Karen’s Blog

Thoughts on a changing profession and life

Images on My Mother’s Day

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At 17 my father Steven Kasmauski was far from his home on a Michigan farm. As World War II began, he joined the Navy, became a Seabee and worked in the jungles of the Philippines building runways and camps for our troops.

During this time, he bought a small camera and began photographing his life. He continued photographing throughout his 35 year-long Navy career.

Left my father Steve on a street corner in Tokyo's Ginza district.  Right, the same area today.

Left my father Steve on a street corner in Tokyo’s Ginza district. Right, the same area today.

In the early1950’s when Japan was still recovering from the devastation of war Steve was assigned to Yokosuka Naval Base. He was in his mid-20’s. Not long after arriving, he met a young Japanese woman named Emiko. They eventually married and became my parents.

Left, my father, Steve Kasmauski with three brothers in law, by the beach in Sajima. Right, the same scene today.

Left, my father, Steve Kasmauski with three brothers in law, by the beach in Sajima. Right, the same scene today.

By this time my father had upgraded to a professional camera—a Nikon S rangefinder. He recorded the exotic life around the coastal city of Yokosuka and in the small fishing village of Saijima—my mother’s home.

Left, the beach at Sajima, right, the same area today.

Left, the beach at Sajima, right, the same area today.

I grew up looking at those images. I often wondered what it was like for a Michigan farm boy to have arrived in such a place. Sometimes, I think he might have said it was quite familiar, perhaps like Spring Lake, the small fishing town where he grew up.

Nikon no longer makes a rangefinder camera like the one my father used. The locations he photographed have changed so radically that trying to find a few of them this past spring proved extraordinarily difficult.

Left, Yokosuka Naval Base in the early 1950s where I was born. Right, me in front of the Naval hospital today.

Left, Yokosuka Naval Base in the early 1950s where I was born. Right, me in front of the Naval hospital today.

In April I led a photography expedition in Japan for National Geographic. After the trip ended, I spent two days with my cousin Kazuo. His mother was the oldest of six sisters. My mother was the youngest. Kazuo drove me around Tokyo, Yokosuka and Saijima, trying to find the locations my father photographed 60 years ago.

Hardest to find was the place where my father did a “selfie” (with the help of a buddy) under a Ginza road sign.

Left, my mother overlooking her family home in the early 1950s.  Right, the same location today, blocked by a huge concrete wall

Left, my mother overlooking her family home in the early 1950s. Right, the same location today, blocked by a huge concrete wall

It was a melancholy journey for me. The locations were beyond recognition. The hill where my mother stood looking over the roof tops of her family home was replaced by a concrete wall.

Since I started working on the War Bride film, I’ve journeyed though that world my mother lived in as a young girl. My road map has been the still images my father created. They speak to me across half a century, connecting me to my roots, my mother and my father.

Written by kasmauski

May 11, 2015 at 2:36 am

One Response

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  1. I’m in love with your blog. Thank you. I love the history. Date: Mon, 11 May 2015 02:36:55 +0000 To: bellaclk@msn.com

    CHERYL ZORN

    May 27, 2015 at 2:53 pm


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