Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Adjusting To A Different Life

We enjoyed the time together immensely mainly because when I first arrived in Japan Tom had to work and actually put in additional hours, so we really didn't have a chance to bond as much as we should have.

I got into a routine of rising early with Tom, fixing coffee, toast for breakfast...seeing him off for the day.  I turned my attention to the house.  Several of the rooms were made with tatami mats so those could be swept with ease...there were large sliding glass doors on all the rooms...leading to an outside veranda..so sweeping everything right out the doors was an easy task to fullfill.  The floors actually stayed very clean because of not wearing any shoes in the house.  Oh that I could adopt that here...wonderful rule!

We had a small kitchen with a table that was big enough for two to eat at...the refrigerator was tiny by today's standards...which meant that we had to shop often and basically used fresh not frozen foods.  At the far end of the kitchen there was a small tiled room which was the "o-furo" or Japanese bath.  You basically washed yourself outside of the tub, poured water over you and then soaked in a hot tub.  The first time that I lit the gas jets for the tub I waited too long and the blast back burnt all the hair off my right arm....boy, I learned in a hurry how to do it correctly.

This little western style house was really very cute, there were four of the same style and we shared a courtyard.  The neighbors were basically friendly, a little reserved because I didn't speak too much Japanese at that point. Almost all the women with children stayed home and tended house, shopping, cleaning etc.  Some days, my motherinlaw (Oba-san) would travel in from Tamagawa to visit us, we managed to speak to each other through limited words and drawing pictures.

After several weeks of being home I was really bored.  I had my secretarial experience to fall back on and told Tom that until we had children I would really like to go back to work.  Tom had learned of an American engineering company that needed a part-time secretary...it wasfor Wean Engineering, I applied and got the job.  I worked only three days a week but it helped us financially and also helped with the boredom.  Then Tom's company, Okura & Co., needed someone to work with the young executives that were going abroad...to help improve their English Conversation. So I found myself, once again, a volunteer...three nights a week at the Okura offices.  It was very interesting to deal with young men the same age as myself, but with a different view of the world.

I decided the best way to teach them would be for everyone to read the English newspaper, at least the top stories and then we would discuss them at length.  Well, of course, I found myself having to defend America on many occasions first because of the Viet Nam War and then we had the spy plane incident with Korea....so you can imagine how lively the english conversation went.  None of us lost control though.

Shortly after this, we discovered that we were going to have a baby!  Both Tom and I were so happy!  I continued to work until it became uncomfortable to travel the bus and trains......then I applied myself to preparing for baby.  My folks were happy to hear my news this would be the first grandbaby on both sides.....although my Mom told me she felt she was too young at 42 to be a grandmother.......


Monday, November 15, 2004

Learning A New Culture

I looked forward to seeing a bit more of the city and learning more about the culture of Japan.  My other boss, Danny Nakajima, had bought me Japanese language books and helped me study a bit in order to prepare for my arrival in Japan.  I really appreciated what he did, and he was to be a good friend over the coming years.

When Tom's mother found out that he was to marry a foreigner her reaction was very stoic, she proceeded to search for, find and buy a western style house that would be suitable for her son and myself.  Coming from a country where newlyweds start off on their own - building as they go, I found it strange to have everything handed to us on a golden plate.  It was then that I learned that his Mother had done very well with investments, land opportunities, stock, bonds  and such.

Our wedding was to take place on April 24th in Tokyo, we needed to find a church and reception hall.  My Mother, Father and two sisters were going to fly in the week before the wedding and I was so excited.  I already had my gown, my steamer trunk had arrived safely - with all my little bits and pieces of home tucked inside it. I asked  for my sister Charlene to be my maid of honor and  my little Barbie to be a jr. bridesmaid.  Thinking back now, everything was a blur on the wedding day.  If I didn't have the pictures that I do I would swear it didn't happen.

I remember being in a room in the back of the church waiting for the ceremony processional..and my headpiece slipping...I think I pulled it off in frustration - I have a picture of the minister's wife helping put me back together again.....boy! Talk about feeling like humpty-dumpty.  My dad walked me down the aisle, the ceremony went fine and the reception was to follow at one of the western hotels there.  We had rooms booked at the Hotel New Otani...which had beautiful room and gardens.

We met the next morning with my folks in the hotel's gardens and posed for pictures.  I recently looked at these pictures, I am always amazed at the moments captured in time and the emotions that they evoke.  There is one of Tom lifting me up and pretending to throw me into the pond...of course he didn't - but it makes a good action picure.  My parents and sisters were to leave that afternoon, they were to fly to Greece and visit relatives for several days on their trip back home.  I was beginning to worry about little Barbara because she wasn't eating hardly anything....she was finicky to begin with and the cuisine was not agreeing with her.  It was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to my family, I had no idea when I would see them again.....I was afraid that homesickness was going to set in.

Tom had managed to get two weeks vacation for a honeymoon and we decided to travel to Kyoto and beyond.   Okura owned a inn right below Mt. Fuji so we were also going there.  We traveled in his little faithful Volkswagon and until that trip I had not realized how mountainous Japan was.  I also discovered that I did not like tremendous heights...and I swear everyplace we visited was at the top of some damn mountain!  You must understand that, at that time, the roads were like winding trails up the sides of these mountains with no guide posts, wide enough for one car going one way....we had a bus come right at us from around a curve..to this day I still feel that we escaped a narrow death.

We stayed at one inn that was really beautiful, in the morning you could see Mt. Fuji in the distance with the mist rising and the sun glistening through the clouds shinning on it.  Tom wanted to get a professional massage, which was available, I decided to join him also. Little did I know.  I was used to a gentle, swedish type message....well, this middle aged gentlemen knocked on the shoji screen and entered....he was blind, it seems that years ago...some children were purposely blinded to be able to perform the art of massage more expertly.  Tom had had this type of massage many times before and actually loved it.  I, on the other hand, thought I was going to die!  I felt that every muscle in my body had been totally shredded.  I actually made the man stop because of the pain....but it took me a couple of weeks to work the kinks out of my body.  Believe me, I never asked for a "professional" massage in Japan ever again.

Thankfully it was towards the end of our honeymoon so our plans were not totally ruined.  We were looking forward to our new life together as man and wife.

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Tokyo Finally

Well the plane door closed....it was pretty well booked.  I had a window seat in the coach section right on the edge of the wing of the plane....so I could see everything growing smaller as we lifted higher away. 

I had brought some books to read as I knew it was a long flight..this is all before they had movies or anything for entertainment on board....although they did feed you better than today.   Unfortunately, the person sitting next to me decided I was going to be his "best friend" for the entire trip.  Well, I was trapped he was sitting in the aisle seat the middle was vacant but that didn't stop him from talking for hours.

I asked for a blanket & pillow to try to sleep, he still talked.  I finally got up and went to the little restroom just to get some relief from the constant chatter.  To make matters worse, he smelled of heavy garlic - it permeated the air around him - with each word that he spoke I received the full ripe smell of the garlic. Finally, I was able to pretend to sleep and he fell silent.

I wanted to relax and ready my mind for meeting Tom and his family...I was nervous.  As we were getting ready for the approach to the Tokyo Airport I could see the multitude of beautiful lights coming from the city area.  My "best friend" decided that he was going to "help" me find my way about the airport and make it easier for me to find Tom.  My internal "creep moniter" started shreeking inside my head...I told him "no, thanks"...I didn't have any carry on luggage so I was able to get ahead of him in the plane's aisleway.

I made it through custom's and through the glass enclosed space I could see Tom!  I made through those doors in record time and into his arms!  It was winter and a little bit cold.....but I felt very warm.   Tom had shipped his faithful little grey VW Bug over to Japan when he left, so we put my luggage in and off we went.

It was night when I arrived, so I did not get to see too much of the city as we drove through it. We turned down a small, narrow street that had all types of walls around the houses, real high so that it was hard to see behind any of them.  Tom stopped the car in front of a pretty stone structure and opened a wrought iron gate and proceeded to drive the car into the carport area. The house from the outside looked really nice, it was made of white stucco, some sort of shinny rock - it shone like mica and lots of dark wood.

When we entered the house, the foyer was a large step down from the rest of the hallway...that was so you could sit and remove your shoes.  Even though this was a "western" style house no shoes were to be worn inside. (actually ladies if we were to adapt this to our lives today...our houses would stay alot cleaner).  The hallway in itself was pretty...the little foyer was tiled, there was a dark wooden closet for the shoes to be placed, slippers were provided for everyone too.  The hallway on one side had the same rock tile that was on the outside of the house, the floors were the long wooden plank type...mainly cherrywood.  There was a large sliding door to the left, another sliding door at the far end of the hallway and stairs leading upstairs to the right.

As we entered a very small immaculately groomed Japanese lady bowed to us and said something in Japanese.  Tom turned to me and said "Sandi this is my mother....Oka-san" .  I smiled at her and said that I was happy to be there and it was nice to finally meet her.  She did not speak any English...so Tom had to interpret.  Tom explained that his Mother would stay with us at the house as it was not proper for us to stay together until we were married...so she was to be a chaperone.

At that point I had no idea just how determined a lady Tom's mother was.  Little by little I learned about his early life and their struggle to survive during the war and afterwards.   Right then I was just glad to finally be where I wanted to be, to feel loved and wanted....and looking to the future with great eagerness.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Well that afternoon Tom did come back to my parents apartment on his way to Kennedy Airport.  He basically was coming back to do a very old fashioned kind of thing.....ask my Father for my hand in marriage.  I didn't know he was going to do that until he arrived at my door....I held my breathe, had no idea how my Father would respond.  Both he and my Mother had been trying to talk me out of the idea of marrying Tom from the time I had told them that earlier in the day.  They said that people would not accept a mixed marriage easily, we would not be accepted in certain places, people would look down on us for intermingling the races and last but not least...any children that we would have would have a battle on their hands from day one.  Now, mind you my parents are not racists....they were just spelling out to me how cruel the world in general can be when you don't fit their mold or idea of the perfect life to live.

So it was with trepidation that I led Tom into the livingroom to speak to my Father....my Mother and I went back into the kitchen.
It was about ten minutes and the two men came into the kitchen laughing.  My Mother and I exchanged glances (sort of oh no what's going on now)...my Father turned to me and said "Tom has asked for your hand in marriage and I've told him I do not have a problem with your marrying him, in fact you have my blessing."

Whew!! Whatever Tom had said had won the day...my folks never brought up the "problems" that we supposedly would have ever again.  I said my goodbyes to Tom, knowing that I would not see him for at least three months maybe more.  I had alot to get prepared, not only for the wedding but I had to get a visa, a passport, shots ... all kinds of stuff.  Then I found out I couldn't get a long term visa unless I had a job over there to go to or someone would have to write a Letter of Credit for me that would guarantee I would not become penniless over there.

Well, Okura New York, once again came to the forefront and wrote a Letter of Credit for me.  I applied for the visa and passport so that was going along nicely.  I was still working at Okura and trying to learn to speak a little Japanese.  Nakajima-san bought me  some really good English-Japanese language books so I could practice at home too.  My Mom was helping me get everything together for the wedding...we had found a beautiful long gown with a long detachable train..it was beautiful.  I had found a large black steamer trunk, the kind that you used put all those travel stickers on.  I could ship one trunk..so I packed very carefully.

It was like putting little pieces of home into the trunk...I can remember sitting there..thinking is this trunk worthy? Or Not?
So alot of what I had collected throughout the years unfortunately had to stay behind.  My Mom had a spare room that she used for storage so I knew when we came back to the States I could retrieve my treasures.  The weather in Tokyo was very similiar to New York so I packed for the different seasons.  I tell you though I did have moments when I questioned myself .. the thought of traveling l0,000 miles away to a strange land to begin a new life was at times very unnerving.  Tom had begun to write letters to me and they helped tremendously, they brought him closer to me than I had ever been.

The day to leave kept coming closer and closer....a day in January, cold as heck...but I had almost twenty people show up to say goodbye to me at the airport....crazy, nutty wonderful people.  I can still remember the feeling of walking down the airplane corridor, turning and waving goodbye to everyone. Oh, boy...and the kicker was I had not flown in a plane since I was 4 years old.  Here I was flying from New York to LA, changing flights to Hawaii...I had a three day layover in Hawaii and then onto Tokyo.I normally did not drink too much, however, there was a guy on board who insisted that everyone drink his champaigne....so my nerves being what they were I did not protest.  Luckily for me too, as we approached Hawaii we hit a terrible storm, lightening strikes were hitting everywhere - lighting the sky...looking down the island seemed so tiny...I really said a prayer as we approached the landing strip.

The reason for the three day layover was my friend Sal...great guy he had worked at Okura and had joined the Marines. His unit was due to be shipped out to Vietnam. It was when they first started to add more "advisors".  He had been in Hawaii for a couple of months in training...he was looking forward to seeing a face from home.   Sal met my plane, the stews back then used to put leis on every passenger deplaning...I think I still have a book dried piece of the flower somewhere...it was nice having someone who knew their way around show me Hawaii.  It is a beautiful, beautiful place....I was staying at the Hawaiian Village, it was very nice, loved the water too.  I was also hoping when Sal got R&R he could come to Tokyo and be our guest. 

On to Tokyo.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

19 and Alive

Well I got bored pretty quick just sitting home.  Because the tumor had been so large, the surgeon had put in drains so I had to keep my left arm still and in a sling.  There went any idea about typing. I called the office, spoke to Danny Nakajima who was my head boss, he told me that I could come in and possibly fill in at the front desk...where I wouldn't have to type.  I was tremendously grateful.

So I went back to work after about a week and half of recuperating from the surgery...but I was young and full of piss & vinegar then.
I was working for three Japanese men...quite different in their ways from each other - that in itself, amazed me because of stereotyping.  I had never come into contact with any Asian people at all, my only knowledge was from history in school, my love of reading...especially Pearl Buck.  Oh, and my Dad was a Marine in World War II so he had very definite ideas about the Japanese.

Danny was the oldest of the three, very intelligent...spoke English really very well and didn't hesitate to tell you exactly what was on his mind at any given point.
"Shimmy" Shimada was an exceptionally good looking man and boy did he know it! He also was the office cut up and could be relied on to find humor in any subject.
Tom - Takashi Takabayashi...he wasn't an adonis, but there was a huggable bear quality about him that pulled at your heart strings.
His english was exceptional, because he had been used as an interpreter for the American Embassy in Tokyo. He excelled at salesmanship, knew just how to deal with a client and was terrific at closing a deal.  Some of his clients were really big names...WestBend, Werner Ladder Co., just to name a few.

We all worked well together, I became very used to taking dictation, typing - coordinating shipments, bills of lading, various needed documentation...and of course, speaking with clients.  I learned alot from these three gentlemen regarding customer service and it stayed with me my whole life.  The years went on, one year turning into another....our lives changed little...until the year I turned 21.

I had been dating Jimmy for a long time.....he asked me to marry him.....I said "yes"....we set the date for about 6 months away.

I showed up at work with the diamond engagement ring on my finger.....everyone congratulated me - except Tom.  I didn't know how to respond to that, so I just ignored it. 

Two weeks later, I go into work to find that Tom is going to be transferred back to Tokyo.  Danny told me that Tom requested it.
In fact the transfer was going to take place within a week...I thought..."Oh, no..I'll never see him again...I was not happy"
My unhappiness continued to deepen as the week progressed..I realized I didn't want him to leave not just New York...but ME!.

The night before Tom was to leave, the office gave him a party which of course we all attended after work.  Everyone was unhappy to see him go, especially me.  Did you ever have a clear defining moment in your life where everything that you know you should do is laid out right in front of you? That night was my moment of truth.  Because we were in the city so late, Tom had driven in...he offered to drive me home so I didn't have to chance the subways late at night.  I accepted.

The ride started easy enough, conversation was light and carefree mostly about his seeing his Mom after so many years away. The mood turned a little more serious when he asked me "Are you happy? with your engagement?"  That question opened the flood gates..all my emotions came to the forefront...my moment of truth!
"I looked deeply into his eyes and said "No, I'm not happy, not at all - the idea of never seeing YOU again is making me crazy"..Tom's reaction was like a bubbling volcano that deperately needed to vent...."Oh my God! YOU feel that way TOO?"
We fell into each other arms and kissed for the first time....I knew to the very depths of my soul that I had never loved before.

Now I understood Tom's misery at the thought of my engagement. Here was the real reason he requested to return home...what were we to do?  He was to fly out the next afternoon..not much time at all.  We sat and talked for hours that night in his car...finding out more about each other than most people do in a lifetime together.
He asked me to marry him, to come to Tokyo to be his wife....I told him I would.

Now, dawn was approaching fast, I knew I had to go up to my parents apartment (after the surgery my Mom insisted I move back with them).  Tom & I said goodbye...he was to stop back on his way to the airport that day.  As we were saying goodbye in the downstairs hallway...my Dad came flying down the stairs at us... took one look, said..."Oh...you are Okay..." and turned around and went back up the stairs.

As I climbed the stairs to their apartment I was so excited with what had happened that I felt like I floated through the air up the stairs.  My poor Mom & Dad didn't know what to make of me...I had never stayed out that late even with Jimmy. They were so full of questions...all I could do was tell them...."I'm marrying Tom, not Jimmy and I'm going to Japan".  They tried to talk me out of it, talk some sense into me...nothing worked.

Then I faced the horrific ordeal of telling one of the sweetest guys I've ever known that it was all over between us.  Not my best defining moment I tell you.  I cried, he cried...his Mom was totally angry...but she was a control freak anyway.  I gave the ring back and wished him well.  I had no choice...my destiny was written.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


The next day I woke up bright and early, showered, dressed..makeup...coffee - willing myself to again get on the train and take the journey into the city.  I glanced at the wall clock in the kitchen above the refrigerator...the minutes were moving...I had to move.  I gathered my jacket, pocketbook - yelled goodbye to my Mom and ran for the station.  It was only two blocks from our apartment but I was supposed to meet Jimmy and travel into the city with him...I think he was trying to give me some moral support.

Slightly winded I reached the station platform and spied Jimmy about twenty feet from me.  He and I had been dating for about two years and had been friends throughout high school. Jim was really special, very kind, very caring.  He asked me how I felt this morning about what happened the day before.  I told him that I was still upset, but I needed to get over it and concentrate on finding a real job.

We both got off the train at the Wall Street exit...I headed for the agency.  When I arrived there I found that they had arranged three appointments for me.  The first one was with a small publishing firm as a secretary...the interview went well I thought. The man who conducted the interview made the position sound really nice and interesting.  The second appointment was a few blocks away so I walked to it...this one was again with a stock brokerage...there I had to take a typing test...I know I passed. The third interview was with a Japanese Import=Export Company on Church Street.

The people there were very friendly, the position was to be a secretary to three bosses, preparing bills of lading, filling import or export orders, customer service...and fill in on the PBX board when necessary...oh, also learn the teletype machine. I thought that I did well on the interview.  I made my way back to the Agency...the way it worked then...the agency would find out which company wanted to hire me and would let me know after the interview process.   Well, as luck would have it...all three wanted to hire me....so it was my choice.

This is where when you look back on your life you question and ask "What if?"  I choose the Japanese Import Export Company- Okura & Co., Inc. little knowing that by doing so I would open a wonderful chapter in my life.  Life's little choices...such small things can mean such a difference....it constantly amazes me. 

My choice proved to be a good one...after about six months of working there I wound up getting a small studio apartment of my own just to try my wings a bit.  Should of known...though...one month after this I found a lump in my breast and wound up facing surgery at age 19.   Doctor Bruce had told me to keep positive that it was highly unlikely to be cancerous.  I can still remember the terror I did feel....my new company was wonderful..thank God my insurance coverage had kicked in and they were going to let me have three weeks to recuperate. 

Well, the surgery was scheduled - they would do a biopsy while I was on the table, if it came back positive they would proceed with the removal.  I can remember coming to in the post op room and trying to see if I was whole or not. Finally a nurse came over and told me that it had been a benign tumor..which they had removed. I remember thanking God, saying a prayer and falling into an extremely deep sleep for the first time in weeks.

Life can sometime be strange....but I have always found it interesting.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Little History Continued

Well I decided to try my luck in the city.  After all, downtown New York was only about 45 minutes from my house in Queens by the elevated A-Train.  I also decided to be smart about the job search and register with a good employment agency, that way my skills would be put to good use instead of losing them. 

The agency sent me out and I was hired very quickly by a large stock brokerage firm.   I was to be an assistant to the office manager who seemed to be quite a nice lady...because I would be working with bonds etc. I had to go get fingerprinted, bonded and background checked.  It would take a few days for that to be processed so I was told to come in the following Monday at 9 a.m.

I was excited, nicely dressed in a skirt, blouse and jacket and of course the mandatory 3" heels....I literally bounced to the train station with excitement.  Upon arrival, I found that the lady manager had been seriously hurt in a skiing accident over the weekend.  Another assistant showed me to my desk and tried to get me started on what she could for the day.  I wound up doing a bunch of typing and some filing...working my way up to the phones.

I was told that I did well the first day.  The second day was very similiar to the first, except the manager felt well enough to call in and actually assign me projects.  No, problem I was enjoying the work.  The assistant came over to me during the day and asked if I could stay and work overtime as they had a problem that needed additional work done on it and they could use me.  I agreed to do so.   The work progressed slowly, there were about five of us who had stayed....again remember no computers...everything done by hand, typewriter etc.

A strange looking man entered the room where we were working, he was tall, thin dirty blonde hair but his face...oh it was very pox marked, very badly scarred.  He came over to our group and one of the girls introduced me as "the new kid on the block" he was a manager of another area of the company.  Because my manager was not expected back for weeks..the company had assigned him to supervise our section.  I worked overtime Tuesday, Wednesday and on Thursday found myself working alone with the subsitute manager.

It was late by the time we finished...the manager took one of the subways home too so we walked down Wall Street together ... we passed one of the little bistros that they had down there...It was like a little pub...he asked me to come in and have a drink. I agreed and we sat down at a small table in a secluded part of the room. Next thing I know he's telling me that he wants a relationship, and I'd better realize just how much he can do for me or not do depending how I treat him.....he reached into his pocket and pushes a gold key across to me.

I asked "What's this?"  He said..well, I have a really neat set-up here in the city...a friend of mine is in Europe and let's me use his apartment whenever I want.  By this point I was a little frightened of the whole situation and wanted out of there.  I told him I'd have to think about it...just to get out of there.  What a creep!  I finally made it home.

The next day..the other girls were not as friendly..I actually asked the first girl I worked with what was wrong? She said she was sorry that I hadn't been warned about the substitute..but it was all over the office about the two of us.  I told her I didn't do anything.
About 3 P.M. I received a phone call from the woman manager who proceeded to tell me that it was unfortunate but I would have to be let go.  She had gotten a call from a higher up and was told to fire me.  I was hurt, angry...

I had a boyfriend who worked on Wall Street...I called him and as I walked down the street of dreams with tears flowing down my face Jimmy found me.  You know you reach that point that you don't care that people look at you and think "What's wrong with her?"  To have it happen again so quickly...I asked Jimmy..do I have a sign on my head? He was angry too, but used some common sense and told me to go back to the agency to complain.

I was still upset when I entered the agency..I had paid them a heck of alot of money to be placed in a good company.  They calmed me down andarranged some more interviews for the next day.  Which was a good thing...

I'm not particularly beautiful, but in my younger days I was considered "pretty"..but being pretty didn't mean that I was loose or easy.... I was beginning to wonder if there were any decent men out there in the work place.


Monday, October 11, 2004


I'm looking back in retrospect at a very long employment history..
some of my recollections, memories are not so funny...but most were interesting or at the very least a bit of education for someone on how the world worked years ago...and maybe still does

I was one of the youngest persons American Airlines ever hired at Idlewild Airport (now Kennedy) it was a semi-interesting job.  I had graduated on a commercial diploma and excelled at sten & typing...so I was assigned to Seat Selection & also filled in as a secretary when anyone was ill or too busy.  Unfortunately, they put our section downstairs under the main hub, in a locked room that had the overnight safe.  So, you were kind of locked down especially if you were the only one in the room.  Kind of miserable for a l7 year old...so whenever I had the chance to go "up top" I would.  Now Seat Selection, the agent upstairs at the counter would call down to us and we had a layout for each plane departing....they would request a seat and we would give it.  Now, please remember folks..this is before the computer...in fact, I guess I was the computer LOL.

A few funny things happened while I worked there...Frank Sinatra lost a toupee and you would of thought the world ended..ticket agents, gate agents...PR people all running & searching for his topper...LOL...so funny...I have a warped sense of humor.  Then there was the time that Charlton Heston needed to borrow a typewriter and he used MINE...unfortunately I was off that day..he left me a note and the manager took it...wouldn't give it to me.  But he had sat in my chair..typed at my typewriter - it set my l7 year old heart aflutter.   

Then there was an extremely sad occurrence when an American Airlines jet crashed into Jamaica Bay, it had flown into a flock of birds over the marsh sanctuary - they got sucked into the engine and the plane which had just taken off came plunging straight down into the bay.  Even at that young age I think I developed some grey that day...my folks were on standby to fly to California on my pass...they luckily had gotten on the earlier flight.  But I didn't know that.  I didn't know until they called that night that they were not on that flight....it was a horrible day. 

After about a year of this I decided that I would try to transfer out of that particular job.  Well, there was an opening in the baggage area for a secretary - so I applied.  One day as I was waiting for the bus to go home, the supervisor for that Department pulls up in his car and offers me a ride home...I did know him, I was hoping to work with him...so I got in the car.  After a little small talk, he says to me "You really want that job?" I told him "yes, of course I do".   He says to me..."Well, young lady I have a surefire way that you will get the job and he proceeds to tell me just how and in what way I can be "friendly" to him. 

I don't know where I found the strength but I told him he could take his job and shove it.  I told him to stop the car...he pulled over and I quickly exited...it was only a few blocks left to my house so I walked with steam coming out of my head.  To make matters worse I had to go home and tell my parents because my Dad had gotten me the job at American through a close friend.

My Dad's advice was to tell my manager what had happened.  So I did....it went nowhere......I found out later that the manager was a close friend of the jerk (who was also married) they were certainly not going to ruin whatever good thing they had going.  Then I was told that my transfer was turned down, they brought someone in from outside.  I was made to feel uncomfortable on a daily basis as if I was the one who did wrong....so I quit.  That was my welcome to the adult world.

We've come a long way baby since that time the year 1961.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Strolling On The Ginza

Life in the land of the rising sun....well, it was beautiful in the countryside.  We traveled quite a bit when Tom had off from work...it was fun to see how other people lived.  The people that we met were very gracious and bent over backwards to be accomodating to us.

My first love, however, had to be the Ginza - Tokyo's main strip, equivalent to New York's Broadway.  During the day, alive with the hustle and bustle of humanity. Rushing hither & yon to who knew what activity..all very interesting to watch.

Oh, but at night...WOW...the lights, the neon, the vibes......that is my time.  I love New York nights for that reason too.  We tried to travel into the city on a regular basis...I think Tom felt pity for me because of not having too many options to hear English being spoken.  So when a new movie opened...we were first in line...I got to see the first James Bond movie in a Tokyo theater, loving every minute of it.

Coming over on the plane I had met a wonderful woman who was going to work for the US Embassy in Tokyo...as a secretary to the Ambassdor.  Her nickname was "Willie" she was something else. She visited us and came a couple of times to my motherinlaws house for a party.  In turn, I visited the embassy, toured the Ambassdor's private office, lined with momentoes of the Kennedy years, pictures and such.

Walking through parts of the embassy, I always felt like I was entering a church of some kind....also the Marine guards were a bit intimidating...all very very tall..dressed to the T's...standing rigidly at attention.  It actually was impressive.

Through Willie I met a few other girls, so on occasion I would go with them to play Bingo on the base...also sometimes I was able to purchase through them some American items that I was dying to have.  

Of course, as my pregnancy grew I had to tone down my youthful excursions and concentrate on my upcoming "mommy" status....preparing the nest and all that you know.

All my life I have made friends only to "misplace" them because of my moving or their moving...but I loved each and everyone of them...thinking back on these special people...I just have to smile....

Monday, September 20, 2004

Golden Pavilion In The Land of the Rising Sun

Tom, of course, wanted to show off his country to me.  So when we had any time off from work...we took short trips to see the rest of the country.

One of those trips was to Kyoto....a most beautiful city...it's very old and contains alot of Japanese early history.  There is a place called the Golden Pavilion, originally built in the year 1397 it has burnt down several times and always has been rebuilt..the last time it burnt was 1950 by a crazy monk.  They rebuilt it and it is covered in real gold foil leaf...it is extremely beautiful and very peaceful to gaze upon.  The setting is just marvelous too, there are wonderful gardens abounding the pavilion which sits on a pretty lake that is filled with large Japanese Koi fish.

One part of the grounds had moss, so green, so lush that it called out to you to lay down on it. (Of course, I didn't) But from that point on everytime I see a little bit of moss I remember walking in that garden.   So tranquil.......

Kyoto was filled with Temples and sites to see...we must of walked miles..at every turn there was something to see.  Even though I was very young I appreciated the beauty of the ancient days...the architecture of the temples and buildings just put me in awe of what man can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

I think back and I just have to laugh......

Friday, September 17, 2004

Tamagawa Kirei desu ne?

My favorite memories are of Tamagawa at Oka-san's house.  Her house was a typical Japanese style structure, with a little wooden walk way around the outside - giving you a place to sit to remove your shoes, as they were not allowed on the tatami mats.

There were wooden sliding shoji panels or doors that opened up the entire house if they were slid back, you could control the amount of air that you wanted to enter the house that way.  The main room ( would be similiar to our living room) was used for a variety of events. In the center of the room Oka-san had a hole dug through the foundation, finished with wood on the inside..it was deep enough that you could sit on the floor and dangle your legs in it and be comfortable.  So, of course, she had a little table (imagine a mini card table shrunken) that she placed over this and the whole set up became her little dinning table. Looking back, she was cool before there was cool.  Then she found neat little fold up seats with backs that sat directly on the floor. It was a very comfortable arrangement.  In the winter she put a small heating device in the leg well under the table, lifted the top off the table placed a warm blanket which draped over everyone's lap, put the top back on and we were good to go. I loved that table, so when we were transfered back to the States, she gave me a table like the one she had.  That table went through every move we made from Chicago to New York...somehow, it lasted for years...I lovingly packed it to come here to Florida and of all things to be "missing" when my things were delivered, it had to be that.

Oh some other "stuff" was missing too, a salt & pepper collection, an antique key collection - but the table missing hurt.  My kids had grown up with that table, we had eaten so many meals on it and for some reason the food prepared Japanese style always tasted better served on that table. Damm movers anyway.

If you look at the pictures up above those were Oka-san's gardens.  It's a shame that I don't have any of them in full bloom but those huge mounds are Azaleas -  they are tremendously large andabsolutely beautiful. To reference size, my son Kenji, is 6' tall...her plants were very impressive. 

The room that I was speaking about earlier also doubled as a guest bedroom. The room had deep wall closets that held floor futons that were so comfortable. I swear I've not slept in a bed anywhere that was as comfortable as those futons.  It is kind of ingenious the way that the Japanese utilize space...they don't waste space...you eat, you put it away, you sleep, it goes back into the closet...and something else can take place in that space.

Now the one thing that I did not like at all was the kitchen. Oka-san's kitchen was not modern or bright. It reminded me of the old style cooking by a fireplace. It made me nervous, I like to see what I'm doing especially with food preparation.  So as much as I wanted to learn about cooking from her I shied away from it at her house...but whenever she visited me I tried to get her to teach me more and more. Which she did.

For some reason, everytime I had to try some new type of food...all the Japanese around me would giggle. I don't know if my face was giving my thoughts away or what. In the space of one month I had tried the following totally out of my league foods...Marinated Eel (does not taste just like chicken) Genhgis Khan Beef on Brasior (hot, hot, hot) Large Orange Fish Eggs (Yuck)A Soup (made by Oka-san) Miso? but she added little fish dried with BIG eyes (double yuck)and last but not least..Wild Boar, again marinated...did not taste like chicken either. Rather bold and gamey.

I think back to the food episodes and I just have to laugh....hahahahhahah


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shibuya Scenes

We lived a bit away from downtown Tokyo - it took about 40 minutes to get there by bus or train.  Our nearest little city was Shibuya, which from what I understand has retained it's charm and still attracts a lot of the younger business crowd.

Japan was so different for me...everything I did or saw felt like a new experience.  In retrospect, I wish I had learned the language faster than what I did.  I never became totally fluent, but I learned enough to shop, speak a little with Oka-san, order food in a restaurant, and tell taxi drivers where I wanted to go (granted I had to say in Japanese first "Watashi wa shingo no Nihongo desu") translation is "My husband is Japanese"...that statement made them actually stop & listen to me.

Anyway, Shibuya was my favorite place..it had narrow side streets just loaded with little shops of all kinds.  The little restraurants have glass encased showcases that have plastic replica's of their food, the yen amount is shown...so everyone can pick what they want before they even enter. For a gaijen this was a wonderful easy adventure..because I could see what I wanted and knew I was not getting octopus!

Shibuya was also loaded with little bars, and of course bar girls.  Well, my Mama didn't raise a fool, however, I'm broad minded and I was then too or perhaps just a little too inquisitive.  Sometimes Tom & I would go to a couple of his favorite places and everyone was very friendly.  On occasion a couple of the girls taught me how to do some of the bar tricks that they do...you take a napkin, a glass, a coin - wet the rim of the glass, putting only one layer of the paper napkin over the wet rim and pull gently so that it forms a tight fit. Then you place the coin in the center, you take a lighted cigarette and burn little holes trying not to be the one to drop the coin.  It passes time and was good for a bunch of giggles.

I loved Japanese food, still do and I'm glad that Tom and his mother taught me how to cook it.  I guess some things are totally genetic...my son & daughter both are excellent cooks.

One time I had to report to a police station in Shibuya because I had neglected to show some documentation when I first got married..if anything changes on your paperwork you have so many days to get a stamp or something...I kind of felt like a criminal.  Anyway, Tom was able to smooth it over...he should of been a diplomat instead of a salesman. 

I also remember Shibuya because of Kawashima-sensei...happy memories of his painting at his easel, regaling me with tales of his youth..his travels....just a wonderful man.....I have to smile



Monday, September 6, 2004

Past Repeating Itself?



When I wrote the last entry, I had no idea that Japan was

actually undergoing similiar conditions....but 38 years later.
They had a cyclone hit the southern portion of Japan, and at the same time several pretty heavy earthquakes hit too.

I guess I feel safer here in Florida with Hurricane Francis and is it Igor? No..Ivan on it's way.  I think it's determined to get us. It's been a very long day I'm going to bed.....Sun will be out tommorrow, tommorrow....(hopefully - cabin fever is setting in)





Thursday, September 2, 2004

Typhoon, Earthquake..Spin & Shake

With these hurricanes coming one right after another...it's making me relive other storms.

Our house in Setagayaku was a two story frame, brick and alot of slate rock. None of the windows were windows like we have here.  All were sliding doors...the outer doors slid...the inner doors slid into a pocket.  The outer doors had a larger pocket built on the outside of the house and in that pocket was space for these metal pull out storms doors. 

Throughout the house there were over ten of these doors...and boy, it was not easy to pull those metal doors out.  You had to position your glass sliding doors just so, then slide over them the metal ones...to seal the last one you had to go out your front door and do it from outside.  Just the preparation knocked me for a loop.

Coming from safe secure NewYork I was not ready for a Typhoon.  Anyway, the news said the storm would hit during the night..and pretty close to Tokyo...so we shuttered ourselves in like sardines in can..with no view of the outside.

Somehow, that night, we managed to hold it together...did our normal routine, dinner, conversation, listening to the radio broadcasts..we could hear the wind pounding on the outside of the house.  Because of the metal doors it had a weird sound to it...almost alive.

Close to midnight, we decided it was safe enough to try to sleep.  The storm was still raging as I laid my head upon the pillow...before I knew it I must have fallen asleep.  Well! All of a sudden I feel myself being thrown out of the bed!  I awoke to find myself sitting next to the bed on the floor and the floor was shaking!

This was all too much for me, I just started crying.   Tom could not reach me fast enough, as he came to my side he said..."Oh, my God! We are having an earthquake too!"

He helped me up and headed me towards the center of the house, inside a hallway that had a doorway that we stood under...all the while the house is shaking, rolling.  I could hear objects falling in the house, pictures off the walls, God knew what else...you can't do anything.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, it stopped. We were happy that we weren't hurt, the house seemed okay except for a few foundation cracks that could be repaired.  Alot of the little things I had placed around the house were broken though.  I used to love to collect old colored glass bottles in different sizes...they fell, a friend of mine had given me a pre-Columbian statue..a small one...it broke into three pieces (still have it just for sentimental value) the pictures were fine.

So we prepared to unzip the house...as we opened each door...it was remarkable - a brighter, prettier day than I had ever seen there.  It was as if God had decided to wash away all the dirt and grime from the city.  I stepped out on the little veranda and breathed in deeply....it was so beautiful.  When I think of the day after...I just have to smile....


Monday, August 30, 2004

Cherry Blossoms Falling at Oka-san's Tamagawa

I think this needs to be printed in green..only because when I think of Tamagawa I remember the beautiful greenery growing in tiers along the mountainside.  The pictures above are of my son, Kenji, at three months, then again on his visit to his Oba-chan when he was fifteen.  As you can see from the picture, Katsuko-san (Oka-san) was a little bit of a woman, but man was she made of steel.

Katsuko-san was born outside of Tokyo in l903. Women of those years had very little to say about their future.  She was born into a good family and they were eager to marry her to someone with a bit of standing in the community.  Things were not looking too bright however, because although she had tremendous grace, humility, gentleness, alas she was not born to beauty.  So the young years passed and still no marriage proposal...her parents were beside themselves.

Break away to several thousand miles away, in cold Canada, a young Japanese businessman, Enji-san, is trying to learn the family business...which includes the lumber business.  Being young, being male..and being free in a foreign country, he finds himself over indulging in certain areas of enjoyment, much to the consternation of his family.

Well, what is to be done?  The man's family decided to give him an ultimatum...agree to marry a woman of their choice or he would be outcast by the family.  As he was only a third or fourth son...he knew they were serious.  He was to return to Tokyo at once. 

Meanwhile, one Uncle of Katsuko-san knew someone in this young man's family...so he proposed to the man's family that Katsuko-san would make an excellent wife for Enji-san.  Now mind you, neither of them had a say in the matter.

So it came upon a day that Katsuko-san & Enji-san were married...and established a home in Tamagawa=gakuen.  A home built on the side of a mountain, overlooking a huge row of cherry trees, with tremendous mounds of azaleas ablaze with every color.

Takashi (Tom) was born in 1933, his mother doted on him.  Although theirs was not a love relationship, they grew to respect one another and both had tremendous love for their son.  For the first 6 years of his life Tom thrilled at doing things with his dad.  Years later he would tell me the stories that his father had told him.  About discoveries yet to come, like the fact that he knew that television would come into everyone's life the way it has....Tom telling me the story would shake his head saying "all those years ago, how did he know?"  I think, as I told Tom, that his father was a dreamer and sometimes dreamers get a real glimpse of the future - look at Michaelangelino.

Everything changed. War does that.  And not in good ways.  Enji-san was called, because he was a chemist, to join the army and ship out to Korea. What went through their minds I cannot say, the older Japanese were trained to honor their Emperor, to die for him - so if told to go - they went.

Katsuko-san and Takashi were left to themselves at Tamagawa.  She was resilient and resourceful, she planted every type of vegetable seed she could get her hands on.  I think, she knew in her heart, just how bad things would get.  Tom would tell me years later that they survived on yams and daikon to the point that he never wanted those foods on the table. 

One of the first things that Oka-san showed me when I visited Tamagawa for the first time was a huge cave that had been cut into the mountainside, it sat directly behind her house. The opening was covered with cobwebs, being the unbrave soul that I am, I declined to enter that dark place.  But she and Tom had spent many a day hiding in there because of the B-52 bombers that were doing the strafing runs over Tokyo.  This was a place that had protected them, I was at a loss for words to say.

Katsuko-san did not have it easy, every day was a struggle for survival for her and her son.  In 1943, when Tom turned ten, they learned Enji-san had fallen ill and died from the illness in Korea. His ashes were brought home for burial with Shinto rites.  So, no matter which way the war went, they were on their own.  Enji-san's family would not offer help during this period, so this little lady of steel decided to sell some of the Tamagawa property....there were alot of acres.

Katsuko-san sold a small piece, held onto her own, sent her son to a good grade school, then onto college..all the time she was learning to invest, buy houses, apartments...stocks.  She knew what it meant to do without and she was making darn sure it wasn't happening again.

She passed in 2000 at the age of ninety-eight. I'm sure, if heaven exists...she's there tending her garden.

I can close my eyes and I'm back at Tamagawa overlooking from the hill a row of cherry trees in full blossom...the wind was blowing the little pink blossoms as if they were snow - such a beautiful sight.  It's in my memory forever and I just have to smile.






Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Never Drink The Water

Well, I found that time was almost standing still throughout my pregnancy.  It was a time that I missed my family terribly, because of the unknown.

I busied myself with housework, writing constant streams of letters home, my weekly visit to Kawashima-sensei, learning to cook Japanese (which I still do to this day), poor Tom ate all my "experiments" with immense fortitude.  He knew I was trying and never complained.

Our house was a comfortable one, when Tom and his mother bought it they had been very considerate of me.  The livingroom, kitchen, upstairs bathroom were all western style...the dinning room,and two bedrooms were tatami style.  Downstairs there was a small bath room called an O-furo, all tiled with a nice size cedar round tub that one bathed in.  You washed outside the tub on the tile, rinsed off and got into the tub.

Toilets are never in the bath room..totally separate. We also had, in the kitchen, water coming in from the city and also a tap for well water...right next to each other.  Well, I really screwed up rather badly and somehow wound up drinking from the wrong tap.

I have never been that sick in my life.  I actually gave myself dysentry, which is like "Revenge of Montazuma" meets "Godzilla" in your stomach!  I found that I could barely walk, poor Tom had to half carry me to the car so that we could get to a doctor fast.  It's a good thing he did, I had lost almost five pounds of fluid in just a few hours...and was becoming very dehydrated.

One thing - I HATE needles...I try everything to avoid them - but I was half unconscious and could not protest too much when they hooked me up to restore fluids quickly.  I felt much better after that.  The doctor gave me antibiotics and they cured me completely.  He also assured me that the baby was fine and I should not worry. Whew!

I was so exhausted that when we arrived home I went straight to sleep.  Now comes the funny part..when I got up the next morning I went into the kitchen as usual to get a cup of coffee....and I couldn't believe my eyes!  Tom, in a apparent attempt to save me from myself, had used my hot pink nailpolish to completely cover the faucet for the well water.  He was going to make damm sure that his "crazy gaijin" wife did not kill herself again.

This little episode just added fuel to the neighbors tales about us and our "kitchigai" or crazy ways.

The nailpolish stayed on the faucet and I always wondered how Oka-san explained it when she rented the house after we returned to the States.

The picture in my mind of Tom handpainting the faucet with a tiny, tiny nail polish brush is just too funny....I just have to laugh.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Revered Sensei, Irises & Me

Katsuko (Oka-san) was an exceptional artist in her own right..she excelled at drawing people, children, places.  I still have some of her work.  Mostly she exhibited Japanese style water paintings, some done on scrolls...others like the Kokeshi dolls that she painted with a hint of real gold for accent.

She did gravitate towards artistic people in her life and made friends very easily.  One of her close friends was the wife of a renown western-style Japanese artist whose name was Riichiro Kawashima.  When Tom and I were first married Kawashima-sensei gave us as a gift the most beautiful oil painting...it was very large...it was a close up of a field of blue irises, varying in shades from light blue to deep blue purple, set against a field of green leaves...all of the art outlined in black.  It was very reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh's famous Iris in Vase painting.  

After we were married I went to work part time for an American company as a secretary, it was an engineering firm and I worked three days a week.  I also volunteered at Okura & Co. to teach English Conversation Classes to their sales staff, in order to prepare them better for going abroad. 

Everything went well for about five months until I learned I was "with child" at that point everyone wanted me to stop working and concentrate on being a mommy to be.  Well!  You can only sweep a tatami mat so much, before you go insane.

Oka-san came up with the idea that I should go visit Kawashima-sensei as he had mentioned that he missed speaking English in recent years.  He had been a student at one of the art universities in Chicago and actually traveled quite a bit.  This, of course, was before WWII.  He also studied in Paris at a time when the great masters were still living.  The picture above is one that he did in Paris and now hangs in a museum.

So it was arranged that once a week, I would take a taxi to the nearby town of Shibuya, where the Kawashima's had a very modern (for that time) condo.  I was to arrive at lunchtime and share a repast with the artist. When I arrived I was quite amazed at the size of the apartment, it was much larger than I had expected as the Japanese homes that I had been in were scaled rather small in individual room size. 

Kawashima-sensei was a terrific host filling me up with wonderful food, and telling stories of his youth in my country.  He did not have many opportunities to travel now because of his age, he was born in 1883 and was 83 years old when I met him.  He seemed to really enjoy speaking English, he really didn't stumble all that much, he had a pretty good command of the language...which I told him.

After lunch we moved over to an area that he had set aside for his artwork.  Then I understood why the apartment living room area was so large.  That way he could dedicate a good percentage of it to his oils, pallets, large standing easel and many assorted brushes.  He donned a smock-like artist coat, the color was a light blue, and when he turned around he had put on a french style cap set on the side of his head.  I will always keep that picture in my head of him standing at his easel with paint brush extended getting ready for the next stroke of paint.

Sitting there watching him work was a complete joy for me. Every once in a while he would glance over at a small side table that was next to the easel, after seeing him do this several times, I questioned what was he looking for?  Well, it was his turn to laugh..seems he had a small maybe 4"x6" watercolor painting (his and original) that he was copying off of.  He told me that it was easier to first do a small scale in watercolor and then put it into oils on a larger canvas.  He said that sometimes at his age the brushes were telling him where to go instead of the other way around. The painting he was working on was that of a of a happy clown , very colorful.

Art runs in my family too, my Mom, my sisters and I all had artistic talent to draw and paint....my Uncle George worked as a topographer for the government for many years.  So I really enjoyed my time spent with Kawashima-sensei. 

Little did I know that the child that I carried within me would one day amaze me with his artistic talent.  I like to think that a little part of the talent that Kawashima-sensei possessed imbued itself within my child during those special days. 

Alot of people wind up on the web so I did a google search trying to see if anyone remembered Kawashima-sensei and yes, I did find the picture above and also a mention that he had once interviewed Matisse and questioned what Matisse thought about Picasso.  He also was friendly with the son of the founder of Shiseido. I had wanted to find out if there are any prints of his available anywhere but so far I can't locate any...but I'll keep looking. 

Anyway, this was a trip down memory lane.....and I find I just have to laugh with happiness at the memory.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Communal Bathing or How Do You Stop A Sliding Door?

The Japanese work hard...but they surely know how to relax when they have time off.  Okura owned several large spa type homes...complete with huge sculpted, tiled pools for bathing.

Tom was in the Metal Section of the Import Division, he worked hard along with about 25 others in the group.  One night, he comes home and tells me that we are invited to have a holiday at Okura's resort, that his whole section was invited.

Not having met too many of his fellow workers I looked forward to the experience with great enthusiasm.  This was in February and as we were not married yet,  I would have to stay with the girls and Tom with the boys for sleeping. Even at our house Oka-san stayed with us to keep things "proper".

Well, the weather cooperated it was glorious, the countryside just glowed with a hint of spring.  All of the guys wanted to try fishing..they had small little manmade pools stocked with fish.  Tom wanted me to try it...oh, well...I wound up throwing my bamboo pole (kinda like a whip - would of done Cat Woman proud!) and catching Maru-chan right in the shoulder of his thankfully thick coat.  It was decided that fishing was  not my forte.

Well, we go into dinner and guess what's for dinner? Marinated Wild Boar...Oh..my..God..I'm going to starve...the other choice was still squirming marinated eel.  They kept on telling me "tastes just like chicken".  Well, the rice was good.

The guys decided after dinner to play the most favorite game in Japan .. MaJong - but believe me this is not your Mama's MaJong.  They play hot and heavy, almost to the death!  Little did I know that this was one of Tom's passions.

Not to be outdone, all the girls decided it would be fun to go use the bathouse pool while the guys were busy.  In my youthful ignorance I tagged along figuring I loved pools...I had a bathingsuit with me.

Well, as the girls assembled outside of the bathhouse I noticed  no one carrying a bathingsuit, only towels. I asked one of the girls that spoke English, her name was Kimmiko, what were we doing?  She told me that you take off all your clothes, hang up your clothes, towel and take this little square of a washcloth with you.  You proceed into the tiled area, grab a bucket of water, wash and rinse yourself off before entering the large pool of water.

This poor blonde didn't know where to run. I mean I was raised to view nudity as a necessary evil not something that you put on display for everyone's view.  At the same time, I didn't want to disappoint my husband to be by not trying his customs.

So, being relieved that this was going to be all females, I disrobed and entered the tiled area by the pool.   I followed Kimiko's lead and did as she did.  We washed, rinsed and finally immersed ourselves into the most relaxing, soothing water I have ever had the experience to be in. There must of been about 12 of us mermaids in the pool when we heard a tremendous ruckus coming from the front of the disrobing area.

It seems some of the younger men upon learning that the "girls" were going bathing decided to give up the MaJohn game in pursuit of other game!  Well, the person in charge of the pool area was trying to stop the guys from entering...some of the braver girls leapt out of the pool and ran towards the sliding doors.  One of them had a broom stick and stuck it in the bottom slider...THAT worked!

Here I was didn't know which way to turn..all I had was this tiny bit of a wash cloth - not  enough to cover or hide behind.  Kimmiko was hysterical with laughter at my distress - she didn't mean to be mean they just don't view nudity the way we do.

Anyway, when the guys finally stopped rattling the shoji screens, I ran for my clothes and dressed quickly.  As it turns out, they had bathed together before and the poor men didn't realize that it was out of respect to me the girls had decided not to let them in!

I ran, red faced, to find Tom totally immersed in his MaJong game - didn't have a clue as to why I was so embrassed.    He laughed himself silly after finding out what had happened and actually looking back..I just have to laugh too.




Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Moon Over Mt Fuji

Ah...Honeymoon Days...we had fun..Tom owned a Volkswagon Beetle and we toured Osaka, shrines, castles...the Golden Pavilion .. all the while it was April...Cherry blossoms blooming in marvelous profusion throughout our travels, accenting the beauty of the land.

Tom worked for a Japanese Trading Company called Okura & Co., I think it was the 12th largest trading house in Japan.  Anyway, they owned several large homes throughout vacation area's in Japan.  We were lucky enough to be able to secure one that was on a lake near the bottom of Mt. Fuji.  The sight of that mountain, in the morning light, with mist rising around it at the top it was breathtaking to say the least. 

We shared the house with several other vacating couples and the oka-san of the house served us all dinner in a traditional Japanese tatami room.  We were seated on the floor with cushions at a small square table, four to a table.  The room was very Japanese with sliding shoji doors and on the walls about 12" from the top a wooden railing ran the entire length and width of the room stopping only for the sliding doors. 

The Japanese use the rail to hang pictures on the wall..so there is a gap of about 2" away from the wall.  Well, there I sit, admiring the artwork and all of a sudden I see a HUGE furry looking arm swing over the edge of the rail...well, I gasped - poked Tom - he looked said "Don't worry it won't bother you". 

No sooner did that statement leave his mouth then this THING heaves the rest of itself over the rail...I swear it was mouthing..

"coming to get you, coming to get you"... I realized my knight in shinning armor was not going to save me....with that I DIVED under the table.   The other people didn't have a clue as to what the crazy gaigen was doing or why! 

My poor Tom never realized that our marriage vows definitely included...to have and to hold and to kill any ugly bug that comes anywhere near her .. I do so promise.

After, the commotion died down, table righted, food retrieved, frazzeled nerves quieted ,Tom told me that it really was the biggest damm spider he had ever seen too.   We both just had to laugh.

Monday, August 16, 2004

"Flying Taxi's"

1965 Tokyo was a bit ahead of itself when it came to taxi's.  If you can outrace a speeding train and cross the tracks just ahead of it..they will begrudingly let you have a taxi licence in Tokyo.

Little did I know, innocent that I was, that I was literally risking life and limb entering one of these cabs.

First of all, you approach the door and it swings open as if by magic...which is fine IF you avoid being hit by the door.  After all, nothing printed on the side of the cab to say STAND BACK AWAY FROM DOOR....so after rubbing an injured leg I entered the cab.

I still was trying to learn some Japanese and other than "Hai" "Yada Yada" "Eeya" I was out of luck.  So Tom had written down instructions for the driver in Japanese, which I proceeded to hand him.  Just getting him to take the paper & read it was hilarious.

After a short while of hand signals and vigorous head nodding we were on our way.  I had a friend who worked at the American Embassy so I was headed downtown for lunch.

Well, I thought for sure I'd never have lunch again because I was gonna die!  This driver put the metal to the pedal and never let up, we zoomed, we zigged and turned ... at one point we were head to head with a trolley train I swear we were running on it's tracks!

At that point I'm yelling, didn't care if he understood me or not.  The cab comes to an abrupt stop - door opens again like magic!  The driver turns to me smiling and says in halting english..."You ride okay?"  He was so earnest in his smile that I started to laugh....paid his fare and got out. 

Thankfully, my friend had seen me pull up and came out to greet me in front of the restraunt..otherwise I would of been a "crazy gaigin" laughing to herself alone on the street.

I think back and I have to laugh.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Swimming Tofu & Flying Taxi's

Well, I tried to adapt to a role as a Japanese wife and in doing so had alot of hilarious moments..blonde jokes weren't in then but they would of have a field day with me then.

Tom went to work during the week and I stayed home cleaning, cooking and making our little nest comfortable.  Well, one day, the door bell rings I answer the door and there's this little old Japanese man selling brushes & brooms...but not your typical Fuller Brush man.  He had brooms the like of which I had never seen, they were freshly made of some kind of hay/straw handtied.

He spoke no English and I, at that point, no Japanese...so it was hand signals and drawing in the air for communication.  The end result was I wound up buying a broom and paying maybe $8.00 for it.

Tom came home that night and I proudly showed him "my broom".... I told him about the little old man, how much I paid for it and he started to laugh.   It turns out that the broom was only worth maybe $l.00 - I had definitely made the old man's day. 

The lot that our house was built on held 3 other similiar homes...so we had become friendly with our neighbors.  Evidently, the little old man had gone from our house to each of the neighbors homes....telling them about the crazy gaijin that had just overpaid him. 

It took a while to live that down.....but I did have to laugh.

Not one to give up easily, one day I was sitting in the livingroom and I heard a bell...it had a special sound to it...it became in my mind an icecream truck bell.  I went running outside to the street looking for a Good Humor truck...instead I found a man totally dressed white, white cap pushing a white rolling cart that looked like a portable refrigeration unit.....(get this picture in your head) blonde foreign girl comes flying into street asking "IceCream? IceCream?" This poor man actually backed up from me...shaking his head back & forth going..."Icecreamu?" "Icecreamu?".... He reached over and opened the one side of the container and as I looked in I could see white blocks sitting at the bottom which was filled with water...then I realized - He was the TOFU man. 

Of course I didn't escape without my neighbors witnessing my latest faux pas....they were pulling straws to see who would tell "Tom" first about my latest exploit.  Looking back I just have to laugh.

PS: I'll have to continue about the flying taxi tommorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Setagayaku Maki Cho 15 miles to Tokyo

As a new bride I took my responsibilities for the house very seriously.  I didn't want my Japanese MotherInLaw, Oka-san to find fault with me.  The house we had bought was two stories..partly western style, part oriental with tatami mats, all doors were sliding pocket door, shoes were left at the door and slippers were donned.

We were married in April, with plenty of spring showers and in Japan the humidity leads to mildew rather quickly.  We had a wrap around porch-like walkway on the second story with a heavy wooden banister that I used to dry some clothes up there.

Anyway, one morning it was sunny, my husband says "oh, I spoke to Oka-san yesterday and she asked if you could put the futons out over the banister to air so that they will not get mildew.?"  So sure why not? So I dutifully emptied the sliding closet, lifting, hauling these heavy futons outside and hung them one by one over the rail.  There were alot of soft covers too, so I put them out also.

Later in the day I returned upstairs to retrieve the futons, I started folding the covers and eventually got everything placed neatly back in the sliding closet. Whew! I felt I had accomplished something. 

Early that evening Oba-san showed up unexpectedly, and even though she didn't speak English I wanted to show her that I had done as she had asked.  So I motioned for her to follow me upstairs, we entered, I slid open the door to the closet...she took one look and burst into tears!  I'm thinking Oh My God! What did I do? Maybe they are sunburnt..I didn't think so.

Thankfully, Tom came home at that precise moment, poor man he took one look at his mother one look at my face and looked like he wanted to run the other way.

They went back and forth in Japanese for a few moments inbetween the tears.....and Tom turned to face me so his mother could not see his face...he rolled his eyes, furrowed his brow and made faces no respectable Japanese guy would ever do..saying at the same time "She's upset because you didn't put them back in the same order that she had them"

Well, I had been raised to respect my elders by my parents and I knew that I could not laugh it would never be forgiven....I really didn't want to fight with her..so I told Tom "please tell your Mom that I am sorry I didn't know the proper way to return them to the closet, could SHE be so kind as to show me?" She did.

From that point on we got along great. Oka-san passed on and so has her son..but the memory of his face as a new husband caught between his wife & his mother is priceless....I just have to laugh.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Shake, Rattle & Roll

Hi! I'm stuck in the 60's but that's okay alot of funny stuff went on..such as:

The week that my parents were with us in Tokyo was interesting to say the least.  I had decided to keep my two sisters with us and let my parents have a little time for themselves, which was a rarity.  Mom & Dad stayed in a downtown hotel on the llth floor in a very comfortable western style room.

Only problem was, there wasn't a mirror long enough for my Mom to be able to see her hemline and whether her slip was showing (a big no-no in those days).   So up jumps my Mom onto the bed to be able to see herself in dresser mirror - WELL! At that precise moment in time a MAJOR earthquake occurs, I think it clocked in at about 5-6 on the Ricter scale.

You have to get this picture set in your mind...Mom jumps on bed, bed started rocking & rolling to beat the band....Dad didn't know what to grab first.. and Mom believes she's broken the bed! Neither had ever experienced the earth moving under them.

Their building was swaying back & forth..the higher you get the more sway.  It, fortunately, didn't do much damage to their building, our house came out of it with a few small cracks & some broken china inside....but thankfully no one was hurt.

So, I have the luxury of looking back on an earthquake and thinking I just had to laugh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

1965 Mayhem In Tokyo

In 1965 I was a blushing bride to be of 21 years.   I had fallen in love with my boss and after a whirlwind romance found myself in Tokyo waiting for my wedding day.

I was very lucky that my Dad worked for Air France and arranged tickets for my family to be present at the wedding, in April.

Of course, when my family arrived Takashi (Tom) wanted to show them "his" city.  We went  and saw marvelous sites with no problem.  The war in VietNam was just heating up with more & more men being sent there.  So there was alot of unrest among the students in the city.

My Dad, Mom, myself & two sisters were to go meet a friend of my dad's from Air France for lunch.  We hired a cab and in my limited Japanese asked him to take us to a certain restraunt downtown...oh, boy! Little did we realize that a riot was taking place in that area.   We turned down one street and were completely surrounded by screaming youths carrying banners, stating "Yankee Go Home".

The poor cab driver started reaching over us to close windows and he was shaking.  My dad started grumbling a bit (he's an ex-marine) and I was afraid it would get out of hand.

Suddenly, a couple of faces pressed against the cab's back window and as the young men are yelling "Yankee Go Home" they spotted myself, my two pretty sisters & Mother and yelled "BUT NOT YOU".

That totally broke the tension, we women just cracked up.  These couple of student protesters actually helped us turn out of the crowd onto another street.

Even, today, years later..I think of that "But Not you!" and I just have to laugh.