And it’s always bugged me.
Kyushu — namely the prefectures of Yamaguchi and Kumamoto — are where my great-grandparents were born. They immigrated to Hawaii during the turn of the century — like thousands of other Japanese — to work in the coffee fields in Kona.
My grandparents, both of whom were born in Kona, traveled once to Japan, and I never got a chance to talk to them about it. Both are gone now, and I decided I would visit their hometowns, too, to see what it looks like, see how they might have lived.
So when Hawaiian Airlines announced it was flying directly to Fukuoka, a nearby prefecture — and one of the oldest cities in Japan — I snatched up the chance to go.
I realize Fukuoka isn’t the city of my ancestors. It’s now a cosmopolitan harbor town with modern architecture, major department stores, a 767-foot-tall mirrored tower, and a very popular baseball team.
But the old world still remains. You can find it in the shops that sell clay Hakata dolls and obi silk sashes. And Yamakasa, a 700-year-old festival, is still celebrated every July.
This is the Fukuoka I’m hoping to see.
I’m leaving on April 16 on Hawaiian’s inaugural flight. Then I’m staying in Japan — I had already booked a trip there before Hawaiian announced its new route — and touring around Kyoto, Tokyo and Chigasaki.
Part of this journey — and I’m blogging about Japan all this week! — is to reconnect with my Japanese roots. I want to learn about where my mother’s family came from — and I’m hoping this blog inspires you to do the same.
Post your family stories here. Tell us what you remember about the stories of your grandparents or great-grandparents. Or share what you’d want to do if you could visit Kyushu. Hawaiian Airlines will pull some of these stories and re-post them on its Facebook page.
And stay tuned for more about all things Japan!