Leslie D. Helm's decision to adopt Japanese children launches him on a personal journey through his family's 140 years in Japan, beginning with his great-grandfather, who worked as a military advisor in 1870 and defied custom to marry his Japanese mistress. The family's poignant experiences of love and war help Helm overcome his cynicism and embrace his Japanese and American heritage.
This is the first book to look at Japan across five generations, with perspective that is both from the inside and through foreign eyes. Helm draws on his great-grandfather's unpublished memoir and a wealth of primary source material to bring his family history to life.
Leslie D. Helm is a veteran foreign correspondent, having served eight years in Tokyo for Business Week and the Los Angeles Times. Currently, he is editor of Seattle Business, a monthly magazine that has won multiple first place excellence in journalism awards in the Pacific Northwest. Helm earned a master's degree in journalism from the Columbia University School of Journalism and in Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley. He was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, where his family has lived since 1868.
Helm was the Tokyo correspondent for the Los Angeles Times when he realized that the majority of the articles he had written were "critical of Japan in some way." This was surprising considering Helm was born in Japan and is part Japanese himself. In this lovingly researched memoir, he sifts through five generations of Helms living in Japan. The first, Julius, arrived in Japan by way of Germany in 1869. Having missed his boat to China by "the length of nose," Julius whimsically "booked passage on the next ship, which happened to be headed for Yokohama." After a brief stint training former samurai to fight like "Prussians", Julius married a Japanese woman, a highly unusual arrangement for the time. The Helm family story certainly wends an interesting course through history from the Meiji Restoration through the World Wars history buffs will relish Helm's painstaking detail and impressive command of the material. Some of the most endearing and personal scenes interwoven throughout the book are of Helm and his wife's process of adopting two Japanese children, Mariko and Eric. Through joys and anxieties, the present-day Helms examine what family ties really mean.