Twice-adopted U.S. singer-songwriter returns to Okinawa after 27 years

Twice-adopted U.S. singer-songwriter returns to Okinawa after 27 years

Crystal Joy Kinjyo says, “While I was unable to meet with her face-to-face, I always feel that my Okinawan mother is looking out for me,” on May 11 at Ryukyu Shimpo office in Izumizaki, Naha City


May 18, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Chie Tome


“Dear Okinawan mom in heaven, thank you for making me your daughter.

” Crystal Joy Kinjyo (English name Teesa Houston), age 30, is a vocalist, singer, and songwriter of KOLAJ, a band that is based in Los Angeles.

She had grown up in the United States not knowing that she had been adopted twice in Okinawa.

Now that she has a career as a professional musician, Crystal decided to spend time looking into her roots, which she had been ignoring up until recently. For the first time in 27 years, she returned to Okinawa.


Crystal was originally born in Nagoya City to Filipino parents.

But due to overlapping complications, such as both of her parents working illegally and for being illegal immigrants, she was taken in by Gloria Kinjyo, who was half Okinawan and half Filipino, shortly after she was born.


Up until she was five-months-old, Crystal had lived with Gloria in Naha City.

But due to threats and persistent harassing by Crystal’s biological mother and others, Gloria put her daughter’s safety first and decided to let an American couple living in Okinawa adopt Crystal instead.

Crystal became an American and traveled to the continental U.S. when she was two-years-old.


Crystal looked back on her adolescence and said, “My U.S. parents who raised me had told me that my biological mother was an Okinawan woman who had been raped by a U.S. soldier.

I didn’t want to know that kind of background and I never thought of seeking the truth.”


Things changed in 2015, when Crystal started her career as a professional musician.

This is when she decided it was necessary for her to re-evaluate her own identity.

All she had was her Okinawan mother’s name, Gloria Kinjyo.

She collected information using her mother’s name at the Filipino Embassy.

She was able to obtain Gloria’s address and contact information in Okinawa.

For the first time in 25 years, Crystal made contact with Gloria via a social networking site (SNS) and discovered the true story.

They had promised to meet one another, however Gloria passed away at age 57 due to an illness last July, so they were unable to see each other again.


But Crystal at least wanted to hug Gloria’s grave, so she still decided to travel to Okinawa.

She was able to meet Gloria’s older brother and nieces, along with visiting places connected to Gloria.

She was also able to talk with people who knew Gloria.

The more she got to know Gloria through stories, the more similarities she found, such as being good at song and dance, along with having a strong sense of justice.

Having similar characteristics to Gloria despite not being related by blood, Crystal felt a “mother-daughter bond.”


She said, “If back then, my Okinawan mother had not taken me from my biological mother, then I may have gotten involved in drugs and prostitution.” She was touched by the bravery and deep love of an Uchinanchu woman, who took in another person’s child regardless of her own safety.


“My Okinawa mother is my angel.

I would like to cherish this island that my mother lived on as a second home.

” Crystal, facing her past for the first time, renewed her enthusiasm toward her career and said, “I would like to express an even more true-to-life version of myself in my songs.”


(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)


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