Tadaima! I Am Home
A Transnational Family History
Tadaima! I Am Home unearths the five-generation history of a family that migrated from Hiroshima to Honolulu but never settled. In the telling, the common Japanese greeting “tadaima!” takes on a perplexing meaning. What is home? Where most immigrants either establish roots in a new place or return to their place of origin, the Miwa family became transnational. With one foot in Japan, the other in America, they attempted to build lives in both countries. In the process, they faced the challenges of internment, a civilian prisoner exchange, the atomic bomb, and the loss of their holdings on both sides of the Pacific.
The story begins and ends with the fifth-generation figure, Stephen Miwa of Honolulu, who is trying to get to the bottom of a shadowed reference to his family name: “The Miwas are unlucky.” Tom Coffman’s research tracks back to the founding sojourner, Marujiro, a fallen samurai, and to the sons of subsequent generations—Senkichi, a field laborer turned storekeeper; James Seigo, a merchant prince; Lawrence Fumio, a heroically struggling “foreign” student; and, finally, the contemporary Stephen, whose nagging questions drive him to excavate his enigmatic past. Among the book’s unusual finds, the most extraordinary is the fourteen-year-old Fumio’s student diary, which he maintained in Hiroshima from July 4, 1945, through his survival of atomic bombing and into the following autumn.
The Miwas climbed from poverty to wealth, and then fell precipitously from wealth into poverty. The most recent generations have regrouped by dint of intense determination and devotion to education, exercised against the strange transformation of Japanese Americans from despised “other” to model minority. Throughout, this resilient family has kept an outwardly facing cheerfulness, giving no clues as to what they have been through.
Tadaima! I Am Home confronts history from a largely unexplored transnational viewpoint, suggesting new ways of looking and seeing. Although it does not explicitly beg the question of internal security in the present, it poses new perspectives on immigration, acculturation, commitment to nation, and the marginalization of distrusted minorities.
Journalist Coffman has earned a deserved reputation as a skilled chronicler of Hawaii's political history. . . . [He] offers readers a rare glimpse of the experiences of Japanese Americans living in Hawaii. By the end of the book the Miwas have achieved a semblance of security—and a sense of home—in Hawaii. But Coffman wisely reminds us that before we celebrate another American dream fulfilled, we must acknowledge the too heavy price many people of Japanese ancestry have paid to find it.
Coffman provides a fascinating view of wartime Japan, including morale-boosting efforts such as military-style uniforms for children, and the horrors of the first atomic bombing. Throughout, he weaves in just enough historical information to illuminate the broader importance of the Miwas’ experiences. . . . [T]his account will reward readers interested in Japan and Japanese-Hawaiian experience.
It’s always a gift to get a new book from Island political writer, author and documentarian Tom Coffman, and Tadaima! I Am Home is both highly readable and timely. . . . Coffman’s telling is well-researched and the historical details are handled accurately and deftly. . . . [This] book joins those making room for families like the Miwas, split up and separated, brought up in the ‘wrong’ country at the wrong time, always at the mercy of governments, prejudice, refugee crises and world war.
Coffman writes the story with grace and understanding, having done extensive research built on stories and documents collected by Stephen. Especially useful were the schoolboy diaries of Stephen's father, Lawrence Miwa, who lived in Hiroshima during the war. Coffman skillfully uses this material and provides a historian's perspective in what is a short family narrative. . . . [The diary] makes for the most compelling first-hand account in the book. . . . If the Miwas were unlucky, they are unlucky no more. They can proudly say, 'Tadaima! I Am Home,' and to that, readers can respond, 'Okaeri—Welcome Home.
Within [the book's] short compass, readers are provided with a fascinating five-generation exploration by Coffman of male Miwa family members extending from its fallen samurai progenitor in Meiji Era Japan, Marujiro Miwa (1850-1919), down through four sons of successive generations—all of whom are bound together by having their lives similarly enacted in both Japan (mostly Hiroshima) and America (Hawai‘i and the U.S. mainland). . . . Aided by two researchers from Japan affiliated with the Hawai‘i State Archives who were not only interested in transnational migration, but also able to instruct him in how to access archives in Japan and utilize other invaluable resources, Coffman was empowered to produce a book that represents a quintessential model of the new and enriched family history.
Tadaima! is both a macro and micro view of the complexities of Japanese-American relations, migrations, and heritage, as told through the determined and winning generations of the Miwa family. History fans will love Tom Coffman’s meticulously detailed research, and all readers can take inspiration and understanding from the Miwas, who survive and thrive against all odds.
This book is both visually and intellectually enticing for readers. . . . Several reviewers have already commented on the value and necessity of this book for political and historical researchers within the [Australian] tertiary sector. As an educator within the secondary sector, I would also highly recommend this book as a robust and insightful nonfiction text for an English and humanities syllabus for senior‐level secondary education. . . . [The Miwas'] story contributes a contextualized understanding of the intricacies involved in multigenerational, transnational migration and development, not only from a political and economic perspective, but more importantly from a sociocultural one.
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