Glenn H. Fujihara
"Sojourn to Japan"
My journey to Japan began in the spring of 1947. Life aboard the troop-ship was monotonous except for the thought that we were en route to Japan. Talk of getting rich by blackmarketing filled the air. Goodies were readily available at the ship's commissary. The most sought after articles were cigarettes, soap, candies and canned goods. The day of arrival finally came. The sight of Mt. Fujiyama appeared in the mist. Was it just a mirage? As we docked in the harbor, tiny boats filled with Japanese people came begging for food. The pathetic sight of dirty, emaciated kids was a traumatic shock to us. I made a resolution there and then that I would help the Japanese people in whatever means possible. I threw overboard the bag full of goodies I had. When we settled ATIS in Tokyo, I wrote a brief letter to my mother.
Okaa-sama. Buji de Nippon ni tochaku shima shita. Nippon no keshiki wa ii desu ne. Not a word of any negative experiences.
After a brief orientation period, I was assigned to the CIC unit in Kokura in Kyushu. The CO, a major, was very cordial. "Young man, you will be replacing a man from Hawaii on Monday in Beppu. Tomorrow you're going on a boat-ride with us." A boat-ride? I spent a sleepless night thinking: What in the world is a boat-ride? The major informed us the next morning at breakfast that the Chief of Police of Kokura had invited the CIC unit to a social party on their boat, a tug-boat with ample space on deck. Food, drinks and geisha-girls would be on board for a royal party. I could see the importance of this meeting, though social, between the chiefs on both sides and the need for cooperation. Sitting between the major and the Chief of Police, I leaned over the the Chief of Police and whispered "Boku no Nihongo wa mazui desu. Nihon e kite yaku ikkagetsu. Kantan na nihongo de hanashite kudasai." " Ah so! Ah so! Boku mo Eigo zen zen wakaranai. Kyo wa bi-zu- nesu nashi. No business dakara shimpainaku. Yoshi yoshi". The rest of the day went very well. A bottle of beer made my tongue very loose, interjecting whatever came to mind not necessarily conveying what the major or the police chief were saying.
A puzzling assignment came to our CIC office in Beppu. A request to mediate a labor strike between the wood cloggers (GETA) union and the lumber company. Why in the world are we involved in a labor dispute? Our CO realizing the futility of assignment, picked me (the rookie in our unit) and an agent, a 6'2" tall Minnesotan to the job. "Go thru the motion. No rough stuff". We drove up a rough mountainous national high-way to HITA. A two- hour drive and 2 flat tires later we arrived at HITA, a cozy town high up in the mountain. We immediately contacted a municipal official who was responsible for our presence there in HITA. He accompanied us to a lodge (Ryokan) where we were to stay overnight. We unloaded our provisions (K Rations, C Rations, canned goods, beer and water) and then proceeded to the site of the negotiation. I asked the municipal official to speak first: to impress upon them that we were not there to intrude on the negotiation but we were asked to be of assistance to help resolve their problem. I had the Minnesotan address the group. His massive stature was enough to scare the heck out of the negotiators. They listened. I attempted to impress upon them that both parties must "give" a little. Stubbornness will get you nowhere. This was nothing new for them to ponder over. We sat and listened to the negotiator for about an hour and a half then excused ourselves with assurance that we would be back the next day.
We returned to the lodge for some siesta time and cold drinks. Bud for my buddy and Coke for me. Obasan dropped in to ask us "What's for dinner? Your C-Rations, K-Rations or my home-cooked meal?" Without any hesitation, I blurted out, "ARIGATO! ONEGAI SHIMA SU. NAN DEMO II KARA TANOMIMASU. ARIGATO. The invitation to a high school dance, would be decided upon after dinner. The dinner was brought to us by Obasan's daughter. Hmm not bad. A sumptuous meal: miso soup, oyako-donburi and pickled vegetables. My buddy devoured everything that was placed before him. I enjoyed the meal manipulating the chopsticks with much more proficiency than my buddy.
Curiosity got the best of us about the high school dance so we eagerly drove to the school gym. The massive hulk of the Minnesotan stopped all activity as the school principal greeted us. There were more chaperones and faculty members than students. Being in the limelight made us very uncomfortable. We were too shy and embarrassed to ask the students to dance. We spent an hour of the evening chit-chatting with the faculty members. We encountered an invasion of swarming termites back at the lodge. Millions of them. The Obasan came to turn off the lights. We spent the hour in darkness brushing off the bugs from ourselves. Finally! Silence. All the termites died after laying their eggs. Obasan came to assure us that all was over. She put on the lights and hurriedly swept the bugs off the floor. "This is an annual occurrence. Just a nuisance. GOMEN NA SAI."
Obasan prepared breakfast for us which consisted of miso soup, boiled eggs, canned sausages, rice and coffee. We offered the municipal official to join us. He graciously accepted the coffee.
We agreed not to spend too much time at the negotiations. We said our piece, thanked them for their hospitality and to their surprise I placed a carton of cigarettes and a box of chocolates on the table. I told them to share the goodies among themselves. They stood up and thanked us. We exchanged Sayonaras, drove the official back to his office, thanked him for his efforts and gave him a package of goodies. We then proceeded to the lodge to pick up our baggage. We left all the remaining food stuff, mostly C-Rations and a carton of cigarettes. Oh! What a nice old lady, She treated us like we were her own children. We gave her a voucher and assured her that she would be paid by the proper authorities for our hotel bill. On our way back, we picked up the two flat tires, thanked the shop master and gave him a voucher and a couple of packs of cigarettes and assured him that he would be paid by the proper authorities for his services.
About two weeks later, we were informed by the municipal official of Hita that the union and lumber company had come to an amicable agreement. He thanked us for our input in settling the heated disagreements. Our advice in a nut shell was "Cool Head".
After a short three-month duty in Beppu, I was ordered to go to Kyoto Headquarters. I wondered what were the reasons for my sudden reassignment. Incompetent performance of duty? The Lieutenant gave no explanation. On the train ride to Kyoto, I kept on thinking for other explanations for this dilemma. The only foolish blunder I could have done was to make visits to my relatives in the outskirts of Beppu. The proximity and close relationship with family members must have been a no-no policy with the CIC.
Kanazawa was a beautiful city; one of the major cities of Japan untouched by American bombs.
Takeo was one of our house-boys. His wife was gravely ill and was hospitalized. I reported her condition to the Captain. He ordered me to go to the hospital to talk to the doctor. I asked him how we could help her. The doctor indicated "penicillin", the miracle drug not available to the Japanese at that time. I relayed the message to the Captain and he immediately called the Military Government dispensary and was successful in obtaining the drug. I delivered the penicillin to the doctor who immediately administered the drug to Takeo's wife. A few weeks later, Takeo with his wife, dressed in a kimono, came to our residence. They thanked us for saving her life and gave us a present.
Just about Christmas time, I was sent to NANAO, a fishing village of about 10,000 people in the Noto peninsula. The office and living quarters covered a whole block. It must have been the best house in that town. Of course, all the improvements that were added to the mansion made it a real luxurious quarters. The remodeling included flushing toilets, plumbing to the kitchen which meant a water tank and a septic tank, two car garages, a tall fence completely around the property, a flag pole and sentry post at the entrance manned by Japanese policemen. The only luxury we lacked was air- conditioning and central heating units. Because of the fire hazards we were not permitted to have the electric heater on when we went to bed. Ah! Well, the maids came early in the morning to put the heater on before we got up. Here we lived and worked. We lived like royalty and were treated like kings. We were two Nisei boys. The boss was a Nisei warrant officer from Texas (Texas AM) grad and myself.
Nanao was so situated in the boondocks. Most of our food supplies from Osaka via train were stolen since we were at the very end of the line. No problem... We buddah heads could survive on rice, seafoods, chicken and eggs that were readily available in the market. We were provided with a stack of Japanese Yen, which we used to bribe informants for secret information. Our frozen foods were stored at the fishing cooperatives warehouse. Everyday I would ask our cook what he wanted. The seafood obtained was non-gratis: fish of all kinds, octopus, clams and king crabs. Yes, I befriended the foreman at the storage house. A few packs of cigarettes was a cheap exchange. Chicken and eggs were bought at the open market. The vegetables and rice was left up to the cook to purchase.
Being the courier was a weekly job. We would call the trainmaster a day before to reserve a section of the train to Kanazawa, a two-hour trip. They would rope off the last two seats that were face-to- face. The conducter would guard the area from the mass of unruly people carrying their bags of fish and foodstuffs. A few minutes before departure time the trainmaster would escort me to my seat. The passengers would stare at me and the empty seats. Usually I'd let the obasans sit, provided they placed their fish on the floor and it was not hanging from the rafters. We got along fine.
In the early spring the Chief of Police of Kanazawa informed us of the impending visit by the Emperor to officially open the ceremonies of the ALL JAPAN OLYMPICS, a gathering of the top athletes of Japan. His itinerary included a visit to a lacquer ware and a ceramic shop.
We were at the train station well ahead of the Emperor's arrival time. The Chief of Police beseeched us not to talk to the Emperor nor walk in his path on the red carpet. He acknowledged our presence and we bowed our heads in respect. We (as the security team) rushed to our jeep, started toward the scheduled route way ahead of the procession. The rest of the CIC personnel were placed in key positions of the itinerary but out of sight of the public. The two lowest ranking personnel in our unit, a corporal and sergeant were the only Americans seen by the public. The scheduled route was filled with millions of Japanese people, children waving the Japanese flag and cheering. What a sight to behold! Unfortunately, we were not permitted to carry a camera.
My tour of duty was quickly coming to an end. The colonel asked me to re-enlist. Oh! How could I? I had lived in this country for over a year and barely knew what was going on in this world. I rarely read the Stars and Stripes paper and had no access to an English radio. Intelligence reports of the war-clouds were gathering in Korea so it was time to say Sayonara and ARIGATO to the kind people of Japan.