Japanese Grandmothers – Past, Future and Overseas

“Mama and Neighbors” by Tatsumi Orimoto.

“My Grandmother” a project where young women were asked to imagine what type of women they would become in 50 years, by Miwa Yanagi. (click on the stars to see 19 photos and stories by Miwa Yanagi).

Yanagi: When I was in high school, I happened to meet an elderly woman. She was hospitalized and didn’t have much time to live. When I went to see her in the hospital, she talked about a coming election. Of course, she passed away before the election. But, I was surprised to realize that she was seriously concerned about the future of the society after she was gone, even if she knew she wouldn’t live long, and was physically restricted. I really respect elderly women or men in their 80’s and 90’s who care for others, and have opinions about the society and beyond until they die. There are only few people who can do that. They move me and I would like to be like them. (from here.)
Miwa expressed her desire to adopt a child from other nationality.

Mie Japanse Grandmother from Miywa Yanagi

The Floating world was my introduction to Cynthia Kadohata‘s writing. The novel opens with a quirky description of a Japanese American grandmother. Here are excerpts from the first two paragraphs of the Floating World. “My grandmother has always been my tormentor. My mother said she’d been a young woman of spirit: but she was an old woman of fire. In her day it had been considered scandalous for young Japanese to smoke, but she smoked cigars…. (skip to next paragraph)
“My grandmother surprised my family by dying one night in a motel in California. Neither of my three brothers liked her any more than I did, and none of us cried at the funeral. My grandmother used to box our ears whenever she pleased, and liked to predict ghastly futures for all of us. We traveled a great deal, and sometimes in the car she talked on and on, until even my mother became annoyed and told her to keep it down, just as if she were one of us kids. When she got mad she cursed me. “May you grow hair on your nose!” she would say, and I would run to check my mirror. ”
Cynthia adopted a son from Kazakhstan in 2004 and her story for teenagers “Kira Kira” won an award recently. Her web site includes photos of her son and her dog.

One memorable grandmother from the past was Yukio Mishima‘s grandmother. She might have had a great deal to do with Mishima’s life long quest for masculinity.
“Mishima was born to a family dominated by his petulant and oppressive paternal grandmother, Natsu. Less than a couple of months after his birth, he was snatched away by Natsu from his mother, Shizue, who was allowed to see her infant son only when she was summoned to breast-feed him under her mother-in-law’s supervision. Natsu seldom allowed him to be taken out of her room. Since she disliked boys’ roughness, she forbade him to associate with other boys, and his companions were limited to women or girls. As a consequence, he picked up (in Japanese male chauvinistic terms) feminine patterns of speech, as well as women’s taste and sensitivity… read more here.