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Job's Page - 1948-1951 Tokyo (with comments from current Tokyo by Lyle H Saxon)

"Wool, Cotton & No Air-Conditioning"

     In 1949, summer meant changing from wool uniforms to cotton, both fabrics have been replaced with man-made fibers, at least in army uniforms.  Few people or businesses had air-conditioning at that time and electric fans were small and a luxury.  People still dressed properly when in public, and shorts for both men and women were not seen.  I wonder if these extra pounds are what's making me feel hotter.

   Job's book, "At Mama-san House" can be found at Amazon.com

"Ikebukuro & the Allied Personnel Car"

     Reviewing Ikebukuro photos: In 1949 little of interest to Americans was to be seen there, but G.I.s enjoyed hearing the station speaker pronounce it as we passed through on our way to Asaka, or the other direction to Tokyo Station.  Invariably we would repeat "Ikebukuro" and laugh.  Even if a comfortable Allied Personnel car was attached on the rear of the train, we chose the crowded cars and stood up as they were much more interesting.
     Did I ever mention that  Keio or Keno University (closer to Yokohama that Tokyo) [probably the Hiyoshi campus of Keio University, which is in fact in Yokohama, between Yokohama Station and Shibuya Station on the Toyoko Line] was occupied and used as a school for radio repairman and cooks/bakers school.  While in the M.P.s I attended the radio repairman course, but was far too young and empty headed to do better than wash out.  I recall that area was bleak and ugly, same as my brain.

LHS:  The Hiyoshi area of Yokohama is quite a nice area as I write this in 2007.  Tokyo & Yokohama both change very rapidly, so the decades have basically made a new city, with not many traces of the old.  Many of the university buildings seem to be quite old though - so they may well be the same.

   Job's book, "At Mama-san House" can be found at Amazon.com

"Tatami Mats"

     In 1966, on my Rest & Recuperation leave of absence to Tokyo from Viet Nam.  I found that tatami floors in the new hotels were gone, as well as space, and giggling females, a disappointment.
     Taxi drivers in Tokyo knew of no traditional hotels so I took the train to Zama where a taxi driver dropped me at a traditional hotel.  Each room was modern with private toilets and (solitary) baths, but with tatami throughout, bed on the floor, and practically no furniture.  It was pleasant and relaxing.  However, I had hoped for the traditional hotel communal bath where after baring most of one's secrets, perhaps a social contact might be initiated.
     Old Japan offered so much.

   Job's book, "At Mama-san House" can be found at Amazon.com

"Trains & Paved Roads"

LHS: I was watching some old Japanese newsreels, and one from 1956 (or maybe 1955) showed conditions on a train, comparing the a 3rd class car to a 2nd class car and then a 1st class car.  Were there three classes of train cars when you were here too?  Now there are only two; regular and "Green Car" (which is what the previous 2nd class was I think...)
      From other newsreels from the mid-50's, Japan looks like a very dusty place - with most roads unpaved....

Job: I'm not sure if trains running about Tokyo in 1949 had three classes or not.  I knew only two.
     The Allied Forces car attached to many trains was very comfortable, but no sales of refreshments as trains in Korea today have.  The rest of the train would be pretty lean with hard benches (for the lucky), most people would stand.  I never rode a long distance train.  Extra trains laid on for moving troops were perhaps 2nd class with three person seats facing other seats.  No toilets as I recall.  And no one had yet heard of air-conditioning.
     No, most roads and streets were not paved and yes they were dusty.  People wore masks almost everywhere to thin out dust and a most common sight was shops and homes next to a road with papa-san throwing water on the road or street to slow down the dust.  In rainy weather, streets were muddy and everybody wore wooden shoes with high blocks to stay above the muddy water.  I kept a pair of them in the barracks to wear in the shower. 
     G.I.s were inclined to wear combat boots in small towns, however, Tokyo had paved streets so low quarter shoes were OK., and easier to get off and back on when visiting "a mama-san house."  At that time, Yokohama was pretty basic and combat boots were in order.

LHS: They have people walking through the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) with carts of food and drink for sale, but recently people tend to stock up on things (at lower prices) before getting on the train, so they seem to be selling less than before.  On the Odakyu Line "Romance Car" (reserved seat express train), they used to always have people come through selling things as well, but the last time I jumped on one in a hurry and was hoping to buy a drink for the trip, the service wasn't in effect.  I think they still have it, but only for the busiest times - weekends, holidays, etc.
     Paved roads... everywhere in Tokyo is paved now!  It's quite rare to find any ground not covered with buildings, roads, sidewalks, etc.  When I visited Yushima-Seido, at one point, as I stood on the uncovered ground there, I looked down at the dirt and grass in wonder, thinking "This ground has never been covered over with concrete!  Wow..." and not in any sarcastic frame of mind either!  There really are very few times when you find yourself standing on grass & dirt in 21st century Tokyo.

Job: My last message about dust needed additional comment.  Besides many roads not being paved, some were just worn out with broken asphalt and potholes.  Very few Japanese owned a car anyway and traffic was mostly trucks, heavy motorcycles with small truck beds, bicycles, and G.I. trucks and a few cars.  Very few G.I.s owned a car.  But dust next to the roads was a problem.  Many burned over areas had not been rebuilt yet so they were just dirt and dust.
     But things were moving and construction had begun.  The Korean War was a blessing for Japan because war factories got contracts for many things.  Barracks were empty but American Hospitals were busy, G.I.s coming in for a break spent money like crazy and navy ships were using Japan as a base for repairs.  Air Force bases were busy.  Japanese construction boomed and of course there were new train cars and repaired roads.
     One man's crisis is another man's success.
     Is it possible to see these old newsreels on the Internet?

LHS: I saw some evidence of paved streets in rough condition in Kurosawa's 1946 movie "Stray Dog".  As for the newsreels, I don't think they're on the Internet, but you might be able to order them (Japanese only I think, without any English translations) via the Internet.

   Job's book, "At Mama-san House" can be found at AMAZON.COM

"Lack & Overabundance of Lighting"

One of my earlier impressions in Japan was an amazement of how brightly lit interiors were/are at night.  The streets outside are brightly lit as well, but many interiors are overlit to the point of being uncomfortable unless you put sunglasses on!  There are many theories as to why this is so, but the most common one is that the country is still living down its bad memories of the bad old dark days.  This might indeed be the case, as more subtle lighting seems to be appearing along with younger people who have no memories of anything except bright lights and abundance.  Back in the late forties it was a different world:

Job recalls,
     Late pictures from Tokyo and surrounding districts tell me that tonight every shop, street, and path will be illuminated. I mean really well lighted. Perhaps modern Japan requires inescapable bright lights, but in 1948,49, 50, and 51 there were no lights on residential streets and very few on main streets, even Ginza was dim, mysterious, and considerably romantic. In surrounding communities, shops would close when daylight turned to twilight and most noise would cease. From train stations, people hurried on foot along dark unpaved lanes to homes, dinner, and maybe a visit to the local communal bath house identified only by a dim paper lantern, as were restaurants and hotels.
     Television and automobiles had not yet arrived to violate quiet nights and torment neighbors, but maybe one might hear a recording of a girl's voice singing sadly of a lost or absent lover, (so it seemed to me) and one might be lucky enough to hear a samisen and traditional song.
     Street crime was unheard of and one felt perfectly safe on nights when moon and stars chose to be elsewhere. As one walked through the friendly dark, anyone met along the way meant only an exchange of, "Konban-wa!"  
     It was a time of quiet nights unaltered by lights, with  faint music that any young American soldier might find to be romantic . . .
Lighting... how I envy the people who were able to walk the streets and illuminate the inside of houses before the advent of florescent lighting!  I know it's efficient for the same amount of illumination, but I would rather burn the same power and use a dim  bulb than blast myself with the horrible light that florescent tubes provide.  I don't know what it is exactly, but something about those tubes is very unpleasant for me.  So the idea of a world without them sounds like paradise!  Street lights are all kinds of odd things these days, the most irritating things being that some are so bright, they hurt the eyes and ruin the atmosphere of the night.

Night?  What is it anyway?  There is no night in Tokyo now - ever!  Everywhere at all times is brightly lit!  I have to think back decades to even remember what night is really (I've never experienced it in Tokyo).  Ah... and with the memory is the associated fear of the unknown dark - thus the overlighting!  Some happy medium would be nice!

Shamisen (I was about to change the spelling in Job's story from "samisen" to "shamisen", but when I looked it up in my Random House Dictionary, I saw that it's listed as "samisen", so I'll leave it that way in Job's story, but for my own text, I'll be stubborn and spell it "shamisen" which is the correct phonetic spelling for the way it's pronounced in Japanese - since the first sound unit is "sha" and not "sa")... I had a traditional dinner once, where at the end of the meal, the wood & paper sliding doors behind us were opened to reveal a woman in kimono who played the shamisen and sang a couple of songs.  It was a beautiful experience that I would love to have often, but so far have had just that one time.

Safe streets - it's still mainly safe to walk the streets here at any time of day or night.  Crime is not nonexistent, but is lower than in most major cities in the world.  (I think... I haven't read up on this in detail lately - certainly it's not particularly high here.)

LHS - 2007/04/22 - Tokyo

  Job's book, "At Mama-san House" can be found at AMAZON.COM

1948-51 Tokyo

     My mental pictures of Tokyo area remain locked in 1948-51.
     I view with interest dozens of color pictures of today's glitzy Tokyo which to me are glimpses into the future and I like them, but my recall is in black and white and a city where many people lived in shacks, a result of the war.
     Most people were poor and struggling, but friendly and trustworthy, no insurgents here. To me, Japan was two worlds, the favored one being American military, but the two worlds met everyday. For many Americans, first contact were with the hundreds of people who worked on every army camp. Such as dentists:
     My very first dental work was at Camp Drake located north of Tokyo by Asaka, a dusty village where souvenir and tailor shops for G.I.s were the primary industry. The "Dental Office" was operated by Japanese personnel who worked very cheaply with a few American G.I.s as supervisors. 
     The building was long and open-ended, much like a hay barn, with a long row of dental chairs.
     All chairs were filled at the same time and the young Japanese dentist would introduce himself and say "I sorry." His apology would be repeated often and all day to the same patient and for good reason. The poor dentist might get slugged, cause,
     There would be no novacaine or any pain killing aids.
     Drilling a molar was performed slowly and carefully with much rinsing and profuse apologies mixed with the patient's winces, grunts, and expletives. Smoke breaks for all patients (and dentists) would be called at the same time, and everybody would go outside, stretch their legs, walk about while gasping at cigarettes, and regain composure. It would take all day for one tooth.
      I got two fillings (two days) which served me well for many years.

   Job's book, "At Mama-san House" is available through AMAZON.COM

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