Namioka, Japan

I was born in a town that no longer exists. The only thing left of it is an old train station that bears its name. Namioka was the place. A small town in Aomori prefecture, Japan. They say it was founded in 1889 during the Meiji Restoration and was elevated to a town in 1940. In 2006, they controversially merged with the growing city of Aomori and lost its independent municipality. So the internet tells me.

I never lived there, but visited often. It was where my maternal grandparents lived for a time. I have vague but intense recollections of the place.

There was a store down the road. It was full of sweets. My brother and I loved visiting it. They sold small yellow rectangular boxes filled with individually wrapped caramel. We would scoff it down when mum bought it for us.

There were kind friends there. A girl with a forgotten name and a face I can’t quite remember. But I can almost hear her voice echo down the road.

“Junko Chan! Asobi masho!” she would cry and we’d play the afternoon away.

The next time I saw her we couldn’t understand each other. I had grown up. Too much time had passed between visits and I lost my ability to speak her language. She too had grown. She was still kind when she saw us. But I was shy.

I have photos of old memories. Of dressing up in a kimono and playing with sparklers. Of car trips to a place where the settled snow was tall as grown ups. None of these I remember.

I remember the doors slid sideways in my grandparents’ house. I remember the first time the walls and floor shook from a small earthquake. Everybody carried on like it was normal. I remember a small playground just over the backyard wall. I would peer over it and wish I could be free.

My uncle once told me I looked like a Japanese doll when I was little. The memory came up again when I was at a nursing home recently and one of the residents asked me where I was born.

“I am ethnically Korean, but I was born in Japan,” I answered as best as I could.

“Now that you tell me that, you look Japanese,” she responded.

I smile. I have no idea what it means to look Japanese. I don’t feel Japanese. But it was once the place of my birth. Something that formed part of my identity.

It was an odd feeling when I realised my first hometown was now only alive in my memories. I felt a little at a loss when I read about it. Like a part of me suddenly fell away.

There’s nothing much I can do to reclaim that part of who I am. The country has moved on and the internet tells me Namioka no longer exists.

via the Daily Prompt: Identity

15 thoughts on “Namioka, Japan

  1. I think that what happened to Namioka will continue to happen to more small towns in Japan as their population dies out. I never thought of it from a perspective like yours as someone born in a small town like that. Thank you for the insight.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hello 🙂 I’m sure it happens all over the world. Things ebb and flow. Nothing remains the same. It just would have been nice to visit one day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely post Aggie Soon…..nice to read about some parts of your life in Japan, a country which is always on the bucket list of countries I wish to visit in this lifetime at least once. Being from India, travel is in our system, as India is a vast country with so much to see and visit. And Japan is always a travellers’ paradise…..:)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful, evocative piece that is exquisitely written. I was born far from where I grew up and live and have many memories of my early years there. I am lucky I can still go and visit and see some of the original sights that have survived.Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for your encouragement. I would love to head back one day. At least to see the train station that bears the name of the place.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Beautiful post.
    I feel like I can relate to a certain extent.
    I was born in Dominican Republic but moved to the states at a young age. So, I’m always trying to think back to my younger days. I have a few prominent memories but every time I go back to visit – sometimes, it feels like I’m in a foreign country. I think the fact that can you can still remember Namioka despite it not being there is beautiful sign of it’s past existence especially within your childhood.
    Love your writing.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you for sharing this really wonderful and heart warming post. My mother is Italian, like you I have memories of visiting my grand parents, they spoke no English, but I have fond memories of being with them. It is a shame that memories fade, but as you said, “It is still a part of WHO we are!” You have a wonderful Blog!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I absolutely love this post!! To cling to a place in your mind where you had a piece of yourself only to find that it doesn’t exist anymore, I couldn’t possibly imagine what that feels like but through you, I somehow lived it too.

    Liked by 4 people

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