Posted by: yoko | March 15, 2005

Words From Childhood 3.3

Today’s word: Ishibashi

Today’s post is in memory of my grandmother, who passed away this weekend.

Ishibashi is a compound word– ishi means stone, and hashi means bridge. (The “h” often changes to a “b” in compound words.) Ishibashi, then, means “stone bridge,” and it is the name of the road where my grandmother lived.

Although my mom’s mother helped take care of me when I was born in Japan, my first memory of my grandmother was when she came to visit my family in the States when I was about 7 years old. She came with a cousin of mine and stayed for a few weeks, visiting a lot of tourist sites in the area. My grandmother had, prior to this trip, never set foot out of Japan, and spoke no English. She was in her late 60s, but I remember her being quite sturdy– when we visited New York City, I remember her walking up the steps within the Statue of Liberty without complaint.

The following year, our family went to visit my grandmother. I remember being enchanted with her house– tatami rooms with futons stored away in closets, a small rock garden with a bamboo fountain, and a sunken kitchen. There was a patch of grass on the side of the house that was blue, and I had made up a song about blue grass that I sang to my sister.

The house was on the side of a hill in the village, and there were stone steps that lead up to it. During this visit, I wanted to explore the area, so I told my sister to stay at the top of the steps while I went down the hill. I went around, looking at the different houses and walking along the paths, and went back up the steps after a fashion. My sister was nowhere to be found. I panicked, went up and down the steps several times, having no idea where I was, for there were no street signs. (I wouldn’t have been able to read them back then anyway.) Finally, a group of women found me crying hysterically along the road, and with a lot of difficulty, I managed to write down my grandmother’s name and her address in simple hiragana. The village had a PA system that announced that I was lost, and my mom came to fetch me home. My mom and my grandmother told this story for years afterward.

I have lots of fond memories of our visit, though, that probably deserve to have posts of their own.

The last time I saw my grandmother was about ten years ago, when I came to visit by myself. She was still very healthy then– would get up around 6 every morning to do all the chores in the house– sweep, do the laundry, make breakfast. One day, she had gotten a box of old photographs she had collected and was telling me stories about all my relatives. My mom had been sending her pictures of me and my sister all along, and I was amazed that she had kept up with our lives back in the States through pictures and letters.

My grandmother was 96. I wish her well.



  1. Oh Yoko! What a lovely remembrance of your Grandmother. I’m so sorry!

  2. She sounded like an amazing woman. I feel sad most of all for your mother. But I agree, what a beautiful memory.

  3. Hi Lipby– good to see you here.
    My mom is actually taking it very well. When I talked to her this weekend, she told me that she thought it was good that my grandmother was finally at peace. My grandmother had been sick for a while, but she had such a strong will that kept her going. She died in her sleep.

    Thanks for the kind words, Peth.

  4. That’s beautiful.

  5. Sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    The Japanese elderly are amazing! When I lived there in the late 1990s I climbed a 900-meter mountain with my high school students. It was stairs almost all the way up, and even less than halfway I was really struggling. But there were many older people who just passed by and smiled, with totally effortless looks on their faces. I also was always in awe of the very old woman in my little neighborhood who pushed around a huge wooden cart of fresh fish for sale now and then. I’m sure your grandmother was equally fierce right to the end.

    Take care…

  6. I just wanted to say I’m very sorry for your loss, but have to echo: what a beautiful way to remember her.

  7. sorry to hear about your grandmother! sounds like she was a really neat lady.

  8. So sorry to hear about your grandmother, but what wonderful memories you have of her!

  9. So sorry to hear about your grandmother.

  10. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories. I hope they give you peace.

  11. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  12. oh yoko. i’m sorry to hear this.

  13. Thanks, everyone, for the kind words and thoughts.

  14. I feel like a cad that I didn’t read this before meeting you last night.

    I’m very sorry for your loss.

  15. Yoko, I’m sorry to read about your grandmother’s passing. I wish you well.

  16. Yoko,

    I loved reading your story. Thanks for sharing your memories of your grandmother.



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