Friday, November 2, 2012

August 29, 1953 The First Letter on the Hikawa Maru, The Daily Schedule, Bonjour Bobby, Sukiyaki and Arriving in Yokohama Harbor

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"We have been on board a week today so I thought it would be a good idea to start a letter.  The ship sailed at 3:20 from Seattle but we went on board a little after 1:00.  We rented a car in Seattle about noon Sunday which helped us so much for we were in a hotel so far from the pier that it would have cost as much taxi fare as the car for 24 hrs. to take our baggage to the boat.  Everyone was excited when we got on the ship--lots of children & everyone happy.  Most of the people on the ship are Fulbright people so we all have the same problems. We stood on board & watched people come on the ship.  The stewards helped everyone on & we checked our tickets with the captain the first thing.  Then we were taken to our stateroom long enough to see where we belonged.  Then we all stayed on deck to watch.  Just before the ship sailed, the stewards went over the ship with rolls of paper ribbon in red, blue, green, yellow & purple.  Dozens of people were on the pier telling others good-bye.  Records started playing "Over the Waves" & some marches.  People threw the ribbons back & forth to the people on the dock until there were loads of them streaming from the ship to the dock.  A short shower came but people didn't move.  Then the sun came out & it was so beautiful.  People held to those ribbons until they broke.  The tugs pushed us out & turned us around & we were on our way.  We could see land for hours & hours.

Our cabin is about 8x10 ft. and has four bunk beds, 2 clothes closets, a wash bowl & a table & chair.  It is very nice and so clean.  The tap has only cold water so the steward brings us hot water every morning.  He also brings us coffee and toast because breakfast isn't until 8:00.  Chimes sound for the meals & they are on the dot--8, 12 & 6 with tea at 3:00.  After breakfast I go to my Japanese language language class for an hr.  Then B goes to the general meeting of Fulbrighters at 10:00 & to his language class at 11:00.  It is lunch time, then naps, tea and bath time from 4:45-5:15 for us.  We sign up for baths with the bath steward.  The bathroom is down the hall--2 tubs, 3 stools & all in separate rooms.  The steward fills the big tub with hot salt water which we wash in--then there is a foot tub filled with hot fresh water to rinse in.  After dinner at 6:00 we usually go for a walk or play games on the promenade dock.  There is a nice playroom with slide, rocking horse & tables besides other rooms where we can read or play games.  I am in the reading room now--with writing desks, books & a piano.

Our steward's name is Endo.  He is wonderful to all of us--cleans our room every morning & evening & does anything we ask him to do.  He seems to love the children--always has a smile for them.

Right now we are about 30 miles off the Aleutians and there was great excitement everywhere when a U.S. plane flew over & circled around us.

Yesterday we had a lifeboat drill.  The ship's whistle screamed.  Everyone grabbed their life preserver (there are 4 in our closet) & had to go to a lifeboat assigned to them.  A steward lined us up & after checking to see that everyone knew where to go the whistle sounded the all clear.  Ann could hardly walk in her life belt.

There is a group of boy scouts from Japan who are on their way home from the international Jamboree in Calif.  They are the happiest group.  One of them helps us in our language class.

The Captain's tea was yesterday.  Everyone on board was invited but I thought it only for adults so didn't take the children.  When they saw other children going they were terribly hurt.  There were such gay decorations--lanterns, paper flowers, flags.

I forgot to tell you that Sorensens had wired us flowers & when we got to our cabin after the ship sailed there was a box of a dozen roses.  They lasted until yesterday.  We pulled off the petals & the children threw them overboard.

There have been two rough days.  I was pretty sick one afternoon but the pills we brought along helped me.  Ann lost her supper & breakfast once but has been fine since.  Bob can't be still long enough to be sick so we really have done fine. 

This is Sunday so they had a protestant service but it was completely in Japanese.  We didn't try to take the children.  There is mass everyday.  There is a priest on board & I think he's French.  There is also a French couple with a 2-1/2 yr. old girl.  They are from N.Y. but speak almost completely French.  The child knows no English but she has fallen in love with Bobby.  She is a roly-poly little thing and he thinks she's wonderful.  They play and romp.  She jabbers to him in French and he just falls over laughing.  It's wonderful to see.

Sunday afternoon one of the Japanese scouts came to our cabin to see us for he had found out we were going to his hometown.  His English is poor & our Japanese worse but we had a long visit with him last night and he told us a lot about the city.  He had a map of it and gave us that, too.  The scouts have tried to teach some of us a folk dance.  It has a catchy part that I can't get but would like to learn.  The scouts danced in their kimonos yesterday and it was beautiful.  Then they did a dragon dance with a horrid dragon costume which scared Ann half to death.  Now she realizes it is like our Halloween costumes so maybe she'll be all right if she sees it again.

Monday morning about 6:45 we crossed the international date line which meant we had no Monday.  It was Tuesday then.  Don't ask me to explain it for I can't.  We had Monday from 12:01 A.M. to 6:45 A.M. and that was all.

We have been having a little sunshine the last two days and it looks so good after the clouds.  The ocean is smooth as velvet and so blue now.  It is still cold but should get warmer in a day or so.

There is a Danish ship about 60 miles behind us.  It has been having a little trouble but nothing serious.  We hope to dock on Monday unless we have to help the other ship.  The fog is terribly thick so we couldn't see it.  We have learned that this ship was a hospital ship in the war and parts of it are still not reconverted for passengers.  They are working on it constantly and keep it real clean--scrubbing every morning & evening.  (Saturday)  Our trip is just about over.  We assemble for the health inspection in the morning, get in the harbor Monday morning at 6:00 and at the dock by 8:00.  All of the Fullbright people are being housed in buildings at an athletic field where visiting athletic people stay.  We will all be together and the Fulbright Commission pays for the housing but not for our food.  We will stay in Tokyo until the 8th and then go on to Nishinomaya by train.  Reservations have been made for us--takes about 8 hrs.  B has to attend morning meetings everyday in Tokyo but has afternoons and Sunday free so we want to see everything we can in Tokyo in case we don't get back.  It is about 300 miles from where we will be.  The Danish ship is about 30 miles behind us now but is o.k.  They did have a leak but cemented it and threw overboard some of their cargo--flax seed.  The fog has been so thick but seems to be about gone and it is getting warmer.  The stars were out last night.  The captain told us they had seen two whales on this trip and a school of large fish jumping out of the water but we didn't see any of that.  Bobby was thrilled about it though.

Tiny olive picks
The ship planned a sukiyaki party for everyone but we didn't plan to go since it was for adults only.  When they posted the seating arrangement we were beside the captain and the man who heads the Fulbright in Japan so we decided we'd better go.  We got a sitter and put the kids to bed.  The room for the party was decorated with paper wisteria, plum & cherry blossoms, bunting, paper lanterns and blinking colored lights.  There were some Santa Claus bulbs mixed in with the other lights.  The floor was covered with straw mats & we sat around low round tables on white cushions.  In the center of each table was a pot of sukiyaki boiling over a charcoal fire in a metal container.  Sukiyaki is a sort of Japanese stew made of beef (cut in very thin slices), onions, bamboo sprouts, vegetable noodles, cabbage and some sauces.  The captain was seated at his place so we left our shoes outside the door & went in & sat down with him.  At each place was a plate with olives, various little sandwiches like ones we have, & a cucumber cup filled with crab meat.

There was a little bowl with a whole egg in it, a sake cup (rice wine) & chopsticks.  As soon as we sat down the waiter broke the egg into the bowls.  It was raw.  We beat it up with our chopsticks & dipped each piece of sukiyaki into it before we ate it.  Sounds awful but it was really very good.  The captain showed us how to use our chopsticks & we managed real well.  There was a fork in case we couldn't manage but we did all right.  Then we each had a bowl of plain cooked rice to eat along with the meat & vegs.  Each person used his own chopsticks to dip into the pot of food.  The waiter kept adding meat (raw) and vegs. to the pot so it was always full & was amazing how fast the stuff cooked.  For dessert we had ice cream & then grapes or oranges.  The ship's purser read a little welcome speech & sang a song & the captain sang.  A sukiyaki party is when people eat then sing, dance or recite to entertain one another.  A Japanese girl from the U.S. (husband is a Fulbright) did a Japanese dance in a beautiful kimono.  It was all very nice.  The captain spoke good English & was very good company.  He told us the origin of sukiyaki.  It seems that farmers use a shovel-like tool called a suki and yaki means to cook or boil.  One day some men in the field had no pot in which to cook their meat & veg. so they used a broken suki they found.  After adding soy sauce it was good so now they have it.  A man's financial status can be told from the number of times per week that his family eats sukiyaki.

There is to be a children's tea party this afternoon.  Bobby can hardly wait & there are movies tonight.

We are close enough to the Japanese coast now that we saw a fishing boat this morning.  The fog horn blows once a minute when it is foggy to warn the little boats.  Now it is pouring rain but we hope for sunshine when we dock.  If it is clear we can see Mt. Fuji.  In all, it has been a very nice trip.  The Japanese have certainly done everything possible to make us comfortable & happy.  They are never too busy to do things for you.

This letter is dirty because it has been lying around so long.  After everyone has read it will you put it away for me.  I write in my diary every day but always have to do it so hurriedly that it isn't very complete.  Bobby says he's going to be a sailor & I guess he'd make a good one--hasn't been a bit upset about anything--eats & sleeps fine.  Ann has been sleeping well, too.  In fact, she's slept better on the trip than in a long, long time.

I'll try to write again before we leave Tokyo but won't promise.  We have no idea about what we'll be doing or how much we'll have to do that week.  We are anxious to hear from home and hope you are all fine.  Be sure & tell me how you are Mother, & what the doctor is doing for you.  Take care of Daddy & yourself.

We all send you lots and lots of love and think of you all so much.

                     B, Bonnie, Bobby & Ann 

We set our clock back 30 min. tonight for the last time.  Tomorrow we will be on Japanese standard time."

NOTES:  The map of Nishinomiya is about 36" long, unfolded.  Maeda, the Boy Scout, had painstakingly labeled points of interest, which is proving to be very helpful to me.  On the National Geographic Atlas map of central Japan below, note Tokyo Bay and Yokohama on the right, and on the far left side you will find Osaka Bay and Nishinomiya.

1 comment:

  1. My only real memory of the ship is the dozens and dozens of colorful
    paper streamers that passengers threw to loved ones on the dock. The
    passengers held onto one end of the streamer (they were long- 100 ft
    or more) and their loved one held the other end until the boat pulled
    away and the streamers were broken.


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