Glenn Osaka spoke about his ancestors at the dedication of the Immigrant Heritage Wall on Angel Island in July, 2011.
Good morning. I'm a third generation Japanese American. Many of you probably share my story and heritage. I'm here to honor my grandparents. Their names are Chujiro Osaka, Masa Takeyama Osaka, Mitsusaburo Ohashi and Mihi Endo Ohashi.
I was unfortunate because I only was able to know Mihi Endo Ohashi, my grandmother. My other grandparents had died by the time I was born. As may often be the case in a Japanese American family, there are many things that are not spoken of. So I only know little bits and pieces of my grandmother's story. The family story is that she came through Angel Island. The plaque that we decided to put on the wall here says simply that “their dreams have become our reality”. The life that I live every day as do my cousins, sister and my kids is very much a legacy and result of Mihi’s story.
The thing that's most striking to me is that Mihi Endo was 19 years old when she left Shizuoka, Japan as a “picture bride”. She came to marry my grandfather who was ten years older than her. And as far as I can tell, she didn't know my grandfather. My own daughters are 20 and 18. My youngest daughter is going to college soon in New Jersey and I think, “Oh, how is she going to handle this great journey to New Jersey?” And of course my grandmother was 19 years old when she got on a boat in Yokohama and came to the US. So she arrived in 1912 as a picture bride… her courage just amazes me. And I know that the stories of all of your ancestors are also about their similar acts of courage.
So I think the only thing I can comment on as well about her life in the US was that she always had a saying, and those of you who are also of Japanese heritage will know this. My mother's saying was the same, it was “Shikata ga nai,” which basically means “it can't be helped.” So for my grandmother and for my mother and my father as well – it was a theme... it was a theme for my grandmother. She expected till the day that she died when she was 96 years old that she was going back to Japan. And I always felt saddened about that because I think that she wasn't quite sure why she had come and that her life was back at home. I’m not sure she realized what a great thing she had done for our future.
For my parents, their story was also about endurance and perseverance. They were interned during WWII – I’m sure many of you have similar family stories. But what my grandmother and my parents taught me was the value of courage and perseverance. And I only hope that I am able to pass that on to my daughters.
It also helps me in reflecting on some of the life experiences I have had. I am in high technology and an executive in Silicon Valley and as a result I have the privilege of working with many immigrants from India, China, Taiwan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Australia and I have the pleasure of sometimes being a guide and a mentor to them through their careers. And what I can see in them is the same desire, courage and perseverance that I know my grandparents and parents brought to their stories and brought to me.
Today, I have the privilege, in front of all of you, to do something that I never got the chance to do while she was alive and to say, “Thank you Bachan”. Thank you for coming to America and thank you for bringing us here to a wonderful place where we can build our lives and to fulfill your (and our) dreams.
Glenn Osaka is a former Senior Executive with Juniper Networks, Cisco, and Hewlett-Packard.