~”Nikkei” in Palau~ Interview Series: Vol.4 Secilil Eldebechel


Mr. Secilil Eldebechel is a Senator of Palau National Congress, originally from the state of Ngchesar. His mother was half Palauan and half Japanese and was married to a full Palauan. His mother spoke quite a bit of Japanese. His grandfather who is Japanese moved to Ngchesar State from Okinawa prefecture in Japan as one of the farmers before World War II began.
Mr. Eldebechel is 55 years old, an alumnus at Palau High School, attended Palau Community College and graduated from Hawaii Pacific University in 1994 with Bachelor’s degree in Public Finance.
His mother’s Japanese family name is Yamashiro, originating from Okinawa, Japan. His grandfather’s name is Yamashiro Nabesuke, and he used to work in Palau as a farmer along other Palauan and Japanese people under the Japanese administration.
After the war, an order came out sending all Okinawa citizens who were working in Ngchesar back to Okinawa. However, at that time, Yamashiro already had 3 children with his Palauan wife, which made it difficult for him to leave Palau. Eventually, Yamashiro hid himself in the woods for a few weeks and waited for the boat to depart for Japan so he could stay with his wife and children.
Mr. Eldebchel was at a very young age when his grandfather, Yamashiro passed away so he grew up not knowing a lot about his Japanese bloodline. He had an opportunity to visit Okinawa in 2020 to further his search for his ancestry. With very limited information on his grandfather’s family name ‘Yamashiro,’ he had hard time looking for his relatives.
After visiting small towns and asking people around in Okinawa, he found a man who was connected to his grandfather’s father. He showed Mr. Eldebchel a map of a family tree that is believed to be connected to Mr. Eldebechel’s grandfather. As the man realized the connection they had, he got emotional while sharing family stories.
During his visit to Okinawa, Mr. Eldebechel enjoyed Okinawa’s food such as Sushi, Sashimi and other sophisticated dishes originated in Okinawa. He loves the food and the place that he even sees himself living in Okinawa one day.
Mr. Eldebechel hopes the government of Japan could help more Palauans with Japanese ancestry like him connect with their relatives in Japan, which he believes will strengthen the bond between Palau and Japan and further the relations between the two countries throughout generations.