February 2014


Everyone, face left. Screenshot from The Atlantic

by George Taniwaki

Which side of your face do you show when someone takes a photograph of you? Most people naturally turn right which shows the left side of their face.

The Atlantic Feb 2014 features a video by the science writer Sam Kean that discusses this observation and a theory about why it occurs. It may add insight into the right-brain, left-brain debate. Or it could be completely unrelated.

I usually turn left, showing the right side of my face, though that isn’t a natural behavior for me. I learned it as a child. My natural inclination is to face directly at the camera. But in grade school, on picture day, a photographer told me not to look straight at the camera and to turn my head. When I do that, I naturally want to look left, which shows the right side of my head. This is true even though I part my hair on the left.

When asked to turn my head to the right and show the left side of my face, I feel like I am showing off.

by Michio Taniwaki

This is a continuation of the story of the Taniwaki family tree with biographies of generations 5 through 8. The stories of generations 1 to 4 are in a Jan 2014 blog post. If you are one of my relatives, please provide information to complete these stories.


Eight generations of the Taniwaki family tree

Fifth generation

Tatsui Taniwaki 谷脇達意

Tatsui was born in the 1890s as the eldest child of Umetaro and Tsuru. She married Nobushi Yokoyama. They lived in Taiwan (which was a Japanese colony at the time) for several years. She died in the 1990s.

Nobushi Yokoyama 横山農夫志

Nobushi was a school teacher in Taiwan. He also managed rental property owned by Tsuru, his mother-in-law. Without consulting her, he mortgaged the houses to start his own business, planning to secretly pay her back from the profit. His plan failed and Tsuru lost the houses to the bank. Tsuru’s book showed the last entry was in 1931. The relation between them could not be worse.

After the war, Nobushi, Tatsui, and their son Shizuo moved back to Japan and lived in one of Tsuru’s rental houses.

I don’t know if Nobushi is related to Yasukichi (Matsu’s husband) or if the same family name is a coincidence.

Kiyomi Taniwaki 谷脇清実

My father was born in 1901 in Japan as the second child and elder son of Umetaro and Tsuru. Umetaro left for the U.S. in 1904 and Tsuru followed in about 1909. He was left with his grandparents who did not treat him well. At age 16, he came to America where he worked mostly as a farm laborer with the intent of buying his own farm.

In 1924, the U.S. passed a restrictive immigration law that would effectively prevent new immigrants from Japan from entering. Kiyomi hurried back to Japan and married Sadai and returned with her to America.

Around the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s Alien Land Law was constitutional. This made it illegal for Japanese immigrants to own or lease farmland. Kiyomi continued to work as a farm laborer. He did a good work fast and preferred piecework over hourly rates. He made $5 a day (about $100 in 2010 dollars, which was quite high for farm labor).

But since he could not own a farm, his work required moving from one farm to another. This was not suitable for a family man. He got a job in Hayward and worked for a carnation grower, Fujii Nursery. Now with a steady job, Kiyomi and Sadai had two children, Michio (me) in 1926 and Hideko (my sister) in 1931.


Sadai, Michio, and Kiyomi Taniwaki, circa 1929

Around 1928, someone from Tsuru’s family wanted to come to America for school. This required a U.S. sponsor who could cover any liability. Kiyomi asked the nursery owner, Fujii to be the sponsor and he accepted. The young man got involved in a quarrel with another student and injured him. This was potentially a large liability case and Kiyomi would do anything to keep Fujii out of it. He sought help from Shigeki Oka, a man from the same prefecture. He paid Shigeki $200 (about $3500 in 2010 dollars), but he didn’t do anything. In the end, Kiyomi somehow managed to make the young man go back to Japan and convinced the victim to not claim compensation from Fujii.

With the onset of the depression, Kiyomi wanted to take his family back to Japan. But because of this legal problem, the trip was delayed until December, 1932.

When the family returned to the farm, his aunt Tomi and her husband Unkichi did not have place to go, so Kiyomi gave them the house that his grandfather Eiji built many years ago and gave them 100 yen (about $1000 in 2010 dollars, but several months cash income in rural Japan) to disassemble it and move it to a new location.

Kiyomi built a two-story house for his family. People described it “as big as a school-house.”

In 1937, the Japanese army invaded China. Because he had not served in the army when he was younger, Kiyomi was called to service at the late age of 36. He served in the Supplementary Transport Unit. There, he often met English-speaking people. Despite differences, the Chinese referred to him as a gentleman. He came home after six months.

Kiyomi died on 1987 Dec 13.

My father told me the following stories about our farm. Our farm once had large camphor trees, a prominent landmark. One day, a local official, who was seeking recognition or a promotion, ordered the tress cut down in order to make camphor blocks that the local lord could use to protect his clothes from moths. Our family was discouraged by this and quit growing camphor trees.

He also said in late 1930s, the area was covered with network of tree roots. Leftover wood was used to make hibachi (stoves used to warm hands, not to be confused with the cooking devices known in the U.S.). I remember seeing two of them, the larger one was about 70 cm (2 foot) in diameter.

Sadai Ono 小野貞意

My mother was born on 1905 Jan 7 and married Kiyomi in 1924 and immediately moved to the U.S. She and Kiyomi had two children born in the U.S. before moving back to Japan in 1932. She died on 1986 Feb 26.

Sakae (Oski) Taniwaki 谷脇栄

Oski was born in 1903 in Japan. He had just started school when his mother, Tsuru, took him to America to join Umetaro.

Oski was a very quick learner of English. Only two month after moving to America, he came home from play and told his mother a story of  why the moon is yellow. He said in Japanese, “A woman was making butter. It didn’t turn out well, so she threw it away. It went high into the sky and became the moon.” He said he learned it from a  neighbor. Since the neighbor was not Japanese, he must have heard the story in English.

When his parents moved back to Japan in 1924, Oski remained in the U.S. and attended the University of California, Berkeley to become a pharmacist. However, while in school he realized that California would refuse to grant him a license because he was not a U.S. citizen, ending his dream.

Though everyone called him Oski, my uncle’s given name is Sakae. Oski is a nickname taken from the name of the bear mascot of UC Berkeley.

Oski was one of the founding editors of the New World Daily (Shinsekai nichinichi shinbun), a bilingual newspaper for Japanese immigrants in San Francisco.

In 1935, Oski went to Japan to look for a job since America was still in depression. He came to see us at Kochi prefecture first. Then he proceeded to Taiwan where Tatsui, his older sister, and her husband, Nobushi, were living. Nobushi came up with an English teaching position and English reporter work at a newspaper, but Oski didn’t like these jobs and returned to America.

In 1942, thousands of Japanese Americans living in the western U.S. were forced to evacuate their home and deported to internment camps under U.S. executive order 9066. Oski, Gladys, and their young son Hugo were among them. Each person could only carry a single suitcase. All homes, cars, and other possessions had to be disposed. Rather than sell their appliances and furniture at distress prices, Oski asked neighbors to store these items for them. After the war, he could not locate the neighbors. Everything they owned was gone.

While incarcerated in the Amache relocation camp near Granada, CO, Oski worked as an editor for the camp newspaper, the Granada Pioneer. Near the end of the war, Oski was released from the camp and employed as a taxi driver in Chicago.

After the war, the family moved to Denver, where a small Japanese-American community was growing. Oski died about 1986.

Shizue (Gladys) Ioka

Gladys was born about 1911 in California. She married Oski in the 1930s. They had two children, Hugo and Walter (Nobu). She ran a Japanese gift shop and bookstore called Kobun-sha in Denver (not to be confused with the magazine publishing company of the same name in Japan). She died about 2000.

Sixth generation

Shizuo Yokoyama 横山静夫

Shizuo is the only child of Nobushi and Tatsui. He graduated from Imperial University (now National Seven Universities) with a degree in agriculture. He worked for the kencho (prefectural government) until his retirement at age 60. He has come to America twice.

Kimiko [___] _公子

Kimiko married Shizuo in 1950s. She was a school teacher, now retired.

Michio Taniwaki 谷脇道雄

I am the elder child of Kiyomi and Sadai. I was born on 1926 May 30 in Oakland where a Japanese midwife had a clinic, but lived in Hayward California until December 1932. By then I was in a school. My family moved back to Japan where I had a hard time adjusting to the new life in Japan, but eventually became familiar with the environment.

By 1942, Japan was engaged in the Pacific war. My father paid tuition to enroll me in what was equivalent of high school. During this time I started a radio repair business.

After graduation, the war was still on and I was drafted and sent to Hiroshima to become a radio operator for one of the army owned ships. Before the training was complete, the atomic bomb was dropped. I was very lucky and was not injured. Details of my experience are published in a three-part Dec 2012 blog post.

After the war, I wanted to return to America, but encountered legal problems because of my dual citizenship. I had voted in Japanese elections and served in the Japanese army. I was unable to get a visa until 1953.

In the U.S., I lived in Hayward and worked for the same carnation grower as my father, Fujii Nursery. I also started a little TV repair shop in a rented house.

I married Hisae in 1958 and we had our first son, George. One day, Oski and Gladys visited us and invited us to move to Denver. We accepted. As of this year, we have lived in Denver for 52 years.

I have gone back to visit Japan four times since returning to the U.S. The first was in 1975 with the entire family. My children have been there more frequently than I have.

Hisae Ota 太田尚枝

Hisae was born on 1935 Nov 29 in Chongjin, a city in what is now North Korea which was then Japanese territory. She lived in a Japanese enclave and attended a Japanese school and doesn’t remember seeing any Koreans in the city. Hisae, her mother, grandparents, and five siblings all younger than her lived in the city. Her father, like most able-bodied Japanese men, was serving in the army.

Japan announced its surrender to the allies on 1945 Aug 15, but the Soviet Union did not recognize it. Instead, it invaded China and Korea. The Japanese army was already recalled leaving the Japanese civilians defenseless. Hisae and her family fled their home.

The Soviet airplanes used machine guns and bombs to attack the cities and then the convoys and trains carrying the fleeing civilians. With some exception, Koreans were not very friendly. Hisae’s family hoped to reach Busan, a port in southern Korea protected by the allied forces. This was a stressful undertaking. During the retreat, her baby brother and  both grandparents died.

In Japan, they reunited with her father and lived in Yamaguchi prefecture. Immediately after the war, food and medicine were scarce and a newborn baby sister died.

In 1956, the U.S. government allowed a small number of refugees to immigrate. Hisae’s family was accepted and they moved to San Pablo, CA. Their sponsor was the owner of Oshima nursery, a rose grower. I was working for a carnation grower in Hayward and had a friend working near the Oshima nursery, so I visited the area frequently. One day I met Hisae and two years later we got married in 1958.

Hugo (Kiyoshi) Taniwaki

Hugo was the elder son of Oski and Gladys. He was born about 1938 in CA. As a child his family was deported to the Amache relocation camp in Colorado and spent three years in confinement. He lived most of his life in Denver. He died in 2013 while in Phoenix, AZ.

Margaret Yamada

Marge was born about 1940 and married Hugo about 1958. They had two children, Ronal and Elaine (Vicki).

Walter (Nobu) Taniwaki

Walter is the younger son of Oski and Gladys. He was born in 1949.

Stephanie Uyeda

Stevie was born in 1949 and married Walter in 1972. They have no children.

Seventh generation

Fumiko Yokoyama 横山典子

Fumiko is the elder daughter of Shizuo and Kimiko. She was born about 1955. She married a man named Nishimura, they have no children. She likes to travel and visited us in Denver several times. She guided us during a trip to Tokyo in 2006.

Hiroko Yokoyama 横山浩子

Hiroko is the younger daughter of Shizuo and Kimiko. She was born about 1958 and is married with no children.

George Taniwaki

George is my elder son. He was born in 1959 in Alameda, CA and grew up in Denver, CO. He does not speak Japanese, but has visited Japan for both business and vacation. He writes a blog at https://realnumeracy.wordpress.com/ where this story is posted.

Susan K. Wolcott

Susan was born in 1953 in Sunnyside, WA, the third of four children. She and George were married in 1989 while they both lived in Chicago, IL. They currently reside in Bellevue, WA and have no children. Susan does not speak Japanese but has been to Japan several times to teach a CPA review class in Tokyo.

James Taniwaki

James is my younger son. He was born in 1962 in Denver, CO. He lived in Kobe 1984-85 for a year of study abroad and worked in Osaka 1985-89. Since then, he has been to Japan at least 45 times on business. Jim speaks “enough Japanese to get into trouble, but not enough to get out of trouble.”

Ronal Taniwaki

Ronal is the elder child of Hugo and Marge. He was born in 1959 in Denver, CO.

Elaine (Vicki) Taniwaki

Vicki is the younger child of Hugo and Marge. She was born in 1960 in Denver, CO.

None of the members of the last generation have children. So this may be the end of our branch of the Taniwaki line.

[Update: Removed names of some relatives at their request.]

[Update2: Michio Taniwaki died on October 15, 2017. His obituary is in this blog post.]