After the six months wait to join my Air-Force pilot husband in Japan, I received military orders for the train ride to Seattle, Washington. This was in 1956. Because I was in the middle of completing the sale of a piece of real estate, I could not meet the deadline via train, but boarded a plane from Atlanta to Seattle.
I arrived in Seattle with children on a cold miserable rainy day. Spent the night in a hotel and next day boarded the USS Gaffney for the two week trip across the Pacific.
I had never traveled via ship before. The first night out sailing away from shore it was very rough weather. Consequently I was so scared, I stayed awake all night, huddling my children in the small stateroom.
The following morning when we dressed for breakfast, discovered crew and passengers so seasick and throwing up everywhere. We were not seasick because of staying awake all night eating soda crackers.
As I recall the trip across the Pacific was ten days or two weeks. I spent most of the time playing bridge, and the children made friends and played games. It was a very pleasant trip. My husband waited at the dock when we arrived in Yokohama, Japan, in an official military car with a driver. We drove through the very narrow crowded streets to Tokyo, and the ride gave me my first glimpse of life in Japan. Quite different from my America.
We were driven to the Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial in Tokyo. And what a thrill that was for me, because I had heard so much about it and had read a lot about Frank Lloyd Wright the famous architect. I thought it was a beautiful hotel. After checking in and having dinner, I sat in the lobby awhile and watched all the people. It was like the crossroads of the world.
Saried ladies and turbaned men from everywhere. Then we took one of their famous hot steam baths and a masseuse gave us a great massage. The next morning I went shopping in the basement floor, filled with beautiful shops. I purchased a beautiful hand-beaded evening bag which I still have. As I recall it was over $100.00.
The basement floor was buckled up from the famous earthquake in the twenties which leveled most of Tokyo. Because of the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright, building the hotel on molten rock, in such a way the hotel moved ans swayed but did not crumble. As I understood it he built the hotel according to Japanese Bamboo philosophy, “bend with the wind.” After a couple of nights in Tokyo, we boarded a Japanese aircraft, referred to as JHAt, on a flight to Itami AFB in Gifu Japan.
It was a smooth flight and we flew directly over Mt. Fuji. As I peered down in the crater, I made a picture I still have of the famous mountain.
Arriving on Itami airbase, my husband had already rented a small Japanese house, furnished awaiting with a maid. We quickly adjusted to a different lifestyle, of bathing in a huge iron tub, with a fire under it, and taking off shoes at entrance before walking on bamboo mats.
My Japanese live-in maid was very sweet and took care of everything, as we unpacked to settle into life in Japan.
Because I was the last wife in my husband’s squadron to arrive, a huge welcome party was arranged the following evening in the Air base officer’s club. An elaborate table of food with a huge ice carving center piece was prepared, and a live orchestra played while we danced the night away.
I was enjoying this new life in a foreign country. I joined the officer’s wives club, attended luncheons and played bridge while the maid took care of the children. After a couple of weeks, my husband was assigned to temporary duty and left for a few days. I quickly learned how to drive and navigate through the heavy traffic on Japanese roads, driving on the left side. When he returned tired, he dropped his B-4 bag in the bedroom, ate, took a bath and we went to bed early.
The following morning, my pleasant life in Japan was shattered when upon awakening discovered we had been robbed.
Doors wide open, dog tied up, papers, clothes and belongings strewn everywhere. And while I stood in front yard crying our American neighbor came over to console me.The police came and inventoried the stolen items. They had taken my watch and other jewelry on the night stand by our bed. I realized the robbers had stood over our bed while we were asleep, and I was quite disturbed by all of it.
My maid helped clean everything up, and we quickly recovered from the shock. Something I learned to do, because of a number of disasters which followed, later on. The police arrested the robbers, and recovered my watch. I had to go to police and identify items, and saw the young robbers huddled against the wall at the police station. So thankful no one was hurt.
About a month later, I went shopping with four other officer wives in the Prefecture where the movie Sayonara was filmed.
The driver was my husband’s commanding officer’s wife and while there, hit a small child with her car. The child was not seriously hurt but Japanese police arrested all four of us and placed us in jail. Intense interrogation for a couple of hours, even asking me if I had ever belonged to the Communist Party. I talked the police into contacting base provost marshal’s office to send someone to represent us. They sent an airman third class out who sat down folded his arms and informed us we were under the jurisdiction of the Japanese government and must do what they ordered.
I was so shocked, I said, “Don’t they know we won the war?” The young airman informed me under the status forces agreement, signed by MacArthur, placed Japanese in charge and we were only guests in their country. Imagine my surprise!! We were ultimately released and a party thrown at officer’s club for our release from jail.
We remained at Itami base several months before being transferred to fifth Airforce headquarters in Nagoya, Japan. The air-force moved us and we drove to Nagoya for the next assignment.
Continued in PART THREE
Let Freedom Ring
Just me AC