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Honmokujin 2011/1/29 08:42
It's great seeing you post here. I consider your "Memories of old Honmoku" a classic.
by Dave-san (guest) rate this post as useful

Mr. Yajima and other stories 2011/1/29 11:05
Wow, Honmokujin san...
You really got my memory fire stoked, I hadn't thought about Mr. Yajima for a long time and assume he has passed on by now. It would be worthwhile to relate the little bit I knew about this mysterious German man with a Japanese name.
In his younger days, he was a bicycle racer in Europe, participating in three and five day cross continent bike races. I don't think the races were part of the Olympic Games because he never mentioned this connection. Dozens of young men biked mountainous terrain, enduro fashion, taking turns as the front man for the others to draft behind. An occasional kick would send a non-cooperative bicyclist off the road or worse.
He was our math teacher at Yokohama International School (1959-60) and I understood that he took his Japanese name when he married the daughter of a well to do family who had no male heirs.
Yajima loved to tell stories about bike racing and his year as a drafted German soldier on the Russian Front. A bullet wound in his upper thigh cut short his tour (and probably saved his life) since he mentioned having been in hospital for many months following this episode.
In retrospect, it's hard to understand how Yajima landed the teaching position at YIS when the headmaster, a Dutchman named Theo DeHaan, often spoke of the horror perpetrated by the German Army on his home town as a youngster.
YIS held several "athletic days" while I was there. We had a soccer match with kids from St. Joseph and afterward, Mr. Yajima entertained us with a floor exercise that included a very athletic routine with one of the women teachers. Both had experience in gymnastics and we were all impressed when the woman completed a series of flips, landing in Yajima's arms.
A few names I remember; Mr. Stubbs, a wonderful Englishman who taught English and oversaw the monthly YIS newspaper. Spelling was his demonic focus. 20 or 25 spelling words each week and a misspelling was punished with a smack on the butt with a rubber tennis shoe. Three missed words = three smacks on the behind. Mr. Stubbs was our PE instructor until Yajima appeared.
Mr. Baumann; A humorless Swiss national who was our headmaster before Dehaan arrived. Baumann swore like a sailor in two or three languages and would throw a chalkboad eraser at a child not paying attention. Mr. DeHaan smoked Winston cigarettes while in class and genuinely hated Americans.
Mrs. Barr was an English woman who taught geography and history as viewed from the UK. It was interesting to hear about the Brits' "police action" of 1812.
Some years ago I wrote to the school asking what had became of Mr. Stubbs, the only teacher from that era that I was really fond of. Months later, I received a return letter thanking me for submitting my resume and stating the school would notify me when an opening occurred.
by Eric (guest) rate this post as useful

Dave-san, Eric-san, Steffi-san 2011/1/29 11:55
And they called him Mr. Stubbs. Sounds like a title of a movie. I'm probably mixing up Sidney Poitier's two movie roles: One is "To Sir With Love" produced by none other than James Clavell of "Shogun" fame; the other is Mr. Tibbs. Anyway, YIS's response to your query about your favorite teacher is exasperating and infuriating. Seems YIS was more Euro-centered compared to St. Joseph's where I attended. During the first few years there, it was definitely more influenced by the French teachers and the Spaniards but by around 1954 the influence was definitely American. I think by that time, the school joined the American school system with its required curriculum. You may have met some of my classmates who used to hang out at Yohi: Tom de Zengotita, the son of the American consul in Yokohama, Miles Goldrick who used to date a girl at YoHi, and Sparky Davenport who was a disc jockey there. Don't know what happened to Sparky but "Smiles" lives in Santa Barbara and Tom has been teaching at the prestigious Dalton School in New York for a very long time (also teaches at NYU and writes for Harpers Magazine occasionally).
Thank you, Dave-san for your very generous compliment . I'll have to catch up on my reading of this website to read your comments.
I am really intrigued by Steffi's story because it parallel's some of the other stories I know about Karuizawa residents during the war. My good friend Tom Haar's father was a photographer of Hungarian Jewish origin. He and his wife fled Paris just as the Nazis invaded the city, took a boat to Japan with the help of a Japanese friend and survived the war by living in Karuizawa away from the bombardment. Beate Sirota Gordon was another resident there: her father was a famous musician and she became head of the Japan-America Society in New York City. She is known for contributing to the revision of the Japanese constitution during the MacArthur occupation days. And my former neighbor Isaac "Ike" Shapiro, I believe, was also an official of the Japan-America Society there. Those two are very good friends and fellow musicians going back to Karuizawa days.

by honmokujin rate this post as useful

Honmokujin 2011/1/31 11:23
Hello - we are so happy to hear from you, and bring your amazing background onto our thread, which I am catching up on, and so we all welcome you aboard.

Yes, I was in Karuizawa during the war, but unfortunately was quite young and therefore not that aware of the adults in the community of foreigners there at the time. I played with Japanese kids for the most part, and Japanese was my primary language. My mother was newly widowed and had her hands full making some kind of living. I don't think we socialized all that much, except with some Russians, called Koliansky, who also were helpful to my mother. I was not aware of anyone other than German and Russian refugees in the area, but have since learned that there were also some Americans there. There was also a strict self-imposed separation in contact between the Jewish foreigners, and the non-Jews, though I did have at least one non-Jewish Russian friend there. I was around 4 when we went to Karuizawafrom Tokyo, which was when the Allied bombings started in earnest, I think, and was there until around age 7, at which point we moved to Yokohama, and lived on the Bluff. However, I do remember Dr. Sirota quite well, at least, by name, since he was a musician as was my father. It's possible that Sirota actually helped or worked with my father at some point. I have been told that Sirota, and another foreigner, presently named Peter Berton, got my father buried in Yokohama when he died. But all of this would have happened before I turned 4.

I wonder if you're familiar with Peter Berton, who was one of two young Russian students from Harbin living with us in Tokyo - the other was Sasha Kogan, who invented some famous computer games and became very wealthy, continued to live in Japan, but died young. Peter Berton, with whom I spoke last year, is a retired professor of Japanese and Chinese history at USC, and still lives in Beverly Hills. He was close to my family, and to Beato Sirota, who I only knew by name and reputation.

St Mauer's was based in Karuizawa when I was there, and the first English-speaking school I attended. It later moved to Yokohama, but by then I attended St Joseph's. St Joseph's had no American kids in it at the time I was there - I assumed they attended elsewhere. The students there were Turkish, French, Russian, and Japanese of mixed cultural parentage. I first took piano lessons there, and perfected my English before leaving for the US at age 10.

I don't know your friend Tom de Zengotita, but know several former students at Dalton who probably do.

Please continue to tell us your wonderful stories, and join us in our impromptu discussions.
by Steffi (guest) rate this post as useful

Karuizawa and St. Joseph College 2011/2/1 07:22
I just checked the St. Joseph College yearbooks that I have on CD and discovered that no yearbooks were available between 1941 and 1947. However, there is a 1948 yearbook with a lot of female students pictured in it. But whoever the editor was that year neglected to put the names of the students below the photographs. You could very well be in one of the group photos. About Karuizawa: Tom Haar, my good friend from St. Joseph (also a roommate in San Francisco during my college days there and later lived in NY City as a photographer for the Japan Society, etc.) is now putting together a photo show about Karuizawa during the war years. He has interviewed quite a lot of people who remembered those difficult times. No, I do not know the Russians you mentioned although I knew quite a few White Russians who were students at St. Joseph's. Back in 2000, St. Joseph's and St. Maur's got together for a mega-reunion in Los Angeles. There were students from Yohi as well. We did have a grand time at the Beverly Hills Hyatt on Sunset Boulevard. We even ran into Little Richard! Apparently the place is/was very popular with musicians.
by honmokujin rate this post as useful

Todays Haiku 2011/2/4 04:04
I stare at the icycles
.. om my roof
Please, just one drop..
by Peter (guest) rate this post as useful

Snowed Under 2011/2/4 04:13
I'll bet many of you are digging out from the blizzard. We were lucky here in Maryland this time. Last week we had our share of snow miseries--7 inches of wet snow preceded by freezing rain. That left hundreds stranded for many hours during the evening commute. Just wanted to catch up on some of the earlier topics posted: Eric-san--I remember Typhoon Vera that hit Yokohama and toppled a tree in our back yard, the picket fence, the fishing boats that floated into our yard. The bonanza with these storms was that there were thousands of live clams that we could easily pick up, also crabs and even octopuses. Kaoru-san: your father must have so many detective stories to tell. Our next-door neighbor, for instance, was a yakuza who organized gambling in our Honmoku neighborhood; I would like to hear how the Yamaguchi-gumi muscles into Yokohama and made peace with Sumiyoshi-kai and the Chinatown gangs. Steffi: My sempai at St. Joseph's, Isaac Shapiro, now living in NYCity wrote a book published last year about his experiences in wartime Japan. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he knew your parents. His parents were musicians, violinists, I think. Along with the Sirotas, I'm sure the foreign musicians in Karuizawa knew each other.
by honmokujin rate this post as useful

snowed in 2011/2/4 06:37
We are still snowed in from the biggest snowstorm anyone hereabouts can remember; 21 inches of wet snow and 30-40 mph winds. We have a drift on our roof that looks to be another story on the back of our house.
Several condo docks here at Lake of the Ozarks have sunk with boats destroyed.
When we moved here from Minnesota, I sold our eight horsepower snow blower thinking we wouldn't need it. It was a superb machine that I discovered was capable of lifting snow from my driveway onto my neighbor's roof. I wish we had it back.
The snowplow guy who has previously cleared our driveway (1800 feet downhill) called to say he was working on getting out of his own driveway. Patience...
by Eric (guest) rate this post as useful

Winter, winter, go away! 2011/2/4 11:15
Eric - hope things warm up soon before you get "cabin fever."

Here in NYC we have a great system of moving the snow around - doesn't accomplish much, but keeps everyone fit and busy: the store/building owners clear the sidewalks and shovel the snow onto the parked cars and street; the parked car owners shovel themselves out by throwing the snow in the street, onto their neighboring parked cars, or back onto the sidewalks; the city plows come along, clear the street by moving much of the snow back onto the parked cars, who are then seriously barricaded, and then get to shovel themselves out again. Then, there are the folks who simply ignore their parked cars, and leave the snow to take care of itself . However - then the city announces that parking rules are in effect again - that same day! And everyone scrambles to move their cars - somewhere!

Luckily, we live in an apartment, and our cars are safely tucked into our garage - a great luxury here in the city. However, we've had an adventure of our own - the electrical transformers outside our two buildings exploded, and we were without electricity, heat, elevators, or gas for a long day. We are presently on emergency generators until the whole mess gets sorted out.
by Steffi (guest) rate this post as useful

Winter Guilt 2011/2/4 18:51
I think I'm feeling guilty that everyone else is snowed in and we are having a cold but pretty snow-free winter so far here in beautiful Northern Virginia. A couple of my kids got stuck in the commuter gridlock last week but other than that we are pretty lucky so far. I'm not going to brag. I remember Eric was bragging about how nice Missouri was not too long ago. Wednesday was nice enough that I worked outside for a couple hours getting things ready for Spring. I attribute our mild weather to the hot air generated by the wind bags across the river who we elect because of our fears of problems like global warming.
Honmokujinsan, I think this is your sempai's book, http://edokko-author.com/. It looks like something all of us will want to read.
by Dave-san (guest) rate this post as useful

winter hangs on 2011/2/4 22:32
The two feet of snow is still with us today. After taking a hard look at the snowpack, our snow plow guy will do the work with a bobcat machine instead of his truck. Naturally, this costs more but we need to make a grocery run before Super Bowl Sunday.
Just a week ago we had 60 degree temps here.
The book Dave posted looks interesting and I wonder if it is still available. We had an American friend in Kamakura who spent the war in a Japanese prison camp. Robert Lang was a photographer who made film strips and educational films. He survived the war by making and repairing shoes in the camp.
Mr. Lang was married to a Japanese woman who he referred to as "Peanut." Bob was of Hungarian heredity and loved to make meals, usually domestic rabbit, spiced with paprika. I traveled with Bob on a couple of film making trips into rural Japan. There was still quite a bit of silk making in Japan at the time and Bob covered this subject well. On one visit to a very rural community, we were introduced the the traveling puppet man. The puppet man told a story with his puppets and did the voices of the characters. The kids loved it.
by Eric (guest) rate this post as useful

Snow, Kamakura 2011/2/5 01:25
Thank you for the link to the book, Dave-san. That's the one. You and I are practically neighbors. I live in Bethesda, just a few blocks off the DC border. So far we have been lucky with the weather this year--well-deserved since we paid our dues last year a couple of times. Eric-san, hope you dig out of the snow and ice without any damages, esp. to your back. And Steffi-san, hope power is back in your building. Our son lives near NYU so he told us about the misery. About Kamakura: I did not know Mr. Lang but I'll bet my friend Tom Haar knew him when he lived there. His father was also a photographer. And someone mentioned a German restaurant there: it's called Blue Chateau run by the Reiffs. Brothers Utz and Roland were my schoolmates. Roland, I think, runs the place now. I heard complaints about the restaurant--that if you did not clean your plate, their sister would point to the left overs and chide you for wasting precious food! By the way, Tom Haar's mother ran a restaurant in the Ginza called Irene's Hungaria. We used to hear stories about some of her clients: Lefty O'Doul (NY Yankees) and Joe DiMaggio, along with his wife Marilyn Monroe. Also Jane Mansfield and Micky Haggerty (muscle man of Hungarian origin, if I recall correctly.) Do not despair: spring is around the corner!
by honmokujin rate this post as useful

EDOKKO 2011/2/5 05:48
I ordered the book. $19.33 total with the cheapest shipping. They print copies individually as they get orders. We've come a long way since Gutenberg.
Honmokujin-san, I live in historic Alexandria, a port city in earlier times with a fascinating past because of the people who once made this their home, but not as colorful or important as Yokohama's history. Alexandria, like Yokohama, has been an occupied city. Briefly occupied by the British during the war of 1812 and occupied by the North during the entire Civil War.
I guess one of our readers is a person I could call my sempai. Barbara-san rode my school bus and lived a couple blocks from me on Yamate-cho. I remember her because she was a very sophisticated and pretty high school student, but I was a only a seventh-grader so the remembrance was not mutual. Interestingly, we both are from the same area of Pennsylvania.
We have a little water forming around some of our ice today, unlike yesterday. Maybe global warming is returning.
by Dave-san (guest) rate this post as useful

Edokko 2011/2/5 06:50
Thank you Dave-san, for locating the book - you are as always our resident researcher-general! It looks like Amazon.com sells it also - for $10 and up, in hardcover, soft, and Kindle. I'm not sure, but postage may be free. I've had good experiences buying books from this site. They allow you to "examine" sections of it - it seems Ike Shapiro was in Karuizawa at the same time I was, but was quite a bit older, and we didn't attend the same school, so I wouldn't have known him as a kid. But his parents were musicians, so were known to my parents. There is an email contact given at Amazon - I think I'll email him, and also send info about this book to Peter Berton in California, who would be about the same age as Ike, and has the same Russian/Harbin/Japan upbringing. Though perhaps he already knows about the book - and perhaps they have kept in touch. Berton has been back to Japan several times after leaving, and seems to know everyone who was there, though as far as I know, Berton didn't live in Karuizawa or Yokohama, just in Tokyo.

Honmokujin- thanks for all the information. I looked at your interesting article in the Japan Times online, which is also a treasure trove.

I looked around this interesting resource, and found an article about a young American woman, who worked in Kobe during the occupation with the court system, and left behind over 1000 letters to her friends/family in the States, which someone has put together and published, and which give a really interesting history of Japan during that era. One of the letters deals with VD in US troops, their relations with the Japanese girls, and mentions the Yokohama orphanage where the resulting babies were left - I remember the orphanage as being part of the hospital across the street from Berrick Hall where we lived. We kids used to go help take care of the babies, who were sometimes left to be "crib" babies. One of the lucky ones was adopted by a single woman, a Red Cross "girl", who brought her to America and raised her.

Dave-san - may the ice in your area be melted soon by whatever - I caught your cute "hot air" and "melting" comments but am not going down that path again!!
by Steffi (guest) rate this post as useful

Edokko; and the deep freeze 2011/2/5 09:40
Hello, Everyone - I haven't posted lately but have enjoyed the recently revived postings - Honmokujin's interesting memories, Peter's winter haiku, and comments from Eric, Steffi, and, yes, Dave-san with his remarkable memory and kind thoughts, as well as the useful link to Isaac Shapiro's Edokko. You will probably be the first to finish reading this book, Dave-san, so let us know what you think. Steffi, I haven't yet checked Amazon, but recommend the link that Dave-san posted because there are tabs at the top of the page that lead to a brief biographical sketch of Shapiro, testimonials about his book, a slide show with wonderful vintage pictures, and a video of Shapiro speaking about his life and book - there's even a way to contact him via e-mail. I think if you visit the website, Steffi, you may be inspired to write a book about your own remarkable experiences!

It's hard for me to join in the general lamentations about the severe winter storms because in Northern California we've had a run of unusually warm weather with daytime temperatures in the high 60s and 70s - a record-setting 75 last week in the San Francisco Bay Area and even along the coast at Monterey. These temperatures are confusing the plants - and me. It is January, so last week I went out to prune rose bushes and came inside with a bouquet of yellow roses. However, I do recall winters at Penn State when my eyelashes would freeze and it would hurt my lungs to breathe the freezing air. I did my student teaching in Kane, located in northern Pennsylvania, where icicles formed INSIDE our boarding house windows because we were afraid to leave the gas heater on at night; and for eight weeks we had to walk a mile to the high school through drifts of snow two-feet deep and treacherous ice. Those are vivid memories, so I can commiserate with those of you who are in a deep freeze right now. Think spring!
by Barbara (guest) rate this post as useful

Barbara-san 2011/2/5 11:06
Good to hear from you again - and to know that at least some of us are enjoying good weather, even though surprising for this time of year. Enjoy those roses on behalf of all of us!

Re the Shapiro book - yes, Dave's site was wonderful. I was even able to read specific pages about Karuizawa. And the pictures were amazing and brought back the "feel" of those times - that is what made me look into buying this book, and the best deal seemed to be Amazon.

Talking about snow - I remember wading through chest-high snow in Karuizawa, where I don't remember anything ever being plowed. Then again, I probably wasn't that tall at the time, so maybe it wasn't all that bad.

Right now it seems to be colder in places like Texas, Oklahoma and even Benton, Louisiana, where we have some old friends, running a horse farm, then it is here in NY. So, let's hope that the worst is over - and that Peter doesn't have to chop too many more tons of snow before it's all done.
by Steffi (guest) rate this post as useful

Edokko 2011/2/5 16:13
Steffi, I went to Amazon, and you are right about the alternate choices there for buying Isaac Shapiro's Edokko. Thanks to Amazon's technology, I was able to go inside the book and read everything that Amazon provides - actually quite a lot. I especially enjoyed reading about Shapiro's life in pre-World War II Yokohama, all of it well written, some of it triggering my own memories of living on the Bluff from 1952-54. Judith H. Scott, a woman who read Edokko and reviewed it on Amazon, would probably be pleased to know about this forum. She says in her review that she became excited to learn that Shapiro went to school on the Bluff because she herself, a former Army brat, lived on the Bluff when she was in fourth grade (no dates provided).

Okay, Davbe-san, any ideas about how to let Judith H. Scott know about our little Yokohama community on this formum? Thanks, Dave-san, for passing along information about this book and piquing my interest in it. Since this book is being published by a small, print-on-demand company, and probably hasn't been widely marketed, I'm curious, where did you first read or hear about it?
by Barbara (guest) rate this post as useful

winter 2011/2/5 22:33
Hi all..I am pleased that the forum continues.
We are buried in NH. over 70inches of snow on the ground, very bad ice dams causing leaks, roof collapses [not me..yet] and another 3-6 to come with freezing rain.
The snow is over the windows on the first floor and I have been digging out for the last 2 weeks. Currently I am working on the almost flat roof of a building we own, have removed tons of snow and the ice is 8 inches thick, and won't move.
Barbara..please send me a yellow rose ! I will make it into my Ikebana..I do that too.
So enough whining. I could use one of those
Japanese shiatsu [massage] girls...no spring here yet, temps in the single digits.
by Peter (guest) rate this post as useful

akkk, more snow! 2011/2/5 22:57
Another two or three inches of snow overnight. I will try to move this powdery material with my backpack leaf blower before it gloms onto the two feet of old snow already here.
For the uninitiated, imagine carrying a Honda motorcycle on your back with the motor at full cry.
Barbara, I'm envious of your lovely weather in northern California. In 1961, we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on our last return stateside and I remember thinking that Califorina looked a lot better than Iowa (where we were headed.)
About 15 years ago when I worked for a regional oil company, we planned to build an asphalt storage and loadout facility on city land in Stockton. I made a dozen trips from Minneapolis to Oakland and drove to the site in a rental (always stopping at Trader Vic's in Emoryville for at least one business lunch.) I got to know many of the folks on the oil selling and trading business and was surprised to discover that with all the refineries in Califoria, a large percentage of California gasoline was being shipped in from S. Korea via tanker to a terminal in Martinez.
I got the contract nailed down and a tank builder hired but by the time the California Air Board, the county air quality agency and the neighbhood community action board got done with us, the project was scrapped and we ended up building the thing in Reno, NV.
I heard recently that Stockton had turned down a proposed tourist attraction on Rough and Ready Island featuring the battleship Iowa, now mothballed in Suisun Bay, northwest of SF. Pity that a place can't be found for this old ship.
by Eric (guest) rate this post as useful

Barbara-san 2011/2/6 01:52
I think the Shapiro book was recently brought to our attention by Honmokujin, our new poster from the DC area. Look back a page or two.
by Steffi (guest) rate this post as useful

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