Poverty in Japan 1959

My name is Jorga Toshinyo (name changed). In 1959, I am 9 years old and living in I live with my mom, dad and my sister. The area I live in is really bad because every day, we are at war with some gangs that live around us, and we can’t afford to eat. We can’t even have a good house to live in, and it’s falling apart. For example, our beds are all ripped up and we don’t have any place to sleep. Basically, we have to sleep on the ground. My mom and dad are not making enough money for us to live. My mom works in nearby sweatshops, and my dad works at a restaurant that his family has been running for years called Yoshinoya. So, he is working by himself trying to make enough money for us all.

In Shirakawa, we had no school that we could go to. We had no money to even support ourselves. Some of my close friends and family were going to travel to America, so I told my mom “Naze watashitachIwa Amerika nIikimasen ka?( Why don’t we go to America?). She and my dad had talked about it for a good week or two and decided that we were going to go to America, but we only had one problem and that was my little sister. She was only about 3 years old. We wouldn’t be able to take her with us to America because she would have died of starvation or dehydration. So, my dad made a big sacrifice and said “WatashIwa Kon’ya de koko nItodomari, yuruga to joruga wa watashIno imōtodearu Amerika nIiku” which means (I will stay here with my konya who was my little sister while you and Jorga go to America ). My mom disagreed right away with my dad, but then after them arguing, she decided to go and take me with her to America.

So after that day, my mom went over to her relatives’ house because they were leaving for America too. She told them we were going to go with them. My family said “Sate, watashitachiha subete no junbIga totonotta mama nIshite okimasu”. (Okay we will be leaving tomorrow, get everything ready.) Me and my mom went home and packed everything we had and everything that we needed to take to America. Our family came over to our house early, at about 1 in the morning. I was tired, and my mom woke me up and we got in the car and left. The car was crammed with people. There were about 6 others in the car with us going to America. My dad and sister decided to come with us so they could say their goodbyes to us before we traveled across the world. When we got to the boat dock, there were so many people on the boat–at least 250. This boat wasn’t very big, so it could barely fit all of us on it, but somehow we made it work. We were now off to America, but while we were leaving, my mom and I were both looking back at my dad and sister crying because we had to leave them.

While on the boat, I was very tired. I couldn’t stay awake, so I decided to sleep. Then, the next thing you know, BOOM! The boat hit something, and it started filling with water and people were panicking. Luckily, there was an island off shore that we went to, but now we were stranded on the island. For about an hour, we had been stuck on this island and out of nowhere, we see another boat coming from the same place we came from. The person who was in charge of this new boat came to the island and said “WatashitachIto issho nIiru hito wa hon’nosukoshidesu” which means (We can only take very few people with us). So now I’m scared, because what if they don’t take me and my mom and then we have to wait for another boat to come and get the rest of us? Then the captain of the boat makes eye contact with me and takes me and my mom on the boat with them. Now we are on our way to America. I then fall asleep again and I hear yelling, but it’s not concerned yelling. It’s yelling of joy because we had made it to America! We had come all the way from Shirawaka, and now we made it here. Neither my mom nor I knew exactly what place we landed in, but we knew we were happy that we finally arrived safely.

Some people on the boat who came with us had a farm that my mom and I could work at, and we worked there for 5 years. They had a little house we could stay at that was on the farm. My mom and I both made more than enough money for ourselves. My dad and sister came from our hometown to our house in Beacon Hill on the farm and surprised us. My mom and I started crying right when we saw them at our house.

I am doing very well now. I have 3 kids and I am married to my husband named Jeff and we have been together for over 30 years. What I hope in my future is for my family to never stop having kids so our generation can live long. Both of my daughters have kids, and one of my grandkids just happened to be the person who wrote this story.




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