“My married name is Carolyn Eckert, my given name was Carolyn Anderson, but once, for a short time, it was something else... It was Chie Iwahigashi.”
I was born on June 4, 1953 in Tokyo, Japan and adopted by Chaplain Col. Wilber K. Anderson and his wife Virginia Gunn-Anderson - a couple who already had three sons - on March 25, 1955.
Upon adoption, my name was changed to Carolyn Marie Anderson, and I was deleted from my birth family registry in Japan. It would take five months before they could take me home to the U.S.A.
And it would take a life-time of searching for my birth mother, before I found her and returned to Japan.
In 1989, I returned to Japan to meet my birth mother and 2 of 4 siblings. I was very thankful for the opportunity to meet my birth mom and some of my siblings. I had a close Japanese friend who organized the trip and translated for me.
The meeting was awkward at first, as we attempted to communicate via translator and there was no outward expression of excitement or warmth or wanting to communicate much.
But as the evening went on, my birth mom opened up a little bit and even let me give her a hug and then sit next to her at dinner. I was treated to a very fancy dinner in a nice restaurant and given a beautiful Kimono.
It wasn’t until recently, when other good Japanese friends explained the cultural significance of the details of the night, that I understood the cultural norms of behavior (Japanese are very reserved) and the importance of the Kimono I was given. It was custom made and very expensive -- a gift that carried all the words and sentiment left unspoken.
My main purpose for going was to thank my birth mother for caring enough for me and my well-being to put me up for adoption. Mixed/ non-Japanese looking children were treated very badly, even killed in Japan in those days. I wanted to tell her how grateful I was for her efforts to give me a better life and let her know I did have a wonderful life in America. I was able to show her pictures of my husband and 4 children (her grandchildren).
For years afterward, I didn’t hear anything from Japan, though I sent cards…. Then out of the blue, my niece (daughter of one of my sisters I met on that trip), started emailing me. It has been very exciting to share photos and information back and forth (at least as best we can with my niece’s limited English and I not knowing Japanese at all). We kept in touch until my birth mother died in May 2014. My niece had sent word that she was dying and sent pictures of her in the end, as well as pictures of the funeral, burial site and family home.
I am still searching for information on my biological father and other siblings. I am trying to find out information from Japan and my Japanese family, but haven’t had any luck so far. I did my DNA through Ancestry 3 years ago to try this avenue. So far, I have found several “relatives” from the Tennessee area and several cousins, some who were also adopted and searching for missing links in their story as well. Some have been more helpful than others, but I keep trying to piece together bits of information and figure out who my biological father may be.
Through ancestry DNA and military records I have found out who my bio father was. It’s been an exciting journey finding my American bio family. I have 3 half-siblings on the west coast and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins in the Indiana area. I also have another half- sibling on ancestry, who hasn't responded.
My new journey is to reconnect with my half-Japanese siblings in Japan ... I ‘m hoping to make my second trip home next year!