Friday, July 8, 2011

Absorbing Japanese Culture by the Bushel Part I

Japanese Secretaries help me with costume for parade.

            Our three years in Sasebo was a tremendous education for the whole family1.  We got to know the Japanese people and joined with them in many of their holidays, family celebrations, weddings, funerals, harvest festivals, Wisteria Viewing, Cherry Blossom Viewing, Azalea Viewing, Rose Viewing, Moon Viewing, and Kiln Opening events.
            The “Viewings” happened when the host wanted to show off his elegant gardens just as that particular blossom was at its peak, or in the case of Moon Viewings, at any full moon, but usually around harvest moon time. These events were ten per cent looking at flowers, and 90 per cent drinking sake, beer, Scotch and eating all manner of delicious Japanese food. 
            The kiln openings were held usually by master potters, but any potter could have one, and they took place when the potter wanted to show off his newest, most elegant pottery, shortly after it had come from the kiln. These also involved much sashimi, sushi, tempura, other Japanese food, and lots of sake, beer and Scotch.
            I had a Japanese civilian on my staff, Hirai-san, who was always by my side at these events, to which we were invited because I was Base Commander.  He would brief me in advance about what would happen, and what I would be expected to do.  If a speech would be required, I would prepare it in advance in English, and then Hirai-san would prepare a translation.  Sometimes I would work with him and my Japanese teacher and prepare simple remarks in Japanese. 
            My Japanese teacher, with whom I still exchange Christmas cards, was a wiry little Samurai who during World War II was assigned duty as a Kamikaze pilot, but they ran out of airplanes before he could fly one.  He is still a fascinating little guy!
            He and Hirai-san would give me the background on whatever ceremony was coming up next, and teach me some of the rudiments of what were sometimes elaborate procedures.
            Some of the rules might be considered obvious, but if disregarded they might affect Japanese-American relations at the base.  For instance, you never would take a photo of four people, and you always steered away from anything in a group of four, because “four” was the sign of death.
            Of course you would never insult Japanese customs or food, etc. or indicate that it was anything other than very desirable.  You always poured sake for others, and they were expected to pour sake for you.  The same with most drinks, and so if you as host were not attentive, your guest would get very thirsty!
            Whenever you visited someone, or attended a dinner or cocktail party, or anything, you were expected to bring a small “Omiyage” — what we would call a hostess gift.  Usually we brought something that was typically American, like a pretty towel, or some fine soap, etc.   This is a wonderful custom, and we still do it today, as do most people in our social world.
            People of Kyushu, the large island south of Honshu, where Sasebo is located, are kind of like Texans.  A “Kyushu Donji” is a manly man, they say.  When a Kyushu Donji comes home from a hard day at work, he expects to have his wife come running with his slippers and a drink.  When he needs a beer, he need only grunt “Oiii!!” and the loving Okusan will race in with a cold one for him.
            Even Japan seems to be changing, and Japanese women are starting to take apart this idea of Male Mastery, even in Kyushu, I am told.
            Our residence, or quarters, had been the quarters of the Commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy Shipyard before and during World War II. One thing that mystified us was when we would hold a large event at our quarters was some Japanese people might come an hour early. In all our years of entertaining, we never were ready to receive guests an hour early.  We greeted this nice couple and asked them to take a seat in our living room, while we and our maid and hired staff would continue scurrying around getting ready.
            They would just sit there, not talking, and pretending as if they didn’t see all the scurrying.  Then, at the appointed hour, they would rise and come to life, like they had just arrived.  That was strange for us, but our counterparts in the Embassy in Tokyo said that happened all the time, because traffic was so unreliable there, and Japanese are very prompt.
Samurai Warrior Marching through downtown Sasebo with the Mayor

            Once a year Sasebo would have a huge harvest festival, and the Base Commander would be expected to join the Mayor and other city dignitaries in dressing up in elaborate costumes as a Japanese Samurai warrior, or a mythological or historical figure.
            One year I was dressed as Momotaro, or “the Peach Boy”, from a popular Japanese legend about a boy who comes to earth in the pit of a peach.  A childless old woman and her husband discover the peach and start to eat it, when the boy tells them he was sent from heaven to be their son. 
            They raised him, and he went on to do many heroic deeds.
            We would march through town in a parade, and greet the Japanese public all along the route. I was often the only foreigner in the parade, and since I walked side by side with the Mayor, Mr. Kakehashi, everyone welcomed me. 
Our son Mark spent seven years in Japan, including the three years we lived there. After he graduated from American University in Washington, he returned to Japan and got a job as a reporter for Japan Times, and then became head of an English Language School in Tokyo. He became fluent in Japanese and enjoyed traveling all over East Asia.

 Next week I will tell about my experience with Japanese Firemen, and the excitement of meeting two huge American Sumo Wrestlers....


Now for some of the Personal Navigator’s Books and Newspapers….

Japan Pocket Guide, 1955  Tokyo, Japan: Japan Travel Bureau. "Japan is the land of color, charm and courtesy where the East blends with the West and the old with the new." Black and white photos of tourist attractions, maps and brief descriptions of tourist destinations. Appendix provides statistics on tourist volume, Western hotels, key phrases, fares to destinations, more. 147 pp. 13 x 18.7 cm. Green cloth on board, very good. Dustjacket, shows wear, good. (7176) $16.00. Travel/Japan

 Nova Scotia: Evangeline Land, The; Book of photographs of Nova Scotia by A.L. Hardy, Photographer ca. 1900 Grand Rapids, MI: The James Bayne Co. Evangeline Land made famous by the expulsion of Acadian farmers by the British government on account of their fidelity to the French king, as immortalized by Longfellow, an American poet. Photographs of Yarmouth harbor and Main street; The Grand Hotel overlooking Bay of Fundy; Sheep washing; Annapolis Royal; Digby Bay; Bear River bridges; Port Williams; Partridge Island; Canning; Gaspereaux, Kingsport, Cape Split, Cape Blomidon, Kentville, Wolfville, King's College, Windsor, Acadia Seminary, more. ~80 pp. 22 x 17 cm. Paper booklet, closed tear (3 cm) at photo of Horton Bluff Lighthouse, very good. (7317) $40.00. Travel/Canada

Zwischen Neufundland und Kap Horn (Signal Oct. ’40)

Signal, Sonderausgabe der "Berliner  Illustrierten Zeitung" 2 Oktoberheft 1940 D Nr. 14 [in German] 1940 Berlin, Germany: Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung. Nazi Photo Magazine published 1940-45, propaganda organ widely distributed during World War II. Cover shows black & white photo of Foreign Minister Von Ribbbentrop, Italian Count Galleazzo Ciano and Japanese Ambassador Saburo Kurusu. "Der Dreier-Pakt ist unterzeichnet: Ribbentrop, Ciano und Kurusu verlassen die Reichskanslei". Lead article: " Japan im Dreimächtepakt"  several photos show "Peace-loving" Japanese troops playing with Chinese children, feeding a Chinese baby, and giving an old Chinese man a cigarette. Another photo shows Hitler, Kurusu,  Ciano, Ribbentrop, with caption, "Die Unterzeichnung des Paktes".  "Zwischen Neufundland und Kap Horn; Der britische Ausverkauf in der westlichen Hemisphäre" with full-page map of North and South America. Photo essay "Im Gespräch mit dem Reichsaußenminister; Eine Bildfolge aus dem Hauptquartier" features nine photos of Adolf Hitler. "hieraus zieht man seine Schlüsse" shows work in Aerodynamic research in wind tunnel.  "Italians Luftwaffe"  shows photos of Italian warplanes. "Auf der  Höhe der Zeit"  shows how German military doctors take care of German soldiers. One photo shows a hospital corpsman attending to a wounded soldier, another shows a soldier carrying "Lebenselixier in Flaschen" and another shows surgeons at work in operating room. Another shows pretty Krankenschwestern und freiwilligen Helferinnen des Roten Kreuzes helping recovering soldier; final picture shows recovering soldiers relaxing at Autobahn-Rasthaus am Chiemsee, with pretty nurses lounging around them.  "Mut und Haltung entscheiden-- Schulpforta: Tradition und Zukunft einer Nationpolitischen Erziehungsanstalt."  Two pages of photos of young men developing themselves-- boxing, marching in the fields, with gymnastics, swimming, studying, etc. "Umschwung in Rumänien" Part II. "Weisst Dü, wie ich wirklich bin? -- Ein junges Mädchen zeigt - wie viele Gesichter es hat" features photos of young women. 48 pp. 27 x 36 cm. Periodical, incomplete: Missing pp. 9-10. Thus, poor. (7828) $26.00. World War II/History

Das Netz der Roten Spinne (Signal, Sept. ’43)

Signal, Sonderausgabe der "Berliner  Illustrierten Zeitung" 1 September-Heft 1943 D Nr. 17 [in German] 1943 Berlin, Germany: Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung. Nazi Photo Magazine published 1940-45, propaganda organ widely distributed during World War II. Cover shows black & white photo: "Nach einer Nacht… "Signal" berichtet in diesem Heft von einer schwer bombardierten westdeutschen  Großstadt. Das Bild zeigt den zufällig anwesenden Reichsminister Speer bei Bergungsarbeiten."  "Der Seidengürtel der Madame Sillén-- Hinter den Kulissen der Gehimorganisationen der Komintern"-- Map of globe centered on Moscow, shows "Das Netz der Roten Spinne"; photo essay "Russen reiten gegen Osten" shows Soviet troops on the move. Full-page photo, "Ostfront-Jahrgang..." shows Spanish troops "in die neue spanische Infanterie-Kriegschule bei Madrid." "Heute in Spanien-- Maja und die Vermummten". "Nach einer Nacht" photo feature shows smiling Germans after their city is bombed. Propaganda message is how well they are carrying on, in spite of it all. "Am Sonntag--wenn es schön ist" photo feature shows Germans enjoying the summer: a girl on the Kettenkarussell, sunbathers at the Strand, "Tasusende von Ruder-und Segelbooten  sind jetzt die Herren auf den Berliner Seen.” 40 pp. 27 x 36 cm. Periodical, incomplete: Missing pp. 31-32. Back cover has 4 cm tear in edge. Thus, poor. (7829) $24.00. World War II/History.

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