Category Archives: Hiroshima

An Eight Decade Circle


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Unretouched image of Uncle Suetaro’s band.

My father’s decades old story about how he broke his elbow became the topic in the earlier story, “正覚時” (Shoukakuji).

Shoukakuji is the name of the Buddhist temple – a hop, skip and a jump from my father’s family home in Hiroshima.

Temple entrance.  My father's home is behind me and to the right.
Temple entrance. My father’s home is behind me and to the right.

The temple’s reverends supported my family’s religious needs for over a century now.

Aunt Michie’s wedding.

Funeral services for my grandparents and my father’s siblings.  Including my Aunt Shiz just this last September in “The Spirit of Aunt Shiz and Kharma“.

Including my Uncle Suetaro who was killed in action as an Imperial Japanese Army soldier on Leyte in the Philippines.

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When Masako-san, my son Takeshi and I walked to the temple in 2013 to investigate my dad’s story of how he broke his elbow, we were greeted by the Reverend.  He was 90 years old and still had his wits about him.

While he did not recollect my father, he validated the placement of a large round rock under the pine tree that hasn’t been touched for as long as he’s lived at the temple…. And that’s a loooong time.  I’m sure he was born there.

And that there was a big branch of a pine tree that has since broken off recently.

He said he knew my Aunt Mieko who died in 1939.

And miraculously, he mentioned Uncle Suetaro.  The reverend said they played together as children and that he was always a jokester and smiling…and that he could hear him playing his “fue”, or flute, from his second story room at the house.

Until then, not even Masako-san knew Uncle Suetaro played a flute…but there was no proof.

Just the recollection of a 90 year old reverend.

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My tennis elbow pain kept me from retouching the old vintage photographs I had brought back from Hiroshima last September.

And the project was at a standstill since late October.  That was as depressing as Obama V2.0.

But from three weeks ago, I am attempting to slowly restart the retouching project as my elbow pain has subsided greatly…and I came across the group photo you saw at the beginning here.

This was the backside since I know you ALL can read ancient Japanese:

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Written by Uncle Suetaro himself.  I believe – BELIEVE – it says, “February 21, 1939. Performed for First Sino-Japanese War anniversary.”

As retouched:

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As retouched. Uncle Suetaro is the slightly taller one just to the left of center.  If you click on the image, it will enlarge.  Look in his right hand.

But as I enlarged the image to begin retouching, something caught my (old) eye.

I noticed Uncle Suetaro was clutching something in his right hand.

A case.

A case more slender than the others in the group picture.

It’s not a trumpet or a trombone, that’s for sure.

Or for a cue stick.

It sure looks like a flute case.

Oh, heck.  It IS a flute case.

I say so.

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So words from the mouth of an old reverend started an eighty year old circle… to this vintage photograph of young boys.

All of whom likely lost their lives in a violent war.

As did my uncle who played a flute.

My “Top Ten” Reasons Why Japan Lost the Pacific War…so Quickly


USS Nevada

OK.  Relatively speaking.  “Quickly”.

But we’ve been “at war” against terrorism – both foreign and now domestic – since 2001.  More than 11 years.

But the war against Japan started officially for us on December 7, 1941.  We were caught flat-footed.

Yet it was over by August 15, 1945.

Incredible.  In 3 years, 8 months, 8 days.  How could that have happened so quickly (relatively speaking)?  Have you ever thought of this timeline?

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Well, I have removed my Kevlar flak vest for all you bloggers who love history – and who are immensely more versed and intelligent than I…or is it me?

Below herein is my “Top Ten” list of the reasons why Japan lost the Pacific War…so quickly.

I’d like to hear your opinions, corrections, or teachings.

Hunting season is open.  Rubber bullets are most suitable.

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Damage from overhead – Pearl Harbor aftermath

1. Long Range Failure of Pearl Harbor Attack

a. Admiral Nagumo – placed in charge of the attack force by the Japanese Imperial Navy and NOT by Admiral Yamamoto –  failed to fully execute the direct orders issued to him by Yamamoto.

b. Attack plans skewed towards sinking of carriers (which were not there). Genda wanted to insure carriers were sent to bottom and therefore be unsalvageable. Because our carriers were not there, pilots overly concentrated on battleships or other less tactically important ships.

c. The ordnance used by the attacking Japanese was inappropriate for sinking battleships.  Besides, Pearl Harbor is way to shallow to allow for “sinking to the bottom of the ocean,” so to speak.

d. The first wave of Japanese torpedo bombers – although a complete tactical surprise – was a dismal failure with very few hits.

e. Failed to destroy dry docks and fuel dumps (Hawaii is an island country and had to import all fuel…like Japan).  Although there is the fog of battle, Nagumo (overly cautious) did not heed the strong advice from Fuchida who urged a third wave just for such purpose.

f. In light of “e” above, Yamamoto himself had one weakness: he did not see his submarine force has an OFFENSIVE weapon.  He failed to deploy them between Pearl Harbor and the West Coast of the US to target supply ships – which would have been carrying fuel, materiel and supplies to rebuild Pearl Harbor.

g. Nearly all ships damaged by the attack were refloated.

h. Insufficient training by Japanese Navy in preparation for attack.

i. Lastly – and for some foolish reason – they attacked on a Sunday morning.

2. Breaking of the Japanese Naval Code and the failure of the Japanese to accept it was broken.

3. 24-hour Repair of USS Yorktown after Coral Sea in Preparation for Battle of Midway.

USS Yorktown afire
USS Yorktown afire

4. Innovation of US Navy to Use CO2 for Fire Suppression.

a. US Navy would flood fuel tanks on ships with carbon dioxide thereby displacing oxygen before battle.

b. Japanese ships had useless fire suppression systems with fuel right alongside ordnance.

5. Innovation of Rubber-lined Fuel Tanks and Armor Protection for Pilots on US Aircraft

An example of the advantage of self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring.
An example of  survivability with self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring.  F6F Hellcat.

a. “Self-sealing tanks” in wings.

b. Impressive armor shielding for the pilot (especially in the Grumman F6F Hellcat).

c. Japanese planes had neither, leading to insurmountable casualties and easy shoot-downs, i.e., Japanese aircraft would “flame” or disintegrate under withering fire from .50 caliber guns.

Japanese planes did not have self-sealing fuel tanks
Japanese planes did not have self-sealing fuel tanks

6. Battle of Midway

a. Huge tactical gamble by Nimitz in usage of Spruance as task force commander.

b. Tactical decision to launch torpedo planes early on by Spruance. While all but one pilot perished and no torpedoes hit, Mitsubishi Zeroes assigned to combat air patrol were at low altitudes since they shot down the torpedo planes.

c. Dauntless dive bombers (with US fighter cover) were able to dive relatively uncontested and caught Nagumo between launchings with ordnance scattered about.

d. Confusion by Japanese pilots that two US carriers were sunk. In actuality and while eventually sunk, the USS Yorktown had been hit in the first wave but the fires had been put out before the second wave attacked.

e. With the sinking of four Japanese carriers (see Fire Suppression above) and loss of valuable pilots, the Japanese Navy ceased to be an offensive force.

7. Production Might of the US

a. We had eight carriers at time of Pearl Harbor (in the Pacific and the Atlantic) but were down to two after the Battle of Midway.

b. We lost the Wasp, Hornet, Lexington and Yorktown by then.

c. The USS Enterprise was the last operational carrier. The “other” carrier, the USS Langley, was used only for training purposes and was out in the Atlantic.

d. By the time of the invasion of Okinawa in 1945, however, we had over 40 carriers as part of the assault fleet alone.

8. Semi-automatic M1 Garand rifle and the M-2 Flamethrower

a. Japanese military were burdened with reliable but bolt action Arisaka or failure-prone Nambu armaments.  (Bolt-action implies the shooter must lower his rifle to load the next round and then re-sight.)

b. The M-1 Garand took an eight-round clip.  The round had tremendous stopping power, was rugged and a rifle squad could lay down withering fire with the semi-automatic.  The shooter did not have to lower his rifle to load the next round and re-sight.

c. On Iwo Jima and other island battles, the Japanese were rarely seen. As such, the flamethrower was critical for success although accompanied by high mortality rates.

Marines carry the M1 Garand into battle at Tarawa Nov 1943
Marines carry the M1 Garand into battle at Tarawa Nov 1943
Marines Using Flame Thrower on Iwo Jima
US Marines using M-2 flamethrower against entrenched enemy on Iwo Jima

9. The Japanese-American (or “Nisei”) Soldiers in the Top Secret Military Intelligence Service (MIS)

Two of the Nisei secretly attached to Merrill's Marauders plan with General Stillwell.
Two of the Nisei secretly attached to Merrill’s Marauders plan with General Stillwell.

a. MIS secretly accompanied Marines and soldiers for every Pacific Theater amphibious assault or parachuted in with Airborne troops.

b. Nisei’s were the actual soldiers that listened in on Japanese Navy radio transmissions and NOT US Navy personnel. One transmission disclosed details on Admiral Yamamoto’s flight schedule which led to his shootdown.

c. Quickly translated captured major Japanese battle plans for Leyte Gulf (Z-Plan) and allowed for the lop-sided victory at the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”.

d. The invaluable intel provided by the MIS proved to the (generally unsupportive) top echelon that the Japanese military was near operational collapse in many combat areas.

10. The US Marine Corps

Marine catches up to comrades after covering fallen buddy with tarp and marking it with his M-1
Marine catches up to comrades after covering fallen buddy with tarp and marking it with his M-1

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OK.  So what about the B-29’s or the atomic bombs/fire bombings?  Aren’t they some of the reasons Japan lost the Pacific War?

No.  Not in my humble opinion.

Tinian
B-29 boneyard, Tinian

Historical facts will show that the B-29s were largely ineffective until the time LeMay unleashed the firebombing campaign on March 9, 1945.  The first B-29s were deployed out of India and China in the summer of 1944.  For the first missions, about 20% failed to reach their target due largely to mechanical trouble.  Of the approximately 80% that made it to target, only a couple of bombs actually hit target.  Therefore, ineffective results.

Their engines were also prone to overheating in flight.  Criminy.

As for the firebombings/atomic bombings, it is my opinion Japan had already lost the Pacific War due to the ten summarized reasons above.  Intelligence obtained by the US Army MIS Nisei’s like my dad’s predecessors support that conclusion.  When the Nisei interrogated Japanese prisoners at the front lines, it was clear they were nearly without food, water, medical supplies or ammunition.   Their morale was also devastated.  For instance, Japanese soldiers that surrendered would say, “We were terrified.  For every mortar round we would fire at the Marines, ten rounds would come back.”  The Japanese needed to make every round count; the Americans didn’t.

Japanese soldiers – dead, wounded or captured – would have uncensored letters from home on their person.  After the Nisei translated those letters on the battlefront, they disclosed that their families, too, were without much food or water…and that morale was extremely low.

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So some Greek dude said centuries ago that, “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Pretty smart.  But that applies even today – and certainly during World War II.

We were raised with certain textbooks for our history classes.  We believed in them.  We had no reason not to.

But the truth is, there are many versions of history.  Factual versions.  Incorrect versions.  Factual versions “edited” by the victors.  Factual versions written by the losers.  And new versions.  And versions to further patriotism.

But there is one thing for sure…  Said by one of the most brilliant minds this world has known:

“I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN

Mr. Johnson, USMC – Part IV


Just two months after Old Man Jack passed away, so did the young boy who stood in the US Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Louisiana in 1942.

The man who told me funerals don’t do a damn for him anymore.

Mr. Johnson was gone.

The cremated remains of Mr. Johnson

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The neighborhood was in shock.  I had waved to Mr. Johnson just three days earlier while he and Marge gingerly got out of their car.  I said in a louder than normal voice from across the street: “We’re still on for breakfast on Saturday, right Mr. Johnson?”  We were to go have breakfast and chat about Old Man Jack – and perhaps learn more of Mr. Johnson.  Instead, he died suddenly just three days later.  Three days.

After 66-1/2 years of marriage, Marge was now a widow.  A sudden illness took his last breath away when bombs could not 70 years earlier.  He was 89 years old.

Marge surprised me when she asked if I would video Mr. Johnson’s funeral.  I told her it would be my privilege.  I was elated to be of some service to her.

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After Old Man Jack’s funeral, Mr. Johnson invited me over after I got home from work that night.  That was when he volunteered that story about how “he got suckered into becoming a Marine”.  Lovingly, of course.  You could tell he had esprit de corps in his blood to that day.  He was proud of not having BEEN a Marine, but of BEING a Marine.  He had all the right to be.

He also talked about how he met Marge.  What a wonderful story it was.  I will try to capture the essence of what he told me.

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By early 1944, Mr. Johnson (now a sergeant) had been taken off the front lines to recover from his grave wounds.  He was “pretty messed up,” as he put it.  Didn’t say much more.  He was put in charge of the motor pool at Camp Pendleton during convalescence.

The base commander’s wife, a proper lady, he said, had come to the motor pool to get her car fixed up.  Mr. Johnson said it was a beat up Chevy especially on the inside but it was better than most for those times.

After she commented on the car’s condition, Mr. Johnson said he’ll do his best to make it more presentable.

He had come to know an upholsterer in Oceanside so Mr. Johnson arranged for the interior to get tidied up some.  He also had it painted.  She was elated.

I wish I had jotted down the commander’s name.  Darn.

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Sometime towards the latter part of ’44, he said, there was some scuttlebutt about a big operation that was brewing.

But then, the base commander called Mr. Johnson into his office.

“Johnnie,” he said, looking through his file, “you’re pretty used up.  I’m sending you to rehabilitation.”

So off he went.  While Mr. Johnson used “a hospital out in San Bernardino” as a description, the hospital was likely somewhere near the mountains because he mentioned Lake Arrowhead.

As I write this, there is a good probability it was Naval Hospital, Norco, as it was officially called back then.

Naval Hospital, Corona

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During rehabilitation, he ventured to a USO dance being held at the hospital.  The USO was such a morale booster for these young men.  Mr. Johnson was no exception.

There, against the wall, he said, was this pretty young thing.  It was Marge.  She was studying to become a nurse…which she did.

…and if I understood him correctly, they got married the day after he got discharged from the Corps in 1945.  It sounded like if Marge just didn’t want a husband that would go off to war, let alone as a Marine.  She got her way, of course:

Marge and Mr. Johnson on their wedding day in 1945.

Don’t you think they are a gorgeous couple?  A gift of chance… and war.

(As a historical note, the “scuttlebutt” ended up to be… Iwo Jima.  Part of the 3rd Marine Division, Mr. Johnson said that in a way, he was glad he didn’t go…  Not that he DIDN’T want to go but because of what the Marines horribly found out after the first waves landed ashore.  He learned from the Marines that made it back that all vehicles that went ashore in the first couple of days were sitting ducks for enemy artillery.  This was made worse by all the volcanic ash being spewed up by the artillery rounds, just choking off the engines just minutes later because it would clog up the air filters.  Some of boys were burned alive, he was told, after their vehicles got hit…in the same vehicles he was in charge of at Camp Pendleton.)

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One reason why I was never able to find any military record on Mr. Johnson became obvious on his funeral day; that’s when I – and the other neighbors – found out his name wasn’t Johnnie, but Doreston.

“Doreston”

I was partially successful in videotaping Mr. Johnson’s funeral.  It wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be for Marge’s sake.  There was a bit of disorganization and miscommunication, too.  Many of us following the hearse were just waiting in our cars wondering what to do next…when I saw the Marine burial detail getting ready to escort Mr. Johnson’s urn to a covered area.  Time for a mad dash.

A couple of notes about the video below if you wish to watch…

  1. I’m not much an editor but I managed to insert the “Marine’s Hymm” from my all-time Marine Corps classic, “Sands of Iwo Jima”.  Gives me goose bumps every time.  It starts a bit after the 1:00 mark.
  2. There is some footage at the National Medal of Honor Memorial; Mr. Johnson would be interred just yards away.  Sgt. Hartsock is my friend’s first husband who was posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor.  You will also see the names of some of the 22 Nisei’s who were also bestowed the Medal of Honor during WWII.
  3. The bugler you see is a long-time friend of Mr. Johnson.  I understand he is also in his 80’s and volunteers his services everyday.  A very fitting and personal tribute.
  4. This was also the first 21-gun salute I was ever able to have the honor to witness in person.  I am glad it was for Mr. Johnson:

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During this time, and now armed with his true first name, I was pretty determined to uncover some of his unspoken valor during the Solomon Islands Campaign and the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands…and I was partially successful.

These are two pages from CINCPAC’s official, confidential after battle report.  They were called “War Diaries” and are daily operational journals created by various naval commands throughout the Navy during WWII (The Marine Corps is an arm of the US Navy).  I was only able to find this single battle report for the Solomon Islands Campaign:

War Diary, Cover Page
Specific page recognizing Mr. Johnson’s valor under fire.

I do NOT know for sure if Mr. Johnson fought on the islands but Old Man Jack never mentioned anything except him serving on the Big E…

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As for Mr. Johnson’s wounds, Old Man Jack muttered once “Johnnie was hit twice.  The last time was pretty bad.”  He didn’t say more.

But Mr. Johnson collapsed at his house in 2011.  Marge called me over to help while waiting for the ambulance.  Mr. Johnson was on his side, left hand gripping the bed sheets and right arm pinned in under his body.  He was too big for me to lift him off the floor by myself.  So I yelled, “C’mon, Marine!  Get your sorry ass off this floor!”  Seriously.  With that, he grunted, grabbed the bed sheets one more time, and together, we got his upper body onto his bed…

But in the process, I saw his chest.

His first fall in the house. Marge’s shadow is the one on the left. My little house can be seen beyond the ambulance’s cab. (Edit)

My god.

The scars.

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Tears of Remembrance and Closing

Two days after the funeral, I had finished putting the video together for Marge.  We watched it together on my laptop as she didn’t have a DVD player that worked.  Dry eyes had to take a back seat.  She was so grateful.

But she called me at work a couple of days later.  She asked if I could stop by after work again…and show her the video one more time.  I was so surprised by her request…but so happy.  She must have liked it.

When I played it for her – and when the “Marine’s Hymm” from the John Wayne iconic classic “Sands of Iwo Jima” began playing, her left hand began to rhythmically and softly beat to the theme song… ever so softly. Then her head bobbed along with the beat. That broke me.

Tears of Remembrance – Marge, now a widow after 66-1/2 years of marriage

She asked me again to explain the page from the Solomon Islands Battle Report which clearly states how he valiantly fought and incurred his wounds… Then when the 21-gun salute played on the screen, that was it…   She broke down.  I cannot imagine how large those floodgates may have been for her emotionally.

She thanked me immensely…

But it was so humbling as it was me who wanted to thank her and her husband… the same young boy in that Louisiana recruiting station who did what he had to do… and had enough humanity left in him to forgive.

The Greatest Generation…  May they go in peace.

Ike, a German-American Soldier


General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ike.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.

Thirty-forth President of the United States of America.

An American soldier.

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An “American soldier”.

Plain.  Straight forward.  No descriptive.

But as a simple question… Was he ever referred to as a “German-American” soldier?  After all, he is of German descent.

Or as a “Kraut”?  No insult intended whatsoever.

I don’t know.

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How about General Charles Willoughby?

Major General Willoughby

Never heard of him?

He was General Douglas MacArthur’s right-hand man.  Chief of Intelligence during and after World War II.  G-2.  My dad’s boss’ boss.

An American soldier.

Did you know Willoughby was born in the town of Heidelberg, Germany, the son of Baron T. von Tscheppe-Weidenbach from Baden, Germany?  A royal German family.  His real name was Adolf Karl Tscheppe-Weidenbach.

He spoke German fluently.  And spoke English with a heavy accent.

Was he referred to as a “German-American” soldier?

Or as a “Kraut”?

I don’t know.

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How about my two uncles who received the Congressional Gold Medal?  Or even my dad?

An American soldier.

Unlike Willoughby, dad was born here.  In Seattle.

He spoke both English and Japanese without an accent.  And Ike didn’t speak German.

Is there any difference in Dad’s summer uniform in comparison to Ike’s?

Well, I guess there is a difference.  Ike’s has five stars; Dad’s doesn’t… Oh, and Dad’s is wrinkled.

But unlike Ike and General Willoughby, soldiers like Dad were referred to as “Japanese-American” soldiers.  Even today.  Or just plain “Jap” back then…even when in uniform.

Even in newspapers.  Here is one on my Uncle Paul who was bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal two years ago.

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Don’t get me wrong.  There is no intent to ruffle feathers.  Or to be accusatory or express anger.  And I certainly am not calling our 34th President a “Kraut”.

This is just history…  Albeit, perhaps, from an odd vantage point.

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But why is there a distinction made?

Are we – Americans in a broad stroke of the keyboard – bringing attention to minorities in too great a lawyer-driven focus?  But considering the popular vote, my friends, the minorities are no longer minorities.  Let’s face the facts.

From history, we need to learn.  Yes.  And we need to look at ourselves as of today… but with a helluva lot fewer lawyers.  (Did I write that?)

And people need to be “working” to the best of their ability… to live on their own ability instead of an expectation of assistance.  As a fellow blogger so eloquently wrote in “The Value of Ability“, we need to tighten up this ship and boost a person’s confidence that they do have potential and to live up to those expectations.

It’s time to move on from minority recognition…in whatever shape or form.  Hiring requirements.  College enrollment requirements.  Special program requirements. Especially within governments – local, state or federal…  Especially in our schools.  How about hiring a conservative to be a teacher once in a while..?  In my humble opinion, of course.

Time to promote “American-ism”.

Ike would have liked that, I’m sure.

Today


Today was Veteran’s Day.

At times, I mix in Memorial Day with it…  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

They will always be veterans in my eyes.

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Dad at Miyajima, Hiroshima in the spring of 1949.  I now have a bad case of “tennis elbow” and can’t retouch:

He was part of the US 8th Army’s Military Intelligence Service and served during Occupied Japan.  Being a “kibei”, he translated during the War Crimes trials, interrogated Japanese soldiers being released by Russia, Korea, Manchuria and China and translated Japanese war documents for intelligence.

Dad today with my two littlest kids:

Ninety-three years old.

Went to pay our respects to Old Man Jack.  Sun was just too low in the sky for a good pic… 😦  Miss you, Jack.

And went to see good ol’ Bob, too…  What a kind, great man he was.

Happy Veteran’s Day, guys.

Dadgummit


OK.

Please allow me to beat this one to death.

Yes.  President Harding’s last photos in my grandmother’s album.

OMG.  Leave it alone!

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I found a copy of the actual event flyer from July 1923.

Now we can see an overview.  See what the Bell Street Pier looked like when President Harding rode in his motorcade.

You can make out train tracks.  Look at the far left – you can see the window locations on the building and…a pole.  You can also see blackness under what appears to be a short bridge and a railing that abruptly ends.  Important stuff.

The “PORT OF SEATTLE” with “BELL STREET PIER” signage can be signage can be seen at the far left.

Upon studying “Grandma’s” photos further and in comparison to the “press” photo (below), I feel BOTH were taken within seconds of each other – but from opposite side of the motorcade.  Please note my scribbles:

“Grandma’s” on top, “press” below.

And note the following obervations:

  1. Pole – also painted white at the bottom;
  2. The prominent roof of a car (circled) parked along the pier and next to the pole;
  3. The group of four men marked with the proverbial “X marks the spot(s)”;
  4. The wooden railing in both of Grandma Kono’s photos; and,
  5. The US Marine Corps on one side of the motorcade, the US Navy on the other.

Amazing.  These are two rare images taken from different sides of President Harding and within seconds of each other.

BUT…….

With the flyer image, we now know train tracks ran along the pier.  Trains are also visible in the press photo.  There are MEN atop the rail cars.

Due to the angle, it is believed the photos in Grandma Kono’s album were taken from atop the rail cars.  Off to the left just outside the field of view in the picture (just like the grassy knoll in the famous Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination).

Ergo, I cannot fathom Grandma Kono climbing atop a rail car…let alone in a dress as was customary at that time for ladies.

Or would she?  Nah.

So…I don’t believe she herself took the pictures.

Dadgummit.

BUT……

Perhaps it was Grandpa Hisakichi!

OK.  Stop.

Dad Reminisced Today


Dad’s eyes got a teensy-weensy bit watery again today.

Perhaps its becoming a routine.

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Went to see Dad this morning.  Took him his “bentou”, or Japanese lunch to-go, as a change of pace.  They only serve America cuisine there.

Pork cutlet bento

Not that he complains.  He doesn’t.  But all the servers there know he WON’T eat fish.  He makes sure of that.

Also took him “yokan”, “senbei”, “manjyuu”, and Morinaga caramel (his favorite from decades ago)…  Oh.  And “anpan”.  Gotta feed his sweet tooth.  Make him happy is all that matters now.

Another favorite of Dad’s – anpan

While he asked how “Sue-boh” is as usual (his favorite brother who was KIA), he – by coincidence – talked about how he broke his elbow again. 😉

But this time, I had the pictures I had taken last month with me!  Blew his mind.  He “kinda” remembered my son and I went to Japan, but he couldn’t comprehend how I got those pictures.  Oh well.  Anyways, the most important thing was that yes, that was the large stone he jumped from…but he asked, “Where’s the benjo?  There was a benjo there behind the tree.”  A “benjo” is kind of like an Japanese-style outhouse.  🙂  And that definitely was the (remnants of the) branch.

You should have seen his boyish smile.

I took along what vintage pages I dared to from Grandmother Kono’s album today.  I was concerned as they were so fragile…  but Dad handled them gingerly.

He said there was a butcher shop in the brick building in the background. That brick building at King and Maynard is still standing.

He particularly liked the photo of him, Mieko and Suetaro…  He had a nice smile.  I wonder what was going through his thoughts then but I wasn’t going to interrupt.

He is smiling while looking at the three of them.  By the way, the stone bracelet he is wearing was from Masako and Izumi.  He says he doesn’t take it off but doesn’t remember where it came from. 😉

I think his eyes got a bit watery.

He said, “That was a long time ago,” and “懐かしい”

Just a teensy-weensy bit.

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About an hour later, he remembered looking at the vintage pictures.

Today was a good day.

Grandfather’s Seattle Barbershop – 1910-1930


One of the finds from the 100 year old shed were photos from my Grandfather Hisakichi’s barbershop.  It would appear these are from about 1917 through 1930.

His shop was in the Hotel Fujii at 620 South King Street in Seattle, WA.  Being raised here in America, it is not only striking to see my grandparent’s barbershop but it is so unlike those of other barbershop photographs of that time being manned by “non-Caucasians”.  Is that best way of putting it?  You can see the hair tonics that were used as well as the Koch porcelain barber chairs.  Through the help of my friends interested in WWII history, we believe the calendar indicates shows “Thursday, October 9, 1930”.

Grandfather Hisakichi is at right. Due to the blur, we are uncertain if the lady on the left is Grandmother Kono…but the gal in the center is very attractive.

In this picture below, a “no nonsense” Grandfather Hisakichi is holding my Aunt Shiz; this would put the photo as being taken in 1917.

According to my dad a couple of weeks ago, Grandfather would work the shop by himself during the slow times but would bring in others as the season changed.  They lived upstairs in a room at the hotel.

It is difficult to imagine he supported the family with this one barber shop but you would think he worked hard and was a sound businessman in a foreign country.

Oh… Since WWI was raging, he registered for the draft.

Ninety years later, I thank him.

Grandfather and a Coleman


It was there at Grandfather Hisakichi’s feet…  a Coleman stove!  My guess is circa 1920 up near a Mt. Rainier campground…  It’s just so…unexpected to see a Japanese family of the early 1900’s with such an “American” icon.  I hope I am not a rascist but I sure didn’t expect it.

Grandfather Hisakichi at the right. Unretouched.

And amateurish-ly (is that a word?) retouched with free software.  I’m El Cheapo:

As retouched.

Grandmother Kono is not pictured but I wonder who snapped the photo.

There was a photo of Mt. Rainier dated August 1920 on another page in the deteriorating album kept by Grandmother Kono.

Unretouched.

It is remotely possible the man on the right is also Grandfather Hisakichi but I doubt it.  I feel this was at a separate outing from the campsite photo.