Monday, January 7, 2013

January 8, 1954 The New Year's Letter, Fire, Book Stores, Churches and A Few Trinkets

Busy New Year's street scene, Osaka,  Jan., 1954 (Dark face is ad for Indian curry)

Dear Mother & Daddy,

"Things have settled down since Christmas is over and it was a very quiet and peaceful vacation.  You must be strutting your stuff in that new watch.  I have started in the front of my diary now but haven't recorded much of interest lately.  We have done a little window shopping and bought a few trinkets.  B spent one day during vacation rummaging thru used book stores.  Woody wanted him to get some old geography books if he could find any but so far he hasn't located any.

We went to Kyoto one day and planned to do some shopping so we took Kita-san along to take the kids to the zoo while we shopped.

Kita-san in the autumn

But the animals were having a New Year's vacation like all Japanese and the zoo was locked up.  I think B wrote about the lacquer and cloisonne processes that we saw.  The lacquer things were so terribly expensive that we didn't buy any of it.  I did buy a black silk brocade purse to use with my black suit that still isn't finished.  The skirt was too tight and had to be refitted.  I have gained several pounds, I guess and it always goes to one spot, of course.

Lacquer factory

Toward the last of Dec. we started hearing queer sounding yells every night and finally found out it was young boys going up and down the streets calling out warnings to people about their fires.  Fires are very treacherous here where houses are so flimsy so it is an old custom in winter for the boys to voluntarily do this.  They are called "fire-watchers".   In olden days an old man was usually hired to do it.

Cloisonne workers

Teruko-san does almost everything.  We have a wringer type washer and she uses it.  About all I do is wash the breakfast dishes on wash day and she can start washing earlier.  Her day off is Friday so I cook that day or if I want to sometimes I make pies or a cake.

One day this week some Fulbright friends we met on the boat came and spent the day with us.  They are from Seattle and live about 1-1/2 hrs. by train from here.  Distances here are measured by the hour and not by miles.  Most people travel by train and it you ask them how far it is to some place they always tell you how long it takes to get there.

Japan is full of book stores and magazine stands.  I've never seen so many anywhere.  The tiniest little village will have at least one good sized book store which sells nothing but books.  Japanese people are very patient and spend hours waiting.  But while they wait, they read.  Everyone reads or sleeps on the train no matter how short the run.  This is the "readingest" place you ever saw.

There are lots of churches in Japan and 1/2 of 1% of its 85 million people are Christians.

We see soldiers by the dozens on the streets.  I can't tell by their uniform whether they have been in Korea or not.  There is a big airfield near here where lots are stationed and some are in Kobe.  There are two big housing areas near here, too.

We had the children's pictures painted today in watercolor by real artists.  They were doing portraits and the money went to charity so we took Bob and Ann.  They sat like real models.  We had quite an audience before it was finished.

I'll say goodnight now.  You haven't told me how you are in a long time."

                     Lots of love,


The New Year's Parade of Firemen (and the end of the New Year's Kinderbook)

"A rat stands on his head at the top of a ladder and shouts, "ho ra, ha-tsu".  This is the day for the New Year's show of the firemen of rat town.  All the rat firemen do their tricks on the ladders. "


  1. It's sometimes easy to forget that the things you're showing us still exist and are in your family's possession, dear Ann. By which I mean, these aren't random vintage images or old photographs from the past that no longer exist in your possession, they're present day treasures (like lovely figurines), too, which you're sharing with us in real time in 2013. That fact just makes your posts and family history preservation all the more marvelous.

    ♥ Jessica

  2. Thank you Jessica! This blog-journey has taught me a lot about these objects. Living with them is lovely, but knowing the origin of each little item makes them seem very precious even though they were quite ordinary souvenirs at the time they were purchased.


I welcome your comments!