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Bisa AIKO and her 102nd birthday

Celebration of D. Aiko's 102nd birthday

“Congratulations, Bisa , on your birthday” and a smiling grandmother AIKO receives, from each of her great-granddaughters, a tight hug and a loving kiss given to her expressive face, but a little tired with age. Last January, D. AIKO, matriarch of the Higuchi family, celebrated her 102nd birthday.

The celebration event should have taken place in 2021, when she would actually turn 100 years old. This significant date was even remembered at the time by the Brazilian Society of Japanese Culture and Social Assistance (Bunkyo) and by the Japanese government, through the Consulate General of Japan in São Paulo, which awarded her with the Diploma of Honor of Merit.

Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic prevented the long-awaited event from taking place. The family had carefully planned a festive gathering to match the event. After all, you don't celebrate 100 years of life at any time! A beautiful farm had been reserved on the outskirts of the Capital, to which approximately 150 people would be invited, including their closest relatives and friends, including those residing in the Interior. A party to last all day. Everything so that D. AIKO could meet his loved ones, whom he hadn't seen for a long time. But none of that happened, unfortunately!

This year, however, D. AIKO's children spared no effort to ensure that the date did not go unnoticed, even if the celebration had to be smaller and simpler. And that's what happened! To save relatives who lived in the interior having to travel, only cousins ​​and nephews residing in the Capital were invited. Even so, D. AIKO was greeted by almost 60 people, relatives and friends, who received their hugs and affection, at the same time as they were able to remember the ties that link them to the illustrious lady who ended up becoming a reference in the family, not only for her longevity, but for his example of struggle, sacrifice, dedication and resilience.

Great-granddaughters of Bisa Aiko

In front of his beautiful family, gathered and united around him and, highlighting the presence of his five children, all of whom now have visible gray hair and are enjoying their retirement, D. AIKO's little head must have gone through a whirlwind of thoughts, as if was a timeline, in which his life unfolded like a black and white film.

Since her arrival in Brazil, in 1927, a little girl of just 6 years old, who arrived at the Port of Santos, in the company of her parents and brothers, who were even younger. Family that left their homeland devastated by war, fleeing to Brazil, the Land of Gold and Hope. Brazil, which, however, would show another face, very different from what everyone dreamed and cherished. A dream that ended up becoming a true epic, at the cost of many tears, sweat and sacrifice. A true saga, as was the life of most Japanese immigrants at that time.

D. AIKO was no different. Perhaps even harsher and more merciless. A regrettable episode that occurred in 1946 deeply affected her when, newly married, with a 1-year-old son in her arms, she was informed of the death of her father, IKUTA MIZOBE, then managing director of the Cooperativa de Bastos. He was the first victim of the reckless action of the Shindo-Reimei, radical nationalists who were part of the Japanese community in the Bastos and Tupã region. Trauma and revolt that he carried for years, only alleviated twenty years ago, with the request for forgiveness from relatives (daughter and granddaughter) of the person responsible for such pain.

At that moment, D. AIKO feels a pang in her heart, at the same time as she is overcome by a deep longing, missing her husband Tetsuo immensely. “I would really like him to be here, by my side, at this time! He would certainly be radiant, happy, in the presence of his sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and great-granddaughters – great-granddaughters that he never met, none of them. What a shame! Seeing them, all beautiful, I would certainly say that the girls took after the Higuchi family a lot (lol). And how would he react in the company of his other grandchildren, granddaughters, nephews and nieces, whom he saw being born, growing up and today, all married?” D. AIKO's eyes fill with tears. She gets emotional easily.

Her nostalgic thoughts continue and she remembers that she is the only survivor of her family. Of that group of seven people who arrived in Santos – parents and five children – only she was left. Everyone has already left this plan, even the younger brothers. She was literally alone and this has made her bitter lately. It is taken over by negative thoughts, of discouragement.

“I think I have already fulfilled my mission in this life. I did everything possible, my obligations and done well. I feel at peace! I managed to ensure that all my children, despite the difficulties they faced, studied and graduated. And develop a successful professional career. Even more, that they formed beautiful families, united and without ever forgetting the teaching that I always tried to pass on to them: that of harmony between brothers and sisters and the family spirit that should exist between them. Always together and helping each other! Isn’t that good?”, she says to herself, agreeing… with a mischievous smile.

Your dreams are interrupted by the noise around you; It's the people who invite her to the photo section. “Grandma, come over here and take photos with the guests!” Everyone wants an exclusive photo with grandma. “Now, just with the great-granddaughters! Then, with the grandchildren and granddaughters! With sons and daughters-in-law! With my nephews and cousins!” And so many others, that her little eyes, increasingly pressured by age, can't handle the poses she is forced to do.

Living with so many people and she has always had this ease of interaction, whether with children, young people or adults, and even more so in the presence of her great-granddaughters who dedicate so much love to her, makes Ms. AIKO realize that her mission in this life will be extend for longer.

After all, Sofia Valentina is arriving and she will need to be in shape to meet her newest great-granddaughter. “I need to hurry to finish knitting, otherwise Sofia’s coat won’t be ready in time.”

“Edith, why haven’t we gone to visit Camila yet? Sofia Valentina must be big now! “Mom, but she hasn’t even been born yet!”, replies Edith, D. AIKO’s youngest daughter.

This is great-great AIKO, at 102 years old, the way she always was! Intense, authentic and committed! An unforgettable figure!

© 2023 Katsuo Higuchi

Aiko Higuchi Brazil families generations immigrants immigration Issei Japan migration
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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