Yamamba: A Tribute* to Emi

When we came to live in this mountain by the sea, one of the first persons we met was Emi Kimura and her husband. Her face, tanned from so many days spent on the sea, becomes crinkled with animation as she talks.

She is the one who taught me how to harvest hijiki or iwa-nori. Or how to find natural oysters and crack them free from the rocks. She knows more about the ocean and its creatures than a biologist!

Most important of all, she is generous with her knowledge and with her catch of the day! One evening she and her husband came ashore and they had only one abalone, but she gave it to us!

She is truly the most amazing person I have encountered in my 60- some years! She has her own fishing boat with a 10 horse power motor. Kimura-san is especially good at spearing octopus and always gives us some! She taught me to reach up under its head and turn it inside out to remove the innards by hand.

Every time one of the kids or Moeko or Kim comes down for a visit, she’ll end up talking to them, showing them how to find edible seafood or letting them pick a pumpkin or sweet potatoes from her garden. In winter, she supplies us with mikan oranges from her orchard. Rob even got to go on her boat and spear octopus.



Hiroo and I always say that Yasu-ura is a good place because the Kimuras were here for us and taught us everything. ” They showed such great kindness to us in every way. Last June, he died and she is not quite over the shock now.



Mr. Kimura was soft-spoken and a little shy. He helped my husband to create an anchor and pulley to keep our boat in the harbor. One day, he brought Hiroo a hand-drawn map. It showed all the areas where each variety of fish could be found, information culled over the years he spent fishing this cove. Why did he give this map to us  instead of to his own son?  Hiroo treasures it.

Emi is a very creative person. On New Years, at the Tondo Festival, she’ll make the zodiac animal of the year. I can remember the bull she made 2 years ago. I was born in the year of the bull, it’s my eto.

I once asked her to make a decoration for my Christmas cooking class. She made two wreathes. one for the door and one to “eat.” It was made of mikan oranges!

Emi is 13 years older than I, but I aspire to be like her in even a small way. She doesn’t think of young people who build a bonfire on the beach and leave empty beer cans as intruders. She’ll go and talk to them and then ask that they are careful to put out the fire well when they leave.

I sometimes forget that God favored us by giving us this land. I sometimes resent noisy picnickers who leave their trash. I resent people who come up the trail and pick wild vegetables ( and even some we planted) without asking. Then I remember Emi. I realize that God gives us all things in abundance so we can share. If I can be like Emi in even one way, this is what I choose to learn.

When Kim came for a few days, she and Baba did their improvised “bird dance” for Emi. We asked to take a picture together and Emi let down her ponytail, shook her hair out wild and welcomed them to take a picture with “Yamamba.”

The yamamba is an old woman living in the mountains who lives by her nature skills. Emi uses every part of nature to live. She takes seaweed to dry and use as fertilizer, finds food in the sea and in the mountain and grows her own vegetables, which she is also generous with!

How lucky I am to have known her! I hope we still have many great times together!

tribute: a gift or speech given as an expression of gratitude or esteem;

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. beckynielsen
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 15:15:42

    I love hearing about your neighbors and Emi sounds like a woman full of wisdom and generosity. She is one of those everyday saints we occasionally find our selves blessed to know. Thank you for sharing some of her lessons.


    • leahmama1
      Mar 17, 2012 @ 12:45:29

      Hi, Becky> Do you write on your blog often? I can’t find it now. Maybe if I go back through thingaday? Well, I found your shop instead and saw many lovely items. I liked the pocket icon. I will browse it some more. Also saw an old photo for sale but am not sure if that is also your shop or not.


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