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A Yonsei's Reflections...

on Connections

2007 was a year of change, revelations, and connections. I began the year writing the first in this column series about new beginnings and opportunities. My husband and I settled into our new home, we vacationed in New England for the first time (and ate a LOT of lobster!), and I started a family website to keep in touch with relatives throughout the year. At work, I was involved in many exciting projects that reinforced for me why after over twelve years, I still find fulfillment and exhilaration in working for a non-profit.

That’s not to say that all of the new things and changes have been all positive. This year even more than the previous ones, I’ve begun to acknowledge my age. Not that I’m saying that I’ve gotten old…just older. I can no longer jump up and about or eat whatever I want without consequence. I was blessed with a naturally high metabolism that enabled me to eat…and eat…and eat without it affecting my waistline. Those days are gone now. I think that may be the thing I miss most about my youth.

When asked by a co-worker to join his team in a Nisei bowling league this fall, I agreed largely because it was a way for me to reconnect with my past. Growing up, my parents always made it seem like so much fun, and I wanted to be part of that. Although bowling has made me feel both older and younger at the same time (every week my body protests a little and by the third game my arm feels like it’s gotten heavier), I can’t really complain about my age when I’m one of the youngest ones there. I’m inspired by my older league-mates and my relatives who are bowling into their seventies, eighties, and nineties, and some of them are even going more than once a week!

It’s been a wonderful experience to go every week and meet these new people who come from different backgrounds and areas, but come together to have some fun and a little exercise. Being able to connect in a slightly competitive, but always very supportive and friendly atmosphere is something that I’ve come to look forward to.

As I look back upon this year, that’s something that keeps coming up. Finding connections is invigorating, whether it’s through a bowling league, working on an exhibition about Japanese American gardeners, or writing this column series. Although I keep procrastinating and putting off the actual writing of these stories, I’ve nonetheless found the experience to be rewarding. It has forced me to reflect on aspects of my life that I hadn’t really thought about too deeply before. It has led to new understanding and appreciation because I was forced to think about how seemingly small parts of my life had relevance to larger issues and histories.

These articles have also helped to connect me to the people in my life in new ways. Each one is an excuse for me to email my family and friends. Although they haven’t posted their comments online, many have emailed me or stopped me in the halls. Sometimes it’s just a complimentary comment. Other times, they’ll tell me that it triggered memories that they hadn’t though of in many years. Whether it’s about celebrating Oshogatsu, Hinamatsuri or Obon; remembering and appreciating Japanese gardeners, Japantowns, and family members who are no longer with us; or reminiscing about Holiday Bowl or their own participation in JA bowling leagues…in every case, I feel a little closer and more connected.

I was excited recently to receive an email from a member of the Discover Nikkei community. She is someone who is living in Japan, but studying about Japanese American identity. I was so honored that she contacted me to let me know how my first article affected her, and of how impressed she was that my family in the United States still continues some of the Oshogatsu traditions when even in Japan they are starting to be lost. When I read her message, it really hit home what Discover Nikkei is about and why it’s such a great project. This site is a place where people can share their own stories…and in that process, find these little ways to connect together. As our Japantowns face issues of extinction, maybe this can be our virtual global Nihonmachi where we can all come together and form these bonds of community. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to work on something so meaningful and full of potential.

As this year winds to an end, I look forward to spending time with my family and friends. In the new year, I resolve to take more pictures, continue to write, and more importantly, continue to meet and build relationships with new people – both online and in person. In the end, our stories are important, but if we don’t share them, how will we be able to connect?

© 2007 Vicky Murakami-Tsuda

bowling community discover nikkei

About this series

Vicky Murakami-Tsuda is the Communications Production Manager for the Japanese American National Museum. She is a “self-proclaimed” yonsei from Southern California who comes from a large extended family who loves working at JANM (especially Discover Nikkei), eating good food, spending time with family, playing on Facebook, reading, and used to be an artist who explored Japanese American culture and history through her artwork when she had more time and energy. This column includes various reflections on her life and the world around her.