Sunday, November 11, 2012

October 2, 1953 A Long Letter Home, Enjoying Chopsticks, The View from the Train and Hoping for Free Time

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"It seems forever since we heard from you.  We know there is mail for us in Tokyo but none has been sent on since we got here.  I guess it takes a while to get all of us and our business straightened out.

You will remember that B's cousin is in Japan but all we had was an APO address and that was in California.  B tried day after day to get her address thru the army offices and finally got her on the phone.  She lives in Yokohama--about an hour's ride from Tokyo.  She came to our hotel one day about noontime to take us to her house for supper.  It was lunch time so we took her to a Chinese restaurant for lunch before we started to her house.  The food was served with chopsticks & the kids had a wonderful time trying to eat until they finally gave up and used the fork the waitress gave them.  B and I do pretty well with chopsticks.  We can even eat rice.  Jennie Louise lives in an army settlement on a hill.  It is very lovely there and the houses are nicely furnished with army owned things--even to gadgets like can openers.  They have a girl about 10 years old and she and Bob had a wonderful time.  It was Bob's first chance to play in a yard since we left Normal and he made the most of it.  Jennie had a lovely fried chicken dinner and we went back to the hotel on the train.  Driving is so hard in Japan.  They drive on the left side of the road and drive like the wind with their hands on the horn.

B was invited to visit with one of Japan's famous educators from Tokyo University and although he went in mid-afternoon he didn't come home until after dinner.  The man took him to a real Japanese café for a real Japanese dinner.  It seems that only men go into these places and he apologized to B for not asking me but said it just wasn't done.  Apparently the man had made dinner reservations for they were the only ones in the restaurant.  They took off their shoes and went upstairs to a little room.  They sat on the floor at a little table and a girl sat with them to see that they got what they wanted to eat.  When they would finish eating one thing the girl would say a few words and another tiny dish of something would be brought to them.  Each serving was very small and much of it was fish.  B couldn't eat much of it but the Japanese man understood and laughed about it.  He explained the dishes and B really enjoyed it.

On Saturday, Sept. 19, we got up real early and had everything ready to leave the hotel.  We were supposed to leave the hotel by bus at 7:00 so there would be plenty of time to check luggage at the railroad station.  It was pouring rain but we were all on the buses soon after 7:00.  There we sat until 8:00.  The trains run on the dot so we really flew around getting our baggage together since the train left at 9:00.  Fulbright people had a whole car to ourselves and the 8 hour ride from Tokyo was really short and very pleasant.  We traveled second class but the train was as nice as our best trains.  There was a good diner and we had good food.  The sun came out in a while and the countryside was beautiful.   It is amazing how people farm on the mountainside.

We passed the beaches where the U.S. army planned to invade Japan if it became necessary during the war.  I have never seen such wide rivers.  It is no wonder they have floods.

The Emperor's younger brother was on the train and came to our car to greet us.  He was introduced to each one of us and chatted a minute with each of us.  His English was excellent and his welcome sincere.  We were met at the train by University people.  The president of the college was out of town but his wife and his assistant (both Japanese) and a Canadian missionary couple met us.  They had two cars so brought all our baggage to our house for us.  The children were awfully tired by then and it was about dark.  The University had arranged for us to eat in a house down the street until we could get supplies so the Japanese cook had a lovely hot dinner for us.  The house was built for a former university president who died.  They keep a cook there who keeps the house and takes care of university guests.  She cooked breakfast for us the next day but we managed after that.  We managed to get the kids in bed that night before company came and then it seemed we were swamped.  People are so friendly and neighborly but we really didn't get to see the house until the next day.

Image courtesy of Yuko Ikeda, Kwansei Gakuin University

Our street of 10 missionary houses is on the edge of the plateau and the University stretches behind us.  The houses are all alike--big cream stuccoed Spanish mission type houses.  They are lovely houses with beautiful big yards, filled with wonderful old pines and flowering trees of all sorts--magnolias, camellias, etc.  The house has an entrance hall with a tile floor--a place to leave raincoats, umbrellas & boots.  That's all standard equipment in Japan.  Then you come into the main hall which leads into a study at one end, the stairs to the bedrooms, the living room in the center and the pantry at the other end.  There is a little bathroom under the stairs.  The living room is huge & has French doors leading to the dining room.

There is a big sun porch off the dining room.  The pantry separates the kitchen from the dining room.  I've never seen so many drawers and storage closets in a house.  Upstairs is a big hall, large bathroom, four bedrooms & another sun porch.  The third floor has one bedroom & a storage room.  This is the main house.  Then there are servants quarters in a wing.  The laundry room and Japanese bath are here too.  The laundry is furnished with built-in tubs and a washboard.  The bath is a big room with a square wooden tub.  It has a little stove built into one side where they heat the water.  You scrub yourself clean spit-bath fashion and then get into the big tub of hot water and soak.  It is wonderful and the children really enjoy it.

We still don't have the house organized.  Workmen had been painting and repairing things so the house was a mess with most of the furniture in the attic.  We finally found a woman to come to work for a few days so maybe we'll soon have things done.  We don't have a maid yet but have a house-boy.  He is a student at the University and speaks good English.  He takes us shopping, reads notices from school & talks to Japanese people who come to the house besides working around the house.  The house is so big I really need help.

Bobby has found a real friend.  A missionary child is just his age and size.  The same family has two smaller children and Ann enjoys them too.  Bobby and Jimmy (his new friend) are the only American children in the kindergarten.  We took Bob to visit and all the little Japanese children gathered around to look at us.  I was afraid he'd say he didn't want to go but all he said was, "When do I start?"  There are 116 children in this kindergarten--4 teachers and 4 classrooms besides one real big room and a big playground.  Bobby's teacher speaks some English and writes notes to me in English.  All the teachers are Japanese.  The whole school is just kindergarten and is just down the hill from our house.  The University sponsors it and Bobby loves it.  They had a birthday party today for the children who had birthdays in the last three months.  The mothers of these children cooked lunch for the children and they had extra time to play.  The lunch was fish and rice cooked together and Bob said it was good.  The fish are tiny little pickled things--Bob said white with big black eyes.  I wish you could have heard him tell about it.  They each had an apple too with the peeling trimmed down to resemble a flower.  The Japanese make such beautiful things.  Twice a week the children take their lunch.  It is rice with bits of meat, boiled eggs, fruit or something very simple but always rice.  Bob has a little brass colored aluminum lunch box just like the other children but he has to take a spoon for the rice.

I hope you weren't worried about us when Typhoon Tess was on the rampage.  She sure messed things up but none of us were frightened and no one was hurt.  I think the neighbors were worried about us for they all came to check on us during the worst part of the storm.  Lights and water went off early in the morning but our house-boy knew what was coming so he had filled the pots and pans and we never did run out of water.  We had water again the next day but were without electricity for about a week.  We cooked on a Japanese charcoal stove and did all right.  The storm was something to see.  It rained and rained before the wind started to blow and then the wind really blew.  Tiles came off our roof, light wires were snapped and three big trees came down in our yard.  The ground was so soft that they fell so gradually they made no noise.  The gardeners of the University have propped up the big magnolia and I hope it will live.  They trimmed it down and stood it back in place like it was being freshly set out.  The morning after the storm people were out early in the bright sun to see the damage.  They raked and cleaned to get their yards straight again.  The Japanese women came along with little two wheeled carts to collect the fallen limbs for firewood.

Bobby has lost another tooth.  It got so loose that B just lifted it out and it didn't even bleed.  We have such a good yard for the children that they really play hard and have been sleeping real well.

We have to have a ration card for rice.  It is the only food rationed now.  It is a peculiar arrangement but rationed rice is cheaper than rice on the open market, although you can buy rice in markets without a ration book.

Main entrance to Kwansei Gakuin University campus, 1953

The University had a celebration called Founders' Day--it is 64 years old.  It was a nice little program and we were introduced to the students.  Then there was a luncheon and B made a short after dinner speech.  He said it in English and then an interpreter said the same thing in Japanese--took him twice as long.  The lunches were put up in little wooden boxes with two sections.  One section had red rice (rice cooked with red beans) the other part was filled with vegetables, meat and fruit--sugar potatoes, cucumber, Japanese asparagus, chicken, fish, beef, lotus root & apple.  It was a lovely luncheon.  There was plenty of tea too and everyone tied up their boxes and took them home afterwards.

Introductions at Founders' Day ceremony

The English speaking school here (17 nationalities) is trying to organize Boy and Girl Scouts.  I was asked to help and went to a committee meeting yesterday to plan for the organization.  Today they had their first meeting and I taught them a singing game.  They have things planned now.  I'll help once in awhile but not regularly.  B has had his classes planned and one will meet Friday afternoon and the other on Monday.  He will give lectures about American education and life in America today.  His classes aren't called just that but that is what they're about.

I am going to help judge a speech contest tomorrow.  It is a contest for high school students all over Japan who speak English.  They have had one contest and this is the final.  It is being sponsored by our University here.  There was a little article in this morning's paper about it.  We get two daily papers in English and I'm clipping interesting articles for a scrap book.

We are certainly in a religious atmosphere.  There are prayer meetings going on several times a week, chapel services and choir practices.  We haven't gone to church yet but plan to when we can get caught up on things.  We have been as busy here as at home and I hope for some free time.  Maybe that will come.

Write us a good long letter with all the news.  Take good care of yourselves and don't work too hard.  Our address now is Campus House #7, Kwansei Gakuin, Nishinomiya-shi, Japan."

                              Lots and lots of love,


NOTE:  I learned that the round shaped trees planted in lines in the photos above are Chabatake, Japanese tea tree fields.  Thank you Yuko!


  1. Nigawa school might be #28 on the map. It was right below our house at the bottom of a bluff. Our house was on top of the bluff. Jimmy and I just made a path right down the cliff to the school instead of walking the long way around.

  2. What a wonderful letter. Though the particulars are as different as night and day, it reminds me of a few lengthy letters I wrote home when I first moved to Ireland (I was there from 2004-2006) and wanted to share as many details, differences, similar, and observations with my family back home as possible.

    ♥ Jessica

  3. Hi Jessica! It's great to hear from you! I'd love to hear about your Ireland experiences sometime. I bet you wrote wonderful letters. Mom's letters from Japan are challenging me because they are written on very thin rice paper, and are very long with small writing.


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