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Chieko Yamaguchi


Chieko grew up in Saitama and Isehara in Japan. Her husband, Kazuyoshi Yamaguchi, was stationed in Fort Ord, CA. He was in the U.S. military, had served as a paratrooper during the Vietnam War, and had a U.S. green card. She came with him to the United States in 1974 and left her parents and brother behind. Chieko's mother was not happy since she did not like the U.S. army and had been taught to think of the U.S. as enemies, though that view changed when she repeatedly visited her daughter in the U.S., especially after the birth of her granddaughter, Joy. In the U.S., Chieko went to college and became a nurse.




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Chieko Yamaguchi
Written, produced, and edited by Joy Yamaguchi

My newlywed parents arrived in the US during the autumn of 1974 with two suitcases full of fashion forward clothing, osenbe (rice crackers) and a set of 30 Japanese encyclopedias. My mother immigrated to the US with my father, who was earlier drafted into the US army as a paratrooper in the Vietnam War and was now being relocated from Camp Zama in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, to Fort Ord in Marina, California. As you’d imagine, my grandparents, who had lived through World War I and II, weren’t entirely thrilled about their daughter moving to the US with a member of the US army. To them, the US was considered an enemy due to the oppressive nature of the Japanese government and the misinformation being drilled into its citizens. However, their view of the US gradually changed as my mother and father grasped onto opportunity, went to college, and worked towards maintaining successful professions. When asked about my grandparent’s changing perspective about Japan-US relations, my mother exclaimed, “My parents view of America changed when they saw that I was happy and I was taking every opportunity I could get. Isn’t that what being a parent is about? Wanting your child to be happy no matter how painful for you it is to see them go?” My grandmother proceeded to visit the US seven times until the age of 80, especially during the years when I was an infant.
Silly enough though, my mother still holds onto her set of Japanese encyclopedias bestowed upon her by her parents during her high school years despite their low income. When asked about their importance, she often responds, “Well, I don’t want to lose it so I hold onto it. I like to have it; it’s nothing dramatic!” However, it’s easy to see that these books function as a connection back to my mother’s roots – to her parents and to the land where she grew up.