When Jackie Went to Japan

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Jackie Robinson is welcomed by Koko Kurita during the Brooklyn Dodgers’ tour of Japan in 1956. (Photo courtesy JANM)

By MEGUMI SAKAMOTO

It was surreal to come across my mother’s face on the Internet with Jackie Robinson (posted on the Rafu Shimpo website on June 19). It was the greatest Thanksgiving gift during these unprecedented times.

My mother, Koko Kurita (now Kaestner) when the photo was taken, is now 84 years old and resides in Modesto. She has lived a full life from being Japanese to traveling across the Pacific Ocean to becoming a naturalized American citizen.

She has lived a full life of drama, tragedy, adventure, and perseverance, surviving WWII in Japan and losing her husband, Kenneth Kaestner, to a heart attack nearly 20 years ago. I have attached a picture of her from her wedding day to her late husband.

My mother immigrated to the United States in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics. She never in her wildest dreams thought that meeting Jackie Robinson would lead her to the path of immigrating to the United States, but it did. You would not believe that this same young woman is 84 years old.

Due to COVID-19, she is not actively working, but she is awaiting to return to work for Delta Airlines as a flight attendant.

I just wanted you to know who the woman was in the picture next to Jackie Robinson and that you made my day as a Japanese American to know that my mother was a part of such a special day.

Megumi Sakamoto is a special education resource specialist at Benicia High School (Solano County).

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