The Metal Cup

Overhead view of the cup
Overhead view of the cup

Knowing my grandfather was a first-generation Japanese-American, I assumed we would have an interesting discussion about his life. While I anticipated having an in-depth conversation, my grandpa did not have too many much to say. His family was displaced and put in an internment camp shortly after arriving to the United States. At the time he was very young and therefore didn’t really remember it. I began to ask him question and as we discussed he’d make dry remarks that didn’t have much substance. After a while, he seemed to get bored and would respond with jokes. For the most part while we were discussing his life, he didn’t describe anything as affecting him significantly. It wasn’t until he pulled out something from a display cabinet, did we really begin to have a conversation. It was an aluminum cup, scratched on one side was his name “Yasushi” and under sat some numbers that looked like an ID number. The cup was misshapen and looked like it was hand made. When you held it, you could feel that the surface was uneven. On one side sat a makeshift handle, making it resemble a tea cup. To me the cup became a symbol of his experience. The poor-quality, the dents, the scratched-on name became representative of his family’s journey to the United States. The struggle they faced and the things they endured for the sake of better opportunities. It breathed life into a struggle, I knew once only as stories.

Year: 1939

– Kaipo Iseda

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant