|Cherry Blossoms in Japan|
By means of introduction to the Japan letters and Diary, I would like to begin with an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript for children, written by Bonnie following the time in Japan, and intended as a summary of our stay as well as an introduction to post-war Japan.
Along with the letters, I will include other, but shorter excerpts as well as diary entries when relevant to the events, places or items mentioned in the letters.
While diary entries were written daily, letters home were written about every 2 weeks. I plan to post a letter each week if possible, with diary entries and photos in between.
Unless otherwise noted, the posted photos of Japan are scanned Kodachrome slides taken by B or occasionally by Bonnie from 1953-4.
Thank you for joining us on the journey!
"Have you heard of the Dragon-fly land? Have you been to the Land of Cherry Blossoms? You may think they are fairytale lands, but Dragon-fly Land and Land of the Cherry Blossoms are old names for the country that is now called Japan.
If you could look down on all of Japan at one time, the four large islands and many small ones would appear to be a flying dragon-fly. Of course, you could not see the islands all at once because they form a chain that is more than one thousand miles long.
For many years the world did not know much about Japan and its people. The country was closed to foreigners and the Japanese people were not permitted to leave Japan. The rulers were afraid of losing their power if the people learned too much about foreign countries.
Other countries wanted and needed Japan's friendship because of its location in the world. Japan was needed as a refueling place for fishing boats and ships trading with China. Finally, about one hundred years ago, the United States sent Commodore Matthew Perry to make an agreement with the Japanese which led to the opening of Japan's ports to foreign countries.
After the Japanese ports were opened Japan began to grow in importance. Men were sent from Japan to learn about other countries. The Japanese chose the best ideas from each country. They learned about the English navy, the German army, German medicine, French law, and United States business.
Then the Japanese set up a new government and new schools all over their country. Industry developed. In a few years Japan became one of the great powers in the world.
The Japanese people enjoyed a cultured life which included art, poetry and music, but their country lacked raw materials to keep the industries going. It was necessary to import oil, iron ore, coal, cotton and much more.
The desire to own lands which could produce such raw materials was so great that the Japanese rulers began to take other countries by military force. The outcome of this was total defeat for the Japanese at the end of World War II in 1945. Japan was in complete ruin then. The Japanese had few friends in the world.
Since Japan's strongest opponent in WWII had been the United States, it controlled Japan at the end of the war. With the help of the Japanese the United States made plans and directed the building of a new Japan with laws and freedom much like that of the United States. The plans were good and today Japan is once more an important and free country."
(Dragon-fly Land: Japan, by Bonnie Belshe, 1955)