|Wikimedia Commons" href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJP_Hokkaido_Furano_lavender.jpg">|
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about a return trip to Japan. My mother is almost eighty years old, and she would like to see her sisters and brother once more. She can't travel by herself, so I usually travel with her. Mom is from the main island of Honshu, not far from Yokohama and Mt. Fuji. The few times I've gone to Japan, we stayed with my mother's family.
We've never had any contact with my father's side. Dad's father came from Sendai, which was ravaged by an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster in 2011. Since we don't even know any of dad's relatives' names, I have no way to find out if they even survived. Dad's mother came from the island of Hokkaido, to the far north. Though it's roughly on the same latitude as New York, its terrain and lack of metropolitan areas are reminiscent of Alaska.
Hiro, my main character in The Samurai's Garden, is from Tokyo, but when his time as a samurai is done he travels north, to the island of Hokkaido. There are some large flower farms on the island like the one above, and this inspired my samurai hero's passion for flowers. My father's mother came from that Hokkaido, and she used to tell me stories about what it was like when she grew up in rural Japan during the early part of the twentieth century.
I've never been to Hokkaido, but I hope to visit one day. Maybe I can see a farm like this. And maybe I'll find a connection to my dad's side of the family.