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My unforgettable uncle

As a child, I used to read a monthly magazine that still exists today, in which there was a section called “My unforgettable type”, my favorite, where the lives of remarkable characters were portrayed. Ordinary people who, through their qualities or attitudes, had stood out or influenced the lives of others, equally common.

An unforgettable figure for me was Uncle Yotiam or Tim for many, my late uncle on my mother's side, who left us a legacy of good and happy things, as well as an immense longing. The memory of Uncle Yotiam did not come about by chance. On a recent visit to Álvares Machado, the Presidente Prudente region where my uncle lived, and meeting Aunt Hilda, my uncle's widow, her children (my cousins) and grandchildren, in the midst of the happy get-togethers that took place, including lunches, dinners and chats. chats, I couldn't help but remember Uncle at that time and, with a certain resignation, imagine that he must be at peace, seeing this beautiful family he left behind.

Uncle Yotiam, who in the document was Yoshiyuki Mizobe, was the youngest son of a huge offspring, generated by Ikuta and Koto Mizobe, my maternal grandparents. They, my grandparents, like hundreds of others, migrated from Japan to Brazil in the early 1900s, in search of the dream that our country represented for them, faced with a Japan devastated by war, hunger and without any prospects. At the time, leaving only their eldest son there in the care of an aunt, they traveled to Brazil, with the few resources they had and with the other children in tow (two girls and two boys). Here the family grew with the arrival of three more children, a girl and two boys. The youngest was Yoshiyuki/Yotiam, born in 1937.

Mizobe family in Bastos (SP). The main boy, on the left, together with his mother in a light dress is Tim.

Because he was a “pot scraper” as they said at the time, Uncle Yotiam was born a smart, happy and determined child and, certainly, he must have given his parents a lot of work. To his mother, precisely, since since he was eight years old he had been orphaned by his father, tragically victimized by the ignominious conflict that occurred within the Japanese community after the end of the Second World War.

He did a little bit of everything in life. From a soldier in the Tiro de Guerra (Military Unit), to a truck driver, farmer, salesman, trader and businessman. His temperament led him not to be satisfied with small things; I enjoyed big challenges.

Hilda and Tim, the beginning of a beautiful story

He found his great love in Aunt Hilda. Gifted girl, Nisei, who lived in the same city. They got married in 1963 and soon had children, or rather, four daughters: Shirley, Ana Lucia, Claudine and Rosemary, sweet and beautiful girls. But, as a good Japanese descendant, he continued to persist and his insistence was rewarded with the arrival of Luiz Roberto (Beto), a smart and determined boy, with personality traits similar to those of his parents since childhood. And, such was their persistence, that another boy arrived as a gift, Miguel Fernando, completing the golden sextet.

With his somewhat homely but easy-going manner, exuding friendliness, with broad gestures and loud speech, resembling an Italian more than a Japanese man, he countered his lack of affinity for studies with a talent for making friends and a keen business sense. In addition to bringing with him another remarkable quality: a heart of gold, which he revealed in the affection he dedicated to the family and friends that appeared in his life. Everything he did was, so to speak, intense and, at times, exaggerated. It was his way!

Surprise the family by coming home not just with a popsicle for each, but with a whole box of different flavors or showing up with lots of packages of sweets that made the kids happy. Or, at the company, bringing a bunch of sweets and snacks for employees to enjoy. Everything was a way of showing the affection and affection that Tim had for the people he loved. As well as concerns he had about an employee who was sick or had a family problem.

An episode that occurred when Uncle was still young portrays his personality well. One day a boy fell into a deep well and faced with the difficulty of extracting him, the city's firefighters were called and, upon examining the situation, they were reluctant to go down into the well due to the probable presence of harmful gases. Realizing the serious risk the boy was running, Uncle Yotiam, who was watching everything at his side, didn't hesitate, and he himself took the initiative to descend into the well with the help of ropes and, despite the risks, managed to bring the boy to the surface, Safe and sound.

That was TIM, emotional, supportive, always very loved by everyone!

Not even his sisters, for whom he had great affection, escaped his generosity. All married and living in the Capital of São Paulo, Miyuki, Aiko and Tieko, when not in person, were surprised with boxes of mangoes, oranges and even live chickens, which he had delivered to their respective homes.

The family in a moment of celebration

I remember that in my childhood, during school holidays, as my parents worked in a small business 12 hours a day and were not entitled to a week off, my mother, taking pity on us, whenever possible, tried to make us spend holidays with his uncles, in Álvares Machado. My brother Carlos and I, the oldest, under 12 years old at the time, traveled alone, only with special permission from the Juvenile Court. The trip was truly an epic. From Tupã to Álvares Machado there was only the “jardineira”, as the bus was called and it took us almost the whole day to reach our destination. Today, this distance is covered in two hours only by car. But, at that age, there was no distance or tiredness that could discourage us. Everything was joy and a lot of emotion. The holidays were highly anticipated, mainly for one basic reason. We were pampered and cherished by Uncle Yotiam, who was only eight years older. We were as if we were younger brothers and he went out of his way to give us the best attention possible, taking us back and forth, on the back of a bicycle, a jeep , a truck, visiting places, farms, taking advantage of the trips he made around the world. strength of your business. For us it was a new, fascinating world, since until then, our horizon was limited only to the small town where we lived, between home, school and the neighborhood.

An episode indelibly marked in my memory occurred on one of these trips that Uncle took us on. After traveling for a long time, around lunch time, the uncle stopped the truck in a small village and went to talk to the owner of a simple house there. Called in, we were surprised with lunch in the only small room there. Despite the simplicity of the atmosphere, I never forgot the pork ribs that were served to us, accompanied by rice and beans! How delightful! To this day, years and years later, my olfactory memory still makes me smell and taste those ribs, as if it were yesterday.

And, to top it all off, there's another emotion on the way back. Traveling in the back of the truck as kids like, at one point I noticed in the middle of the bush, on the side of the road, a coconut tree with a huge bunch of ripe coconuts. I had no doubts. I shouted to Uncle and asked: “Uncle, Uncle, I want those little coconuts, can you get them for me?” And there the indefatigable Uncle went, with patience and a machete at his waist, climbing the coconut tree and with a well-aimed blow, knocking down the huge bunch of coconuts, which fell to the ground. With a lot of effort, he managed to put the bunch in the back of the truck and there we went, happy and ecstatic, as if we had won a great trophy, smearing our mouths from sucking those little coconuts, as sweet as he was. At that time, Uncle Yotiam was already a hero to us...

Despite his enviable physical disposition, from 1981 onwards, Yotiam began to experience kidney problems that worsened, leading him to the extreme alternative of having to resort to a kidney transplant, which only occurred thanks to the generosity and altruism of his sister Aiko who, without thinking twice, gave one of his kidneys to his youngest brother to whom he had so much affection. After a successful surgical intervention, carried out at USP in Ribeirão Preto, in 1982, Tim returned home happy and in a good mood, but with an express medical recommendation to abstain from professional activities for some time, to avoid any infection and observe strict dietary regime.

However, his own way of being, bold and impatient, betrayed him, leading him to ignore the necessary prescriptions and precautions. In a short time, there he was in the company he owned, supervising the poultry slaughterhouse, in an environment that was harmful to his recovery and, at the same time, surrendering to the sin of gluttony, unable to put aside the succulent feijoadas, barbecues and other hearty dishes. Prematurely, the uncle left us in 1983, at just 46 years old and with a family that would make him proud: six children, well educated and happily married, with several grandchildren; a beautiful family, living around the mother cell , Aunt Hilda who, over the last thirty years, achieved the heroic mission of keeping it harmoniously together.

“There are many forms of love, but an uncle's affection for his nephew goes beyond genes or a surname: they hug like fathers, share like friends, play like children and care like mothers.”

(Source: “The mind is wonderful ” website)

© 2019 Katsuo Higuchi

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About this series

The word “hero” can mean different things to different people. For this series, we have explored the idea of a Nikkei hero and what it means to a variety of people. Who is your hero? What is their story? How have they influenced your Nikkei identity or your connection to your Nikkei heritage?

We solicited stories from May to September of 2019, and voting closed on November 15, 2019. We received 32 stories (16 English; 2 Japanese; 11 Spanish; and 3 Portuguese) from individuals in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and the United States.

Here are the selected favorite stories by our Editorial Committee and the Nima-kai. 

Editorial Committee’s Favorites

Nima-kai selection:

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About the Author

A Nisei native of Tupã, São Paulo State, he holds a Law degree, specializing in Labor Relations. Over the course of 50 years, he worked as an executive and entrepreneur​​ in the Human Resources field. A Business Consultant, he’s also a columnist for the newspaper Nippo Brasil.

Updated June 2017

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