October 3, 1961 – Tokyo

Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan – Raining

      It took me a couple of minutes to figure out where I was this morning when I finally opened my eyes.  I had slept so hard and good after being sleep deprived.   Edith and I both felt our room was great and the hotel fabulous.  When our alarm went off at 6am I wished that I could have slept a little later but knew we needed to get up early to get everything done before heading out for breakfast.

      The tour Edith and I had signed up for had established times and places where our group was supposed to eat.  While we could eat anywhere or at different times our tour agency would only reimburse for approved places and for a certain amount for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We had to pay for anything extra we wanted.

      I was ready to eat when we sat down at our breakfast table but when Mary joined Edith and I at our table without her husband Joseph it created complications in our breakfast service.  Edith and I ordered our breakfast but Mary told the waitress she wouldn’t order her food till later when her husband arrived.  We were sitting next to the window and while we were waiting for our food Edith got up and moved to the empty chair we’d saved for Mary’s husband so she could see the view better.  When the waitress came back to bring us water the girl didn’t know what to do and she just stood there staring at us.  She was so confused by Edith’s changing chairs and after several seconds of standing there with a blank look on her face she left again to share her confusion with the other two waitresses helping us.  I finally had to stand up and try to straighten her out.

      After several minutes of back and forth talking and gesturing the waitress finally brought us our food but when Mary tried to tell the waitress she had changed her mind and didn’t want to wait for her husband after all it caused all kinds of confusion again.  The waitress almost dropped my food when Mary started talking to her about what she wanted to order for breakfast. 

      After much conversation exchanged between the two, the maître d approached our table to straighten things out.  He talked with Mary who tried to explain to him what had happened.  Then he let her know that this type of thing was unheard of and we decided it was all too much for them.  While they talked Edith and I quickly finished our breakfast and left Mary on her own rather than waiting for Joseph to appear because I was sure it was only going to get worse when he showed up.

      After our disastrous breakfast Edith and I escaped back to our room.  We had the whole day to ourselves so both of us felt like giddy little school girls trying to decide what we wanted to do.  Edith told me she wanted to have some quiet time to write some letters and I wanted to write another letter to Ramona before going out to explore:

Oct 3, 1961- Tokyo, Japan

Dear Ramona;

     We got back from our Hawaiian tour of the island and rested in a room not our own but used till we left for the plane.  We had two rooms, one for the men and one for us.  I couldn’t lie down but Edith did.  The crowd got a little better acquainted, some of them go in for drinking and will sort of stick together.  Edith and I like about the same things.  I didn’t go for dinner that nite as I wasn’t hungry after the big noon meal of dolphin. 

     We went to the air park at 12:00am, got our tickets all lined up and we found seats in the station that turned out to be not as nice as LAX to wait in.  Our plane at 1:45am wasn’t quite ready and then they said it would be 2:50am.  Then we were told there would be a delay of 50 min and so on until 4:30am they said we better eat breakfast in the Sky Room.  Well some of the party was lucky to get served but all we got was our coffee and at 5:00am the plane was ready so we got on board.  I told the ticket man I hoped he had all the wines fastened tight, cause I couldn’t swim so well.

     It was dark when we left and I couldn’t sleep but tried.  We were served about 7am a plate of sandwiches and coffee or tea I took tea.  Then I slept for about an hour.  Just before we got to Wake Island, I took a couple of pictures of a little Atoll.  I had a window seat.  It took us 10 hours to arrive in Tokyo we got here at 10am Japanese time.

     They brought us to the Imperial Hotel, a beautiful place.  Coming here we passed a few shrines and narrow, busy streets.  You never saw such traffic.  Every day they average 4 deaths and 150 injured.  Yesterday at 10am the sign was up – 4 deaths, 159 injured.  We saw a bad accident on the way.  We have a lovely room here twin beds, the walls are covered with beautiful green rice paper and it was all air conditioned.  Big lights lamps, radio, telephone, easy chairs, bath room with two wash bowls.  The view is of other buildings in the back.  We had lunch in the Smorgasbord Room I don’t know what the name of all of it was but the food was beautiful and delicious.  I think I ate octopus, know I ate broiled eel.  Neither one would I order again but it tasted good.  Then started at 2pm we went on the tour described in the itinerary.  We also went thru an amusement arcade where I would like to go again, if I could find it.

     It was raining hard so didn’t take but 2 pictures.  Back to the hotel at 5:30pm and dead tired and dirty after 2 days and nights without sleep.  We went to the Café Terrace and had a bowl of soup – good – then upstairs and bath and bed at 8pm.

     Slept solid all night and woke up at 6am.  We are allowed 600 yen for breakfast, 1000 yen for lunch, and 1300 yen for dinner.  600 yen is about $2.00 American. 

     The streets are all marked in the Japanese characters and I wouldn’t be able to read them.  Our guide said we could call him Kiki.  On the plane I sat next to Japanese 2nd lieutenant who invited me to his home in Saigon to meet his family.  I have his card.  Well dear this is all for today.  Mother

      My letter finished I decided to go out alone since Edith didn’t want to go and was still busy writing.  I picked up my letter to Ramona and headed downstairs to leave. 

      As I walked into the lobby to begin my expedition there was a group of Sumo wrestlers sitting there in their traditional attire and then a little farther down there was a table full of beautifully wrapped boxes.  I got a little curious at what must be going on but continued on my walk to see some of the shops I’d noticed before that were nearby.  After a quick look at the shops I went on a tour of the old section of the hotel which I found to be quite fascinating.  While walking through the old part of the hotel I ran into two men who were part of our tour group, Franz and Mr. Malmed who had previously told me he just went by Malmed. 

      The two told me they had heard a rumor that there was a traditional wedding for a Sumo wrestler being held somewhere in the hotel.  They asked if I wanted to help and I leaped the chance for that kind of adventure.

      Together we walked through several corridors before we finally came across a table of invitations, some girls with pretty kimonos and traditionally dressed Sumo wrestlers so we knew we had found the right place.  The Sumo wrestlers appeared to be the ushers.  Franz and I stood by while Malmed tried to get some information from one man about the ceremony but he didn’t have much luck so I tried to talk to different people.  Eventually I had some success with a Japanese man in a white coat on who seemed to be a hotel staff member.  He was able to speak a little English which helped us find out what was going on.  He even taught me how to say thank you, “Doma arigato” while bowing very low at the same time.  He taught me a few other words like “Kirei” which he told me meant beautiful in reference to the bride.  After talking for a few minutes longer my new Japanese friend guided Franz, Malmed and I to a nearby corrider where we found the banquet hall where dinner was to be served.   

      Kiki had previously told us that anything can happen in this amazing city so I was really thrilled when I realized I was to be privileged to witness at least a part of the wedding ceremony that was to take place.  Our new found Japanese friend told us the wedding ceremony was to join the champion Sumo wrestler Kaoga Hama Chsone and his beautiful doll-like bride, Korku Hiroka.

      Franz, Malmed and I patiently stood at the back of the banquet hall and were honored to see the staff doing a magnificent job of setting up for the guests.  I did a quick count of tables and chairs and could see they had set the dining room for at least 500 people.  There were three large bouquets of colorful chrysanthemums placed on each long table as a centerpiece on top of a lovely white damask cloth.  Each place setting had eight silver and rock crystal glasses that were different sizes and shapes for the special wines that were going to be served.  It was all so elegant I couldn’t help “oohing” and ahhing” repeatedly as I looked around.  In front of the bride and groom table was an eight tiered wedding cake that was mainly white but had some lovely decorations.

      After looking at the banquet hall the three of us made our way back to the lobby and found more Japanese people had collected and realized it was nearly time for the ceremony.  We were right because just then the bride walked by with her four attendants dressed in a white brocade kimono and dressed beautifully.  It was interesting because there was one little woman dressed in black was constantly by her side and I wasn’t sure what her place in the ceremony was.  The bride was tiny and beautiful like a doll.  She kept her eyes down cast – always.  They walked into a small room off the lobby and there was no music, everyone was very quiet.  The small room was where the actual ceremony was held in private with just family and immediate friends.  After a time she returned to the lobby attended by her four ladies and a large group of men in morning clothes, tails, etc.  Altogether there were twenty seven people in this group.  The bride was now dressed in a red and gold kimono and her hair was dressed with the little happiness and joy symbol of red and white stripes.  The groom was in his Sumo dress with his hair long and in some sort of knot on top of his head.  He was very handsome and large for a Japanese man, over 6 feet tall.  Everyone treated him with the utmost respect because at that time he was the champion sumo wrestler for Japan. 

      I found that the traditional Japanese wedding didn’t seem much different than those back home in some ways and there was even a phase when they took lots and lots of pictures after the wedding.  First they took some with the bride sitting with the wedding party, then several pictures of her with a gentleman who wasn’t the groom (I never did find out who he was).  After each picture was taken it took about ten minutes for the ladies to arrange the bride’s clothes again for the next picture so they would appear to the best advantage.  After several pictures were taken I could tell the bride was getting tired.

     All this time I had been without my camera and since I knew that Edith would be upset about missing the celebration so I took a chance I would miss something and I hurried back to our room to get her.  Once there I hurriedly explained what had happened when I went downstairs and told her I was going back.  She readily agreed that it was something they shouldn’t miss seeing so both of us rushed back down to join Franz and Malmed.

      I found my camera and we rushed back down to the lobby.  By the time we’d made it back to where the celebration was and found Franz and Malmed, the bride had changed to another white brocade kimono.  The bride and groom stood in a receiving line and bowed low to each guest as they passed by.  I managed to get several pictures of the bride and groom who were very gracious.  I also got one of another Sumo wrestler who permitted me to take his picture.

Bride and Groom at Sumo Wedding

Wedding of Champion Sumo Wrestler

Champion Sumo Wrestler Groom

      In the banquet hall we stood near the back so we could hear the speeches but of course we didn’t understand them.  One of the waiters standing nearby told me I could take pictures so I did.  I tried to get a picture of the wedding cake and other parts of the dining hall.  The banquet lasted for three hours and as each guest filed out into the lobby to leave, they bowed low to the bride and groom and an attendant gave them a beautifully wrapped box as a gift. 

      When I went to leave the gentleman presented me with the gift and said, “Much happiness, luck and long life.”

      I was happy I knew what to show my appreciation so I replied, “Domo arigato.”  And I bowed as low as I could which really wasn’t as low as the Japanese did.

      Later when Edith and I returned to our room I opened my box I found out I’d been given a 20th Century Pear which explained the symbology of what the man had said to me.  I showed Edith and we were both in awe of the gift and what we had seen at the celebration.

      After freshening up Edith and I went with a few others to see a presentation of the Autumn Dance at the Kokusai Theatre.  We were told the theatre was the largest in the Orient and after going inside I could see why.  It had over 10,000 lights, seated over 3,300 people and had a stage over 84 by 90 feet in size.  I was overwhelmed at the size of the building and of all the decorations. 

      The presentation included many lovely Japanese girls who performed typical, colorful traditional dances.  We saw the Fall of Japan, the Trio of Mystery and Atomic Girls performed by the Schochiku girl troupe.  It was interesting because they all looked alike and danced like the Rockettes in New York. 

      We also saw a puppet show called The Legend of the White Snake that I thought was an outstanding performance with its lighting effects.  The building at the rear of the stage began to smoke and then burst into flames.  Other dances called the New Canaries, Afro Jazz and Gypsy Violin were also performed for us.  Another one called The Comic Bears was especially delightful because the entertainers all resembled small children dressed as teddy bears.

      When we made it back to our hotel at 8pm, Edith and I went down to the dining room for some dinner.  After looking over the menu I ordered the roast duck with bitter orange for dinner and it turned out to be very good.  By the time I was done eating I was so full I felt like I was waddling back to our room.

      Back in our room I was so excited from all that had occurred during the day I decided to write Ramona about the wedding so I wouldn’t forget all the details.  As I finished the letter I noticed Edith seemed to be hovering.  When she finally decided to tell me on her mind Edith asked me if she could send the letter to the Fillmore Herald instead or copy it.  I reluctantly gave her the letter to send to the Herald but I told her I wanted to have a part of the byline since so much information had been coming from me.  Edith didn’t seem too happy at that idea but said she would send the letter and ask them to include my name.

      Edith who had seemed to be in a good mood during the evening suddenly got quiet and we didn’t have much discussion the rest of the night.  After taking a bath I was sleepy so I told Edith good night and went to bed.  When I lay down and turned off my light I noticed that Edith opted to stay up and write some more letters home.


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