Memories of Japan

My family lived in Hayama when I was three and four years old. I remember our house with the wooden floors, and building a snowman in the front yard with my mother. It was the first time I’d seen snow. I was disappointed we didn’t have any coal for eyes.

There was a man with a pedal-cart who rode up the hill calling, ‘Oishii yaki imo!’ We called him ‘The Ishiyakimo Man’. The roasted sweet potatoes were perfect for a cold Winter’s night, and I remember they cost ¥50. I remember walking in the town on a warm Summer day, and visiting Tokyo and seeing Tokyo Tower (which is very fun to say repeatedly when one is three years old!).

I remember watching Tetsu-Jin on TV, and I had a Tetsu-Jin inflatable toy.

I could speak Japanese at the time, and translated for my mother. She said the only time I failed was when I didn’t know how to tell the plumber there was ice in the pipes. She found me speaking Japanese to a dog once and asked me why. I told her, ‘It’s a Japanese dog!’ Of course I would speak Japanese to it!

I received much attention in Japan, having white-blond hair and blue eyes.

There was a channel in town. I don’t remember how deep it was, but it must have been at least ten feet deep. It was masonry, and had a rectangular cross-section. A trickle of water ran in the bottom. I was shocked and amused when a man went to the edge and urinated into it. My sister, who was 11 or 12, explained it was the custom there. I remember the day was very hot and I wanted to play in the water. But not so much after I saw the guy urinating in it.

We had wicker bar stools in the house. I liked to lay one on its back so that the metal legs projected behind, and the back was on the floor. Thus the back became the seat and the seat became the back. I’d sit in it and it was my rocket ship. Our (Japanese) maid was amused. I had a long, plush snake and I warned him not to get his tail in the fire (rocket exhaust).

When we came back to the States my parents would speak Japanese to me, but I’d answer in English. Remember the dog? He was in Japan, so I spoke Japanese to him. Since we were back in the States, it was logical that I would speak English. It made sense when I was four. More’s the pity. I wish I could still speak it. Now I’ve only a few phrases.

I still love Japanese food. When I was a kid (in the States) we’d go to a Japanese restaurant and I’d always get the sukiyaki (s’kiyaki). Good stuff! Nowadays I prefer other dishes. I should find some sukiyaki for nostalgia’s sake. (Or nostalgia’s sake. Ha!)

On our trips to Tokyo I remember the lights. Everything was Bright and Shiny. Neon everywhere. And chrome. This was the mid-'60s and everything was New and Modern. One place we went, it may have been a restaurant, had water outside. I remember little bridges and coral. Another place we visited had pearl divers, women dressed in white coveralls who dived for pearls. I thought they were pretty. I seem to recall sort of an aquatic park-type setting, where there was a huge glass panel through which you could see the divers under water.

‘You can’t go home again.’ No doubt Hayama has changed greatly in four decades. Who knows if our little house is still there, even if I knew the address? Now that I’m no longer a child, I doubt Tokyo would be as wonderful as it was through the eyes of a three- or four-year-old. Still, I’d like to go back one day.

Your house is probably gone. Japanese folks tend to have new houses built instead of moving.

I can still understand Japanese. I learned to speak out of desperation. I also learned how to use chopsticks instead of carrying a fork around. Hunger will make people assumilate.

Were your parents Japanese Americans, or Americans that learned how to speak Japanese?

I really enjoyed my few trips travelling to all 4 main islands (including Tohoku and Hachinohe), and the 2.5 years living in Tokyo after that.

Americans who learned to speak Japanese, although I spoke it better than my mom. I kind of think that learning a little Japanese was something she had to do. Dad thought it was fun, and I was exposed to it through TV and people, and had the open mind of a child.

Can you speak any Japanese now? Do you ever? We are here in a center of the early Japanese agricultural immigration to the US.

Alas, no. Greetings, thanks, ‘O genki desu ka?’, ‘Sore wa oishii desu’, ‘Kohi o nomimasu ka?’, ‘Tadaima!’ and that sort of thing. I took Japanese I at UCLA and got an A in it and learned to read and write in hiragana, but a new girlfriend distracted me from further study. It’s all gone. Curse my four-year-old logic! I could converse in Japanese almost as well as any American four-year old can converse in English*, I had a Japanese classmate a couple of years later, and I just forgot it. :frowning:

*Which is to say that I could understand cartoons and ask and answer questions and make my needs and interests known. Not that I could discuss Dostoevsky or anything.

It’s never too late to learn. Gambatte!

If it makes you feel any better, there are still old men going around selling sweet potatoes ^^

Here are mine, from a thread from late last year.

Despite the fact that my family and I didn’t travel near areas highly affected by these latest disasters, I think those photos and memories are all the more precious now.

Nice post Johnny L.A.! I wonder if you still have any pics or memorabilia of your time there? hint hint

I have a friend with a four year old, who recently moved with his family, from Japan back to NZ, and the little guy translates for his mom when they go shopping together. So cute.

Somewhere I have our maid’s diary. I read it once. It’s pretty much a log of what she’d done at the house that day; expenses, shopping, how we behaved, and whatnot. There was a period where I was getting cold. She wondered if Japan was colder than Southern California. And I think I have a pen-and-ink drawing that my mom bought because it looked like Hayama when we lived there. Wooden structures, and there’s a young woman in traditional garb and an umbrella in the foreground. As I recall, it has some silverfish damage; but I didn’t toss it.

I have my dad’s Vulcain Cricket watch (NB: That’s not his watch, but it has the same alarm) that he wore when we were there. Funny story that I’ve told here before: I guess the wiring was a bit dodgy in the house. Dad was on a step-stool fixing the wiring in an overhead fixture. Just as he finished, and his hands were still on the wires, the alarm on his watch went off (see the video to hear it) and he thought he was being electrocuted and fell off the stool. :stuck_out_tongue:

Other than that, the only thing I have is dad’s box of regular 8 mm films, some of which were shot in Japan. Of course by the time I came along he’d already used it to film my sister for years, so I’m not in them. (Well, there’s a short shot of me at a zoo or someplace before we went to Japan.)

I was thinking about my geta yesterday. I used to like wearing them. Of course my feet (and the rest of me) have grown since then, but it would be nice if I still had them.

That should have been ‘colds’, as in the illness.

I wish we had one of those guys around here. That’d be sweet!

I did pretty well when I tried to re-learn it. I could probably learn it well enough to get by, but I wouldn’t be able to pick it up as easily as I did as a child. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone IRL to speak it with.

Have you Google mapped it? It looks like all of Hayama is on street view. It isn’t the same as being there, but it’s a lot cheaper than a plane ticket.

I don’t know what the address was, and there’s no way to find out. Unless the maid happened to write it in her diary, and I don’t know where it is at the moment.

I spent two deployments in Japan, one up north in Misawa, and the other south of Tokyo at Yokosuka. I enjoyed both of them. Misawa was a fairly small town, and like any town outside a military base it had a large number of bars catering to the military business. But there was a tiny restaurant called Kashiro that not many people knew about that served fantastic food for very little money. The yen at that time was about 300 to the dollar, of course.

From Yokosuka, I took the trains on the weekends to see the shrines and to visit Tokyo. The Ginza is quite something at night. I was lucky enough to be in Yokosuka during sakura; the temples are beautiful when the cherry trees are in bloom.