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Dona Terezinha’s teachings

Me with my mother Terezinha.

My mother's name was Terezinha. She left us this earthly life at the age of 59 and I consider that she lived very little. They say that good people live a short life because they needed less time to evolve spiritually. I believe this, my mother was a great person.

I have many memories with her and as we are a Nikkei family, some of these memories refer to striking Japanese words.

We are three daughters. That's right, only women. As we were three girls, we had a childhood in which there was no shortage of people to play with, learning together, but also lots of fights with swearing, pinching and slapping between us. We carried brooms and drove my mother almost crazy. My father, unfortunately, worked a lot outside the home, so we spent less time with him, but that doesn't mean he didn't scold us too, contributing to our upbringing.

One of the fun things for us, but a reason to make her mad, was locking one of the sisters out of the house, in the backyard, until they felt like peeing. It was at that moment that the screaming began due to the desperation of using the bathroom. So, my mother took action to calm the situation.

I remember we threw cold water out the bathroom window while another sister was taking a shower, but obviously we got change. Then, the discussion began for my mother to find out who started the trouble, in an attempt to give a fair punishment to whoever deserved it. However, the most used phrase was “She started it!”. The practical way to resolve it was to punish everyone who participated in the prank.

On weekends and holidays, to wake up and help my mother with the minimum of household chores, her cry of “ Hayaku, okinasai ” [wake up soon] wasn’t enough. It was necessary to open the windows for the light to enter the room, pull our futon [blanket] and so, make us uncomfortable and finally get up. If no one called us, we would sleep until 11am, noon. Oh, oh, we were so sleepy at that time!

We often heard the expression “ Katazukenasai!” [put it in order], so we can tidy the room, the bed, the toys. Anyone who didn't say “ oyassuminasai ” [good night] before going to sleep and “ tadaima ” [I arrived] when they got home would definitely get scolded. Some orders were shouted at, which is why I mentioned “almost crazy” earlier. Imagine the situation!

These were examples of the contact we had since we were little with words in the Japanese language and which have even been taught to my first and only niece, who is 3 years old. We in the family were full of pride and happy to see her already learning our customs.

Here in Brazil, sometimes I have the impression that I say “Thank you” and “Please” too much, and in situations that most people don't usually say. For example, when refusing a leaflet being distributed on the street, I say, “No, thank you!” I just observe this difference and am satisfied with practicing the education that my parents taught.

As time passed and I got to know Japan, I became more enlightened about this and understood the importance of greetings in Japanese culture and the certain rigidity in raising children. Of course, being Sansei , part of this is lost with the generational transition, but I consider that I still had a rigorous upbringing and that it was good.

Well, anyone who still thinks that daughters are less work than boys might need to revisit that idea. I used to hear the following concept from some of my parents' relatives and friends: the kanji onna (女) means “woman”. So far so good, but 3 kanji identical to this form the root of the adjective kashimashii (姦しい) which means “noisy”. Maybe this can explain some things!

The daughters of the couple Terezinha and Lincoln, from left to right - Vivian, Katia and Silvia.

© 2016 Silvia Lumy Akioka

Brazil languages
About this series

Arigato, baka, sushi, benjo, and shoyu—how often have you used these words? In an informal survey conducted in 2010, we found that these were the most frequently used Japanese words among Japanese Americans living in Southern California.

In Nikkei communities around the world, the Japanese language symbolizes the culture of one’s ancestors, or the culture that was left behind. Japanese words often get mixed in with the language of the adopted country, creating a fluid, hybrid way of communicating.

For this series, we asked our Nima-kai community to vote for their favorite stories and an editorial committee to pick their favorites. In total, five favorite stories were selected.

Here are the selected favorite stories.

  Editorial Committee’s Selections:

    By Heriete Setsuko Shimabukuro Takeda

  Nima-kai selection:

To learn more about this writing project >>

Check out these other Nikkei Chronicles series >>

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About the Author

Silvia Lumy Akioka is a Brazilian Sansei. She was a dekasegui at age 17, and on another occasion, she was an Exchange Student in Fukuoka Prefecture, when she published the series "The Year of a Brazilian Across the World" (Portuguese only) - it was her first contact with Discover Nikkei. She is an admirer of Japanese culture, and she also likes blogging about other themes. She was in Los Angeles volunteering for Discover Nikkei in April 2012, and she has been an official consultant for the project for 6 years.

Updated February 2019

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