Fly Away Home


Copyright: <a href=’’>lakhesis / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

This week, we’re discussing our longest trip away from home. That’s pretty easy for me, since my family moved from Yokohama, Japan to Grand Rapids, Michigan just before I was a year old. So a visit to see our relatives means taking a trip of more than 6000 miles each way.

mandy &amp; ggma

My daughter, age 1, with her great-grandmother.

When I was young, there wasn’t a lot of money for anything but day trips. I was about fifteen years old the first time Mom went back to see her mother and siblings. Mom’s father had passed away by this time, and I think Dad felt guilty about that, because afterwards he saved up so that she could make the trip every five years or so. Of course, she made the trip alone, because flights were so expensive. My brothers and I were old enough to take care of ourselves while dad was at work (though mom probably disagreed). I finally made the trip with her about a year after I became a mom, so it was kind of fitting that I left Japan as a one-year-old, and then returned WITH a one-year-old. I remember being so glad to finally meet my cousins, whom I’d seen growing up through pictures, and my grandmother, who seemed much tinier than I’d imagined. I remember seeing sights and sounds that were so unusual, yet familiar. And I remember being SO frustrated that I couldn’t communicate with anyone except one aunt who knew a little bit of English.

kyouto Nara011

We visited lots of historical sites!

The next time I went to Japan, there were four of us – Mom, my daughter, her husband, and me. My daughter was actually three months pregnant at the time, and spent a lot of the trip quite nauseated, but she was a trooper. (My youngest daughter couldn’t get the time away from work, but she went with her grandma a few years later.) This time, I’d taken two years of Japanese class at the university where I teach, so I understood a little bit more about what was going on. My relatives made a special effort to take us to places where there was an English-speaking guide, and I found and booked us on an English language bus tour of Tokyo. I think that in major cities, there’s more of an effort to have signs in different languages due to the rise in travelers. My blond, six foot four son-in-law attracted a lot of curious looks, but they embraced him as a member of the family.


Yes, everyone is sitting on the floor. My knees couldn’t take it, so I stood to take the picture.

Thanks to Facebook, I was able to share pictures and adventures immediately, since I took my laptop along. So in preparing for this post, I didn’t have to look long and hard to find the pictures I wanted. The only difficult part was choosing which pictures to include!

Japan has a rich and fascinating history, and my aunt, a history buff, made sure we visited a lot of the country’s historical sites, especially when she discovered my son-in-law majored in history. At the time, I was working on The Samurai’s Garden, so I soaked up as much of the historical stuff as I could.

The best part of the trip, though, was connecting with my extended family. Two of my cousins are on Facebook now, so we’re able to communicate regularly. But it’s not the same. When I got home, I resolved to return as quickly as possible. It’s been eight years now, so I guess I’d better start making plans to go back!


About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page:
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10 Responses to Fly Away Home

  1. Oh, I love it! My mother’s family always expected to go back to Italy, and my grandmother did in her 80s.It did not work out for her and she came back after a year or so, but that was long after her mother had died; her brothers were lost in WWI.
    Your son-in-law is quite a trooper, too. The family picture is beautiful.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Mom was fortunate to be able to keep her close connection to her sisters and brother. And she was there when her mother died. Now with Skype-like apps, she video chats with them whenever she wants!
      My son-in-law is one of the most unflappable people I’ve ever met. I imagine he’d fit in almost anywhere.


  2. I Love this! How wonderful. Japan is a country I want to visit – for the sights and the history! Wish I knew the language. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff Salter says:

    Terrific that you’ve been able to connect to that part of your family heritage.
    And doubly great that you could call on the details and atmosphere for use in your novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      The novel is actually set on the island my grandmother came from, which is north of the main island. I wasn’t able to visit, but I did see a lot of castles where the samurai lived and trained.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s wonderful that you were able to return with your mother and your daughter. And that you were able to go more than once. I understand having a language barrier between family (my sister-in-;law is from Korea and didn’t know much English when she came here) but I can’t imagine what it was like to be in a country where you could not communicate easily with everyone.
    I loved your book, The Samurai’s Garden. Do you think you will set any more books in Japan?

    I hope you can make it back again soon.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      It’s definitely a challenge to communicate! It’s hard enough when visiting, but I’m having more empathy for my mom and grandma coming here as young women and having to learn so much. I’ve got several unfinished sequels to The Samurai’s Garden. Maybe someday I’ll take them out and finish them!


  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    It must take an incredible amount of courage to move to a new country and leave all you know behind. Your family was brave to come to the US.


    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      That was certainly true for my grandparents, who came at the beginning of the 20th century when there were hardly any Asians in America. And they lived through the second world war, when things were awful for Japanese Americans. I asked my mom about how she felt coming here and she said at the time she felt she was going on an adventure, not realizing that it was a permanent change in her life.


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