~”Nikkei” in Palau~ Interview Series: Vol.2 Ms. Rosemary Mersai
Ms. Rosemary Mersai is a third generation Japanese- Palauan whose father and mother are both half Japanese. Both her parents would speak Japanese whenever they would not want their children to know what they were saying. Ms. Mersai said that was what made her want to learn Japanese when she was young.
Ms. Mersai’s maternal grandfather was a Japanese named Adachi, and was working in the Japanese administration in Palau during the period of Japanese administration before WWII. He knew the famous Japanese artist Hisakatsu Hijikata who introduced storyboard carving to Palauans, and he sent his daughter (Rosemary’s mother) to Mr. Hijikata’s place in Japan when she was 16 years old to learn how to sew. She stayed there for 2 years.
Having grown up listening to her mother’s memories from Japan, Ms. Mersai had a chance to visit Yamabe, Yamagata prefecture to see her mother’s relatives later in her life. Ms. Mersai’s cousin from her mother’s side, Mr. Yoshitaka Adachi is the former Governor of Koror State.
Ms. Mersai’s father was a businessman and had a Japanese friend who sponsored Ms. Mersai when she went to school in Japan at Kwansei Gakuin University. Her sponsor helped make arrangements for her to enter University as an audit student. Not knowing she was just an audit student, she took all the courses and studied hard. At the end of her senior year, a professor called her in and told her that because she took all the requirements and her grades were very good, she would graduate with a degree in Economics.
Right after returning to Palau from Japan in 1970, she accepted a job offer to work at Palau High School. After teaching Japanese for many years, she became the principal in 1995. She had continued to work energetically in various positions there until she retired in 2013.
She loves Japanese food and the language. It was easy for her to learn Japanese language for the first three months in Japan, because it is similar to Palauan language. She had known some of the Japanese words such as ringo and tamanegi were Palauan words. Ms. Mersai bought a kanji dictionary for Japanese grade from 1 to 6 and also watched manga to help her learn the Japanese language. After three months, she became so fluent that people thought she was actually a Japanese, not a foreign student.
Ms. Mersai believes that the relationship between Japan and Palau will grow stronger due to the close location and the history that will continue to be shared throughout generations.