Tag Archives: Okinawa

Remembering My Grandmother, with Fireflies

From Kumiko Kishimoto, in Okinawa –

When I was growing up in the 1950s, we lived at the west end of a village called Yabu-son, outside Nago. We kept our house wide open, even at night, especially during the hot summer. In the evenings after supper, my grandmother would sit with me and my siblings at the edge of wooden hallway, which ran alongside the south-east side of our house. As we sat enjoying cool breeze, we sang songs, talked about little things happened during the day, and memorized the multiplication table with Grandmother.

This northern part of Okinawa had no electricity until the mid-1950s,  so it really became pitch dark after sunset. In those days, my grandmother’s house was lit only by a single kerosene lamp which Mom used in the kitchen as she cleaned up after supper.

Kumiko's grandparents
Baby Kumiko (left), sits on her grandfather Morigen Kishimoto’s lap. Ushi, her grandmother, holds her brother Moriyuki (Okinawa, early 1950s)

As we sat with Grandmother, suddenly we’d spot the first firefly. They seemed to magically appear and light up the darkness around the house.  We’d catch as many as we could, and put them into Mason jars left over from the American soldiers. We were mesmerized by the glowing lights – they seemed like a symphony! Though it’s hard to explain, even now I remember how magical those lights were.

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