My Japanese Aunt

January 19, 2017

Back when I was a young girl my uncle, who worked at one of the once-popular resorts in Cavite, met and married a Japanese national named Yoko. Looking back, I realize that I don’t even know what her last name was before she married him, just that she was supposedly a model and was at the resort at the time to do a photo shoot when she met and was charmed by my uncle. It is because of her that I can say that our family has a Japanese connection, although that was a long time ago.

family
Tita Yoko with my sisters and cousins in the 90s

My uncle and Tita Yoko got married when at the San Miguel Church in the MalacaƱang area in the late 80s or early 90s, I am not quite sure of the year. It was a lovely wedding and she was a beautiful bride. My cousins and I were all part of the wedding entourage. I even remember that my hair was in this French braid for the occasion. After the wedding, they settled down in Japan and came over for visits when they could, sometimes even bringing along some of their friends from Japan to stay at our house for vacations.

It was interesting to have her for an aunt because she seemed very shy. Although she spoke some English, I don’t think she did very well and preferred to speak in Japanese. It was my uncle who learned to speak Japanese and spoke on her behalf most of the time. She was always smiling though. I remember that she always smiled.

Tita Yoko seemed friendly enough in spite of the language barrier. Her friends were very nice people too. I remember this lovely older woman who loved to wear very colorful clothes and had this very animated personality who stayed with us for a time. She hardly spoke English either but she was always trying and loved to laugh. I wonder how she is doing now. I don’t even remember her name!

I remember when they were already in Japan my uncle sent me an English-Japanese dictionary and I decided to take it upon myself to write Tita Yoko letters to say hello, using the dictionary to write to her in my broken Japanese. She wrote back and she seemed to appreciate me making the effort. Looking back my letters must have been so difficult to read considering I used sentence construction that was for English and Filipino and just translated my words from the dictionary when Japanese sentence construction was different. Plus, I had a small, thin dictionary – I’m pretty sure that it didn’t have all the right words and I made do with what was there.

After a few years, my uncle and Tita Yoko split up. I was still young at the time and as adults do, they never told us why they split up. I heard that it was because she didn’t want children, but then I also heard that it was hard to have children in Japan, something about it being expensive to do so or something like that. I never asked my uncle about it because it just wasn’t the proper thing to do, but I felt sad as a hopeless romantic to think that their marriage had ended. They seemed like such a lovely couple and I thought they had such a lovely love story, meeting the way they did.

Anyway, my uncle ended up staying in Japan and met someone else and has a daughter with her now. So, obviously, he has moved on. My cousin is a young woman now and although I’ve only met her once, she was very nice although a bit quiet because she only spoke Japanese.

The reason I remembered Tita Yoko recently is because my mother had mentioned in passing that she had already died. I know that she had split up from my uncle decades ago but it still felt sad to hear. After all, she was a part of the family at one point in our lives and she did stay with us when she vacationed when I was younger.  

I wonder if she ever remarried after she separated from my uncle. I wonder what kind of life she led after she moved on. Hopefully, she had a good life before she passed.


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