Reunion connects family from Coweta, Japan and Brazil
Six decades would elapse before she would see her siblings again.
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In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Japan was in the midst of post-war recovery after the country’s defeat in World War II. Economic hardship pressed down on the island like a hot iron. Streets overflowed with war widows, orphans, demoralized ex-soldiers and the unemployed. Homelessness, starvation, prostitution and communicable diseases thrived like bacteria in a petri dish. Whispers of communism wafted over the country with the ocean breeze.
Shingo Inagaki needed to get his family out of Japan. He also desired a relationship with his father, Shinkichi Yamashita, who had left him to be raised by an aunt and uncle while he tapped the dark, rich soil of Brazil, becoming a wealthy coffee plantation owner. On a visit to Japan, Yamashita convinced his son, “Brazil is the country of the future; a man can become wealthy there.” Inagaki started packing.
“First we went to Amazonas, but within a year my dad realized this was not the place for us,” said Skelton, a Newnan resident for 25 years. “Then we went to Sao Paolo to be closer to his dad, but it was hard for my dad to work in the plantation after working as a railroad engineer in Japan.”
Over the years, Inagaki jumped from job to job, always making a decent living for his family, but never realizing the fortune his father had promised. In the end, Inagaki settled into his true calling, that of a Buddhist priest. He passed away in 1983; his wife, Kimiyo Inagaki, in 2004.
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Today, the Inagaki children are all grown and scattered across three continents. Thanks to the careful planning of Bill Skelton, Heloisa’s husband and manager of the Powell Public Library in Newnan, four of the five siblings were able to reunite for 10 days beginning on June 30.
From their modest ranch-style home near Thomas Crossroads — a large Japanese flag greeting guests from their front porch — the Skeltons welcomed Heloisa’s sisters and one brother, Motoko Yoneda of Japan, and Hiroko Shikata and Tadao Inagaki of Brazil. Yoneda’s two children, Shigeo Yoneda and Etsuko Kitada, and Kitada’s husband, Miyoshi, traveled with their mother. Kitada, now 59, was the baby Yoneda held in her arms six decades earlier.