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Date, Time, Currency Rate
Japan:
Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020, 8:03 AM
Central USA:
Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020, 5:03 PM
Currency: 1 USD = 109.06 JPY

Japan Days

My Days in Japan

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Welcome to Japan-Days.info

On this web site, I will share with you some stories and pictures from the time when I lived in Japan as a member of the United States Air Force, and from various visits that my wife, Ritsuko, and I have made there since my departure from the military in 1978. I will add content to the site periodically in the "Articles" section, so please visit often. I hope that you enjoy the site.

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Bringing you yesterday's news from Japan and Asia, today.

Starbucks Japan unveils first sakura drink for cherry blossom season 2020 (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:30:38 +0000

Iconic Japanese flower will be blended with a popular dessert this spring. We may still be in the middle of winter right now, but that doesn’t mean everyone isn’t looking forward to the sunshine of spring. Today we’ve been reminded that those warm rays aren’t far away, as Starbucks has just revealed its first sakura […]
No coins? Not a problem for Japan’s new cashless gachapon capsule toy vending machines (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:00:45 +0000

The beloved capsule toy machines are catching up to the times by losing the coin element of the transaction.  Gachapon, also known as gashapon, are those ubiquitous capsule vending machines found throughout Japan. Children and adults alike have taken delight in inserting their leftover change into the coin slot, twisting the handle, and eagerly watching […]
And now, a spot of everyone’s favorite winter sport: Japanese cat curling【Video】 (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:00:37 +0000

All you need for this sport is a cat and a recently cleaned wooden floor. Winter sports are so fun to watch, especially at home, in a blanket cocoon, with a steaming hot beverage. While there’s no denying the heart-racing talents of pro figure skaters like Yuzuru Hanyu, it’s a lot of work to actually […]
Turn yourself into a dewy-eyed manga heroine with Kate Tokyo’s “Manga-Genic” eyeliner set (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:00:16 +0000

Cosplayers and casuals alike can look as cute as a comic book character! Cosmetic company Kate has frequently flirted with unreal aesthetics, one time even advertising their product with a completely fictional model. However, their flair for hyper-realism makes them a favorite of cosplayers, and we imagine one of their latest products is going to […]
Japanese police officers increasingly forgetting their guns in public restrooms (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 13:00:30 +0000

At least they didn’t forget to flush… we hope. Have you ever used a public toilet, and when finished forgot to zip up your pants or tuck your shirt in properly? It’s pretty embarrassing, but now imagine that instead of those things, you leave behind a lethal weapon in an area where people with extremely […]
McDonald’s releases new rice burgers in Japan (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 05:30:36 +0000

Three of the fast food chain’s popular burgers get a rice overhaul for a limited time. Just a few days ago, McDonald’s began teasing their customers in Japan with a cryptic tweet that said: “Ahh, I want to eat rice…”. The Internet immediately went into overdrive, with some people speculating the tweet could be hinting […]
Japan’s cat bread bakery opening brand-new branch in Osaka Prefecture! (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 04:00:37 +0000

Special ingredients and four flavors promise it’ll taste as good as it looks. The name Neko Neko Shokupan probably feels like a major mouthful if you don’t speak Japanese, but trust us, those are handy words to know. Neko, repeated here for emphasis, means “cat,” while shokupan means “bread,” specifically the standard type of loaves […]
Japanese manners videos show how to be a “really cool” traveller in Japan 【Videos】 (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 03:00:39 +0000

Japan Tourism Agency uses ninja, sumo and geisha to demonstrate what to do and what not to do in Japan. Japan is currently in the midst of a tourism boom at the moment, with 31.9 million foreign tourists travelling to the country in 2019, breaking the previous record for the seventh year running. Now with […]
Japanese public phones are immortalized in this utterly perfect miniature model (Japan)
Tue, 28 Jan 2020 02:00:14 +0000

This capsule toy model of a Japanese public telephone got a great reception on Twitter! What is it that makes miniature versions of things so darn satisfying to look at? We can’t get enough of the makeup sponge cleaner fashioned to look like a teeny-tiny washing machine, for instance. Is there anything that can’t be given […]

Travel to Japan

Tokyo is without a doubt one of my favorite cities in the world. It is such a fascinating, vibrant city. From 1973 to 1978, I was stationed at Yokota Air Base which is located in the western part of Tokyo prefecture. Ritsuko and I met in late 1974, and were married in April 1975, so the first 3 years of our lives together were spent there. Wherever we go in or around the city, the things that we see evoke many fond memories, and we were happy that on this trip to Japan, we would have the last few days of our vacation to ourselves in Tokyo.

Fussa city is the city near where Yokota Air Base is located. When we get the chance, it is always interesting to go back there, just to walk around the town. Not being in the status of retired military, I do not have access to the base, but I really had no interest in entering the military facility anyway.

The last time that we had been to Fussa was in 1991, so we were both hoping to have a chance to go there for a few hours. Unfortunately, the flu bug found its way to Ritsuko the day before, and she wasn't feeling well the morning that we were to go to Fussa. After breakfast that snowy February morning, she stayed in the hotel and slept in while I ventured out alone.

As the train made its way from station to station on the Chuo/Ome lines westward from Shinjuku, I struggled to remember landmarks as each station name was announced. Between Tachikawa and Fussa, very few things looked familiar. I'm glad that I was paying attention to the station names, because there are now so many highrise buildings in Fussa that I hardly recognized the place. The train station, which used to look like any other small town station, is now more modern in its appearance, complete with escalators and sky bridges connecting it with nearby department stores.

Fussa Station, east entrance

Fussa Seiyu

From Fussa station, the skybridge to Seiyu department store

 

Back in the 70's, Ritsuko used to work in this Seiyu department store at the information counter, and I would go there most evenings to pick her up after work, so just for the sake of nostalgia, I thought that I would step inside. The information counter or サービス カウンター (saabisu kauntaa) is quite different now. The girls behind the counter were constantly moving, and they looked like they were working hard, performing a variety of services for customers. As you can see from the pic below, it was quite different in the 70's, when the Information Counter girls just mainly had to sit there, look pretty, be polite, give customers directions to the various departments, and make announcements on the PA system.

Seiyu Info Counter

Inside Seiyu -- the information counter is on the right

Ritsuko at Seiyu 1976

Ritsuko at work in the Fussa Seiyu Information Counter in about 1976

 

I was amazed at the amount of development that had taken place around the station and between the train station and the base. I don't know why I was so stunned; a lot can happen in fourteen years. Here are a couple more pictures taken from the skybridge in front of the east side of the station.

Fussa near station

This road runs from in front of the station along the track. It used to be where hundreds of people would park their bicycles, and then take the train into the city.

Fussa near station

The street in the center of this photo goes from the station entrance toward Yokota AB, and through what military personnel used to call bar row.

 

I didn't plan to spend a lot of time in Fussa that day, since I did want to get back to our hotel in Asakusa to see how Ritsuko was feeling. I did, however want to walk about and check out a few things, one of which was the apartment building where Ritsuko and I first lived together.

It took me a while to find the apartment building. There were so many new structures around it, and some old businesses that had been landmarks for me were gone. Our first apartment was a one room, cold water flat that was about 110 sq ft in area, plus a tiny area for a sink and counter, and a toilet. The good news is that it was a flush toilet, and the bad news is that there was no bath. Every night, Ritsuko and I would walk a block and a half down the street to use the Sentō (neighborhood public bath). When you are young and in love, amenities don't matter. But then really, when you are older and still in love the amenities are nice to have, but still don't matter that much.

Our first apartment

This little apartment building is the first place where Ritsuko and I lived together -- it still looks the same as it did in 1975.

corner

This corner is just about a half block away. The station is about two blocks from here.

 

I truly felt as though I was in a time warp as I walked onward toward the base. Perhaps contributing to this was the fact that it was an overcast dreary day with a drizzle of mixed snow and rain. As I walked, I would often stop and try to remember what used to be in a particular spot. Highrise buildings of businesses, apartments and condos stood in places that I remembered as rice paddies. It was all so surreal.

Approaching HWY 16, I noticed that only a few of the old Sun Heights paddy houses were still standing. An Italian restaurant and its parking lot occupied the space where most of them had been. I didn't cross the Highway, and only took a couple of pictures of the main gate. Here is one of them.

Yokota AB 2005 Main Gate

Yokota Air Base main gate, Feb 2005

I walked down Highway 16 for a while, looking at shops that were not familiar to me. There was a clothing store specializing in hip-hop wear that probably isn't available in the BX. Another store specialized in military wear. I chuckled to myself, thinking that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Being mid morning, many of the stores were just opening. The weather was getting worse, and I just kept walking. The rain hitting my face as I watched the concrete ditch covers beneath my feet brought back memories of the days when I used to run after work with the final mile of my route being along this highway.

I walked down to the street before the west housing area, then turned back toward town. The time warp feeling intensified as I walked part of a route on which I used to run almost every afternoon when we lived in the west housing area. I had stopped taking pictures, and moved onward, dazed but trying to keep my mind sufficiently in the present to avoid being hit by a car as I wandered through the streets.

Finally, I returned to the station. Standing on the platform, waiting for my train, I still felt somewhat dazed. A young American woman was standing near the vending machines on the platform, and I struck up a conversation with her while waiting for my train. As a testament to how much things have changed, not only in the town surrounding the base, but also in the military itself, I learned that she is a C-130 pilot who was on her way to Narita airport in order to fly to Hawaii for a training class. I told her that I had been stationed at Yokota 30 years ago, and having visited that morning, felt as though I was in a time warp. Seemingly amused by my dazed state of mind, she looked around the station and asked me how much had the train station changed. I replied that the asphalt portion of the platform on which we were standing was the same. Everything else is different.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: October 1, 2019

Japan Culture

Post Date: June 1, 2012

During our visit to Japan in April-May 2012, we decided to spend a day in Hiroshima. We have been through the city many times, only stopping at the train station briefly while aboard a Shinkansen. It is a place where I have always wanted to visit, but we were always in too much of a hurry to get someplace else. When planning this trip, we set aside a day, and put it into our travel plan.

After spending a few days in Southern Kyushu, we departed Satsumasendai early on a Saturday morning, boarding a Shinkansen headed north. We arrived in Hiroshima just before noon, left our bags at the hotel, had lunch near the station, and then ventured on to the Genbaku Dome, Memorial Peace Park, and Hiroshima Memorial Museum.

Hiroshima Genbaku Dome - a somber reminder of the destructive force of nuclear weapons

The Genbaku Dome was originally constructed in the early 20th century to serve as the Hiroshima Prefecture Commercial Exhibition Hall. After the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945, it was one of the very few structures in the central part of the city of Hiroshima that were not completely reduced to ash and rubble. As the city was reconstructed, the remaining structure was preserved as it was after the bombing.

Today, the shattered structure stands as part of a memorial in the middle in the once again vibrant port city of Hiroshima. The dome, Memorial Peace Park and Memorial Museum have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, serving as a memorial to the 70,000 people who were instantly killed when the bomb detonated, and to the additional 70,000 people who were fatally injured during the blast and perished later. It was a humbling and solemn experience to stand on the ground where so many perished instantly at the unleashing of such an enormous power, and a somber reminder of the devastation caused by nuclear warfare.

Here is a video slide show of photos that I took that day.

I would recommend for anyone to visit Hiroshima if they have the opportunity. The memorial is a haunting reminder that the destructive force of nuclear weapons should never again be unleashed upon humanity.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: October 16, 2019

My Air Force Days

During the early part of my tour at Yokota Air Base, Okutama became one of my favorite places to escape when I had a day off from work. Okutama is a small town in the extreme western extent of Tokyo Prefecture. Geographically, the municipality extends far beyond the town itself, encompassing a large mountainous area bordering Saitama and Yamanshi Prefectures. Several waterways, including the Tama River, traverse the area, and nearby is Lake Okutama, a large man made reservoir that is an important source of water for Tokyo Prefecture.

Traveling by train from Fussa to Okutama in 1973, on the Ome Line

Back then, as is now, Okutama was a popular destination for hikers and fishing enthusiasts. I used to go there in order to escape into a peaceful natural environment, to hike, and to photograph. For me, the area was very accessible, either by car or by train. By car, the roads were well marked, and although few road signs were in romaji, the kanji for Okutama, 奥多摩, was easy to remember and recognize. However, with the town having train service via the Ome line, rail was the the most convenient conveyance. Japan Railways Ome line provides service from Tachikawa to Okutama, with Fussa (the city outside Yokota Air Base, being one of the stations on the line. The original line was built during the Meiji Period, providing service between Tachikawa and Ome. In 1944, it was extended to its current western terminus, Okutama.

The video in this article is a short film that I shot on super 8 during one of my visits to Okutama in 1973. You can see in the various scenes, a change in terrain from the flat, low lying plain where Fussa is located, to progressively more mountainous terrain as the train travels westward.

photography in Okutama 1974

Okutama 1974, composing a shot with my Nikon F2, demonstrating proper technique of simultaneously holding camera and cigarette

I loved going there to take pictures. Mountain trails and waterways were just a short hike from the station, and they offered great subject material for a photo hobbyist like myself. Shortly after arriving at Yokota, I took up photography as a hobby, and Yokota Air Base was definitely a good place for one to pursue such a hobby. Not only did the Base Education Office offer several courses in photography through LACC (Los Angeles Community College), but also Yokota had an excellent Photo Hobby Shop for military personnel stationed there.

For a price of admission that was comparable to buying a beer at the NCO Club, one could use the hobby shop darkroom. All chemicals and equipment were provided, although you were welcome to bring your own enlarger lens, developer, and other assorted accessories. The hobby shop store usually had a good supply of photographic paper in various sizes, finishes, and contrast characteristics. Of course, if one wanted photographic supplies that the hobby shop didn't stock, Shinjuku was only about 45 minutes away by train. Across the street from Shinjuku Station were a couple of large photographic equipment stores, where one could find anything. I was a frequent visitor to the Sakuraya store in Shinjuku, where I usually tried to keep from spending all my money so that I could enjoy a hot bowl of noodles at one of the nearby standing soba shops before boarding the train for home.

near Okutama Japan

One of my favorite pictures from Okutama 1974- shot on Kodak Panatomic X film, I was trying to expose for maximum grey scale

Bridge near Okutama Japan in 1974 - photo shot while wading in the river

Recently, I found some prints of a few of my favorite pictures from Okutama, that I took during 1973-1975. They were photographs that I had printed at the Yokota Air Base photo hobby shop, and were still in excellent condition. I have the negatives somewhere at home, and considered producing digital media by scanning the negatives in a film scanner, but instead decided to scan the prints using a flatbed scanner. My reason for this is that when I took the photographs, I did so knowing that I would crop the negative to fit the aspect ratio of either 8x10 or 10x12 paper in the darkroom. Therefore, the print better represents what was in my mind when taking the picture, and since I sure can't remember what I was thinking while standing in a river or leaning off a cliff 40 years ago, I'll just scan the print.

fisherman casting from the riverbank

A fisherman casting from the river bank, near Okutama 1974

calm water

Hazy sky reflected in calm water

looking out of tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel - near Okutama 1974

new mountain road

Newly improved mountain road - near Okutama 1975

This concludes my trip into the past for today. I hope that you enjoyed the video and pictures.

 | Published by: Japan Days  logo
 | Date Modified: October 1, 2019
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