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.