erika, my wife and I, have been thinking about going to Tokyo for Christmas. If we do, we should definitely all meet up. How fucking cool would that be?

p.s. 3 By the way, check out my writing/culture blog. I posted an entry about us recently finding eachother on facebook. Also, if you look on the right column under "Asia," I've posted pictures of our honeymoon that we spent in Tokyo last may. For now, start with this:

(for a strange case of déjà vu, click here)

No comments: