Articles From the March 1994 Unification News
Living as a Japanese 4-Generation Family
by Kate Hirata-Osaka, Japan
I remember at the time of our matching, Father said something like, "You big American women should go to the Japanese countryside and live with your in-laws...wouldn't God like that?" Soon after that, he began matching western sisters to Japanese brothers. My husband, Takehiko, and I were included in that group, and now, seven years later, Father's words have once again come true in my life. We came to my husband's hometown in northern Osaka in March 1993, two months after our daughter Mikoh was born.
There have been many challenges for me personally since then, adjusting to a new baby and a new culture and new language all at once. Yet the blessings that have come to me since our move to hometown far outweigh the difficulties. One of those blessings has been the chance to experience firsthand what Father calls the "abridged form of the world"-four generations living together in one home. By coming to hometown, God has given me the great experience of the vertical love connecting grandparents, parents and children.
My husband's family is typical of those here in the countryside, with grandparents, parents and children all living together. Everywhere I go in the village I can see old people and little children together doing the shopping, taking walks or just sitting together in the sunshine. Our home is a bit different in that we have not only three but four generations here. Great-grandmother Koharu-san, addressed as "Ookii Obaachan" ("Big Grandmother") is the mother of Takehiko's father and lives with us. Living here as well are Takehiko's parents, "Ojiichan" and "Obaachan" ("Grandfather" and "Grandmother"). Then there is Takehiko's elder brother with his wife and their children, Yuusuke (seven years), Koji (five years) and Yuri (two and a half). When we arrived with our little girl last spring, they immediately made room for us in the already crowded household.
One reason this family has made such an impression on me is that I come from a very different family. My parents divorced when I was a child. I rarely saw my grandparents and I have no idea who my great- grandparents were. I ran away from home when I was 15 years old. The only kind of love I thought worth having was that horizontal love between man and woman, since it seemed to be that way everywhere I looked. Hearing the Divine Principle changed my mind and having a husband and baby to love changed my heart to a great degree. Now experiencing life in an extended family is deepening my understanding and appreciation of the ideal family Father wants us to create.
Although the children here love and respect their parents, their relationship with their grandparents seems to put the children more at ease and they feel freer to express what is really inside. It's obvious to everyone here that Yuusuke's first love is his grandmother. Whatever special and private things go on in his young life, he shares them with Obaachan first. he is now seven years old. Since the birth of his younger brother Koji when he was around two years old, Yuusuke has been sleeping not with parents but with his grandparents. He wouldn't change the arrangement for anything. When he and Obaachan retire for the night, as they settle in there is always the quiet sharing of what went on in Yuusuke's day. He then always begs a story from her about "the old days" when she was young. He frequently shares the stories with his classmates and his teachers at school the next day. His mother and father are the ones who check his schoolwork, who go to PTA meetings, who make sure he brushes his teeth. His intimacy with his grandmother gives depth and breadth to his usually very here- and-now world. Takehiko's father is a quiet, hardworking man with a stern face. Takehiko has told me it was not often that he could hear his father laugh or see his smile as he was growing up. With the arrival of his grandchildren, however, Ojiichan's personality has softened. Especially with his granddaughter Yuri he can be free to feel joy. When Yuri demands that he get down on the floor and play the "fishing game," he willingly obliges with a smile. She is truly the "subject" of the two of them, and just as Father says, when love is there the grandfather doesn't mind whatever the grandchildren do. With the birth of grandchildren came the "birth" of grandparents and, in Ojiichan's case, the rebirth of his own child-heart.
Ookii Obaachan just celebrated her 90th birthday. Although her body is tired, her mind is bright as ever and she loves her great- grandchildren, especially Yuri and our own Mikoh. I have watched Yuri and Ookii Obaachan go on walks up and down the drive in front of the house. They go in perfect stride together, with Yuri's small toddler steps matching her great-grandmother's slow pace. Sometimes Yuri feels her life is just too hectic with her two older brothers constantly teasing her, and she quietly slips away to Ookii Obaachan's room. There she can have a quiet time, play with her great-grandmother's cat or share some small secret snacks. She comes back to the main house with renewed energy (and usually some biscuits as well!). Our own Mikoh lights up when she sees the weathered face of Ookii Obaachan smiling to her. When we are in the midst of a struggle to put on pajamas or change a diaper, if her great-grandma appears, then Mikoh is easily calmed and stops her fussing, for which her mother is truly grateful. There is a certain calmness and quiet the children naturally pick up when Ookii Obaachan is around, and that certainly benefits the entire household.
When I first arrived in Japan, I was very nervous and shy. It was Ookii Obaachan's kind smile that put me at ease many times. I was scared to try cooking or to help out in other ways-just out of fear of doing something wrong. At that time I felt like I was walking on eggshells. But with our great grandmother I always felt that no matter what I did, she would appreciate it. I learned that she has had such a hard life. Her husband died in an accident after a few years of marriage, leaving her alone with three small boys to care for. The times were so tough that eventually she had to give one child up for adoption. She then worked at a temple for four yen a month to support the other two. Since that time she just worked continuously to survive. One of my responsibilities here is to place rice and tea on the ancestors' altar in the evenings. As I light the incense I often reflect on those who have gone before us, paving the way for their descendent to receive the Blessing from True Parents. I don't know all the content of their lives, but knowing Ookii Obaachan's life makes me sure that there has been much sacrifice. When I look into my own daughter's face, I see the face of Ookii Obaachan in my mind. Her presence reminds me of our connection to the past, which in the hustle and bustle of everyday life can easily be forgotten.
Father said in a speech, "When people experience their grandparents' deep love in their family and then come out to their society-for example, the streets of New York-they will feel very intimate towards the old people...." In our village, everyone seems to be a part of a big family, with the children treating all grandparents as their own. And not only are they respectful and good to their elders, the children are also very good to their peers and to their youngers. Yuusuke is by far the most popular boy in his class because of the quality of his heart towards others. His teachers feel it is because of his home environment, living with so many ages together. He is always considerate of others, and so our house is constantly filled with his friends coming over to play. His life with his grandparents has nurtured his natural kindness to others. How different a place like New York would be if every child had his experience. Just as the Church center was a training ground to learn how to love brothers and sisters of different nationalities and backgrounds, so too is my time here in a four-generational household teaching me about the vertical love in the ideal family. This I could not have learned from a lecture or a book. Now my own children can inherit the "deep love of their grandparents" and grow to become persons of gentle nature and inner strength. And I am learning just what kind of parent and grandparent I want to be to my children and to all the children around me. It's all been given freely to me out of True Parents' love in sending us to hometown. I hope that many other western wives who come their husband's hometown in the Japanese countryside will find the same gift waiting for them.
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