Japan 1983 (Part 1)

September 28

Ohayō gozaimasu! The set up: 50 years ago, give or take, Uncle Sam decided I could best serve my country – by leaving it. So, he sent me away to Okinawa for two years (which I have already extensively blogged). Okinawa is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, about 400 miles south of the main island of Kyushu and the rest of Japan. The United States had governed the Ryukyus since the end of WWII. On November 21, 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon and Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1971. The U.S. reverted the islands to Japan on May 15, 1972 (I left Okinawa (and the Army) in February of that year, not realizing what an impact my leaving was destined to have), setting back a Ryukyu independence movement that had emerged. Under terms of the agreement, the U.S. retained its rights to bases on the island as part of the 1952 Treaty to protect Japan, but those bases were to be nuclear-free. The United States military still controls about 19% of the island, making the 30,000 American servicemen a dominant feature in island life. While the Americans provide jobs to the locals on base, and in tourist venues, and pay rent on the land, widespread personal relationships between U.S. servicemen and Okinawan women remain controversial in Okinawan society. Okinawa remains Japan’s poorest prefecture.” (Wikipedia) But I digress . . . While on Okinawa I met a GI, Roy Gorena, from Edinburg, Texas. As fate would have it (or something like that), we both ended up working for the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., after our distinguished military careers. We both totally enjoyed our time spent on Okinawa, so in 1983 we decided to visit Japan as part of a tour group (it was before I met the Super and I needed a date). Doing the math, this trip took place 37 years ago (or about the same length of time, at that time, since the end of WWII). I have moved three times since then (and Roy has retired to Hawaii), and I can’t find any records (brochures, etc.) of our itinerary or places visited. Nevertheless, even absent a personal dare gene, I’m going to hold my nose and take a flying leap . . .

[The aforementioned Roy Gorena departing Okinawa, December 1971 . . . ]

[Yes, oh attentive one, this is not Japan. This was April 1983, the Japan trip did not begin until November of that year. This is like free bonus coverage . . . ]

[The above was our arrival for “the boys” semi-annual fishing trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina; the below is us actually doing it. If you are familiar with the area (and even if you’re not), that is the famous Oregon Inlet bridge in the background that one year was badly damaged by a hurricane shortly before we arrived . . . ]

[Surf fishermen not damaged by a hurricane. The major attraction of ocean surf fishing is to walk into the water, cast out as far as you can, walk back and put your rod in a sand spike, sit down in a lawn chair, have a beer, take a nap, and hope the fish don’t bite . . . ]

[There’s a little flexibility in those 9 – 12′ rods!]

[Another good reason to go bald (yes, it’s me) . . . ]

[Seems to be some unnecessary activity here . . . ]

[If you’re standing and holding a rod, you think you may have something on the other end . . . ]

[Makes me “home” sick . . . ]

[I made an enlargement of this shot, framed it, and it has been hanging on my bedroom wall for 37 years. Just love the light reflections in it . . . ]


[As you have previously been advised, it’s now November and we have arrived in Tokyo after a likely a one-hour ride in from Narita International Airport (40 miles east of downtown Tokyo) . . . ]

[Roy (pictured) and I both somehow remember that we stayed at the New Otani Hotel . . . ]

[The New Otani Hotel is still alive and kicking (unlike these koi) 37 years later . . . ]

[This is the New Otani today. The history of Hotel New Otani began in 1962, when the Japanese government faced the daunting challenge of completing a massive construction effort to host an estimated 30,000 international visitors for the Tokyo Olympic Games in just two years. Yonetaro Otani, Hotel New Otani founder, agreed to build the finest hotel in the Orient on land he owned in Kioicho near the Imperial Palace, and thereby contribute to the national strategy for advancing Japan’s tourism industry. His design concept was to preserve the beautiful landscape and stone wall of an Edo (the original named for Tokyo) era daimyo mansion, while providing world-class accommodation for more than 1,000 guests, large meeting spaces and a lobby, using then-state-of-the-art building techniques. The hotel opened in September 1964. After a major renovation, “The Main” reopened in 2007 as a “hybrid hotel” featuring higher seismic performance, reduced environmental impact and enhanced hospitality, incorporating a hotel-in-a-hotel EXECUTIVE HOUSE ZEN on floors 11 and 12. Now a well-established Japanese luxury hotel, we marked our 50th anniversary in 2014. In 2020, EXECUTIVE HOUSE ZEN was awarded the prestigious honor of a Five-Star rating from Forbes Travel Guide (newotani.co.jp).]

[And the hotel on our 1983 trip . . . ]

Here in Tokyo they’re not just hard working but almost violently cheerful. ~ David Sedaris

The whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is not such country, there are no such people . . . the Japanese people are . . . simply a mode of style, an exquisite fancy of art. ~ Oscar Wilde

Japanese is sort of a hobby of mine, and I can get around Japan with ease. ~ Dick Cavett

I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that’s very popular out there in Africa. ~ Britney Spears (I mean, like, who knew, and isn’t she from Louisiana?)

[The last shot from or about the New Otani . . . ]

[Here’s where absence of memory and a trip itinerary are going to create problems with identification. This is a torii gate, usually associated with a shinto shrine (but which one here?). In Japan, Buddhist temples co-exist with Shinto shrines, and both share the basic features of Japanese traditional architecture.  Similarities between temples and shrines are also functional. Like a shrine, a Buddhist temple is not primarily a place of worship: its most important buildings are used for the safekeeping of sacred objects (the honzon, equivalent to a shrine’s shintai), and are not accessible to worshipers. Unlike a Christian church, a temple is also a monastery. The reason for the great structural resemblances between the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines lies in their common history. When Shintoism first encountered Buddhism it became more interpretive as it did not try to explain the universe as Buddhism sometimes tried to.  It is in fact normal for a temple to have been also a shrine, and in architectural terms, obvious differences between the two are therefore few, so much so that often only a specialist can see them.  Many visitors visit Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines for similar reasons such as prayer and for luck.  The two religions coexist due to increased popularity of religions and the birth of new religions (Wikipedia). . . . ]

[This is our tour group. We would remain together the entire 17-day (as I recall) adventure. The gentleman with the gray hair and glasses was our tour guide throughout. Very capable, but of course I no longer remember his name . . . ]

[This is the entrance to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo (likely as was the torii gate above). We’ll see more of this magnificent place in Part 2. Meiji Shrine, is a Shinto shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo, that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. It was formally dedicated on November 3, 1920, completed in 1921, and its grounds officially finished by 1926. The interior volume of the shrine complex when originally built was 650 tsubo (35.5 square feet, the equivalent of two tatami mats).  Until 1946, the Meiji Shrine was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines. The original building was destroyed during the Tokyo air raids of World War II. The present iteration of the shrine was funded through a public fund raising effort and completed in October 1958. Meiji Shrine is located in a forest that covers an area of 70 hectares (170 acres). This area is covered by an evergreen forest that consists of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, which were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established. The forest is visited by many as a recreation and relaxation area in the center of Tokyo.  The entrance to the shrine complex leads through the Jingu Bashi bridge. Meiji Shrine is adjacent to Yoyogi Park which together is a large forested area. The entrances open at sunrise and close at sunset (Wikipedia).]

The Japanese see self-assertion as immoral and self-sacrifice as the sensible course to take in life. ~ Akira Kurosawa

Up Next: Part 2 . . .

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