"An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told."
King Richard III. 
Act iv. Sc. 4.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616)


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Posted by S. K. Smith


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"Memories of Japan"

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japan:  beggs
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  Memories of Japan


 © Dorothy Smith, August 8, 2009


My mother-in-law Dorothy Smith wrote down memories about Japan post World War II.  My father-in-law Harold Smith had made a career of the Army after serving in World War II.  In the 1950s, he got orders to go to Japan.  Again, I felt it was important to post her recollections before the “Greatest Generation” passes away. – S. K. Smith, August 11, 2009


My husband got orders to go to Japan alone, but our 2 sons and I were to follow later.  He flew to Japan via Alaska.

I was lucky and was able to rent a house exactly 2 doors from one we had lived in while he was a civilian, so we knew our neighbors and loved them.

I wish I had kept a diary but did not, so must rely on memories.

I remember answering the phone one Sunday and hearing we had orders!  It would be several months until we left, but there were things to do.  One was to get shots for whatever the military thought we would need.  My little boys were stoic, so that was crossed off.  Our friends in the Amicus Club gave me a shower - (like a bridal shower!)

We left Camden Station in Baltimore en route to Denver for a week’s visit with sister Christine.  There was a change of trains in Chicago.  No problem.  Chris’ husband, Marion, met us and took us to their home in Lakewood.  After leaving there the train gave us our first sight of the Rocky Mountains then on to San Francisco.

We were housed in quarters hard to describe.  All right but our meals were 2 blocks away.  After 2 days a bus took us out to an airfield and we board an airplane - first flight of our lives!  It was a prop job and stopped in Hawaii to refuel.  While there we were met by former friends in Baltimore (he was military).  He got us back to the plane in time to take off for Japan.  There was another stop to refuel - Wake Island.  Also got breakfast there.  I think there were sandwiches for lunch.  Finally Japan!

When we landed in Japan, my husband was there to meet us.  I remember our first meal there.  My husband had gotten a beautiful steak and I was so tired.  I could hardly eat a mouthful.  The boys and I were early to bed!

I do not remember much of that first couple of weeks, but when my husband was transferred to Sagamihara  - at first he had worked out of Tokyo - we were finally in a real home.  It was a 2 story, 2 bedroom plus a small bedroom for a maid.  A real kitchen and a washing machine!

Our maid was named {Chieko - S. K. Smith} Che (as in tree) echo.  The Japanese people have trouble saying R’s and L’s.  My boys were named Harold and Christopher - plenty R’s and L’s.  But we communicated.  To Chieko, they were “How ode” and “Ca east toe foe.

The Japanese have adopted rules of the road that the British use.  They drive on the wrong (left) side.  And have a speed limit of 35 MPH.  Only once in the 2 years we were there did I forget but jammed on my brakes in ‘time’ to avoid a collision!

The Army packed us - things we would need.  Chieko liked using the ironing board that came with the house, and love the electric iron, which I brought.  Every day when my husband came home from work he changed out of his uniform into civvies, so Chieko would iron the uniform.  When the time came for us to leave, I gave her the iron.

I had taken lessons in flower arranging (but used the ones Chieko fixed).  She gave me a book on flower arranging but I never did as well as she did.

One Sunday, about 7AM -  I was awake - my husband loved sleeping in.  All of a sudden I felt an earthquake.  Got Harold out of bed and carried Chris outside.  By the time we got out - it was over.

Japan did not have the roads we have here in the US, so we did not “go for a ride” very often.  But we did one Sunday, and ended up near a statue of Buddha.  It is hollow so people can walk inside.  My husband and oldest son went in.  Not me!

I am not a candy eater, but one day I did get a chocolate bar.  I gave some to Chieko but she was afraid to eat it.  So I took some and after she saw me eat that - she ate hers!  She liked it.

There was a village near us, and there was a Chinese tailor there.  My oldest had grown out of the suits we brought, so I took him to see Mr. Tom.  He had various British tweeds - beautiful materials, so I picked out one.  When Mr. Tom was measuring Harold he told me that one leg was shorter than the other.  I checked with the American doctor, who got a lift to equalize the legs.  It is a good thing Mr. Tom let me know.  That ˝ inch lift was used until Harold was 13.  By then the legs were equal in length - and Harold never got Scoliosis!  That is “a lateral curvature of the spine” according to my medical dictionary.

The 4 of us were notified we would come back to American via ship, so when the time came our car was shipped ahead and we picked it up in Seattle.  Incidentally when we boarded the ship in Japan (city of Yokohama) the cherry blossoms were beautiful.  I noticed that the cherry trees were about twice the size of those I had seen as a child in Washington D.C.

Heading back to Baltimore - from the Pacific to the Atlantic, we saw a good deal of the USA.

 For a related story, check out Cherry Blossoms.


"Sing unto the LORD a new song, 
    and his praise from the end of the earth, 
       ye that go down to the sea, 
       and all that is therein;
  the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
             Isaiah 42:10   (KJV)