Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Peter & Leif at Himeji Castle, Japan - 1982

We were fortunate to be able to travel in Japan and adventurous enough to do so by train and car even when there were no English signs. The boys were unconcerned because they didn't have to figure out how to get to our destinations and back home again, but I had to memorize Japanese Kanji names by sight along the train or auto route to try to get us where we needed to go.

I was working as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District, which was spread out on bases all over Japan. The district held a conference in Osaka, and Peter W. decided he would take vacation from his office, where he was the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for U.S. Army Japan, go along, and take the boys sightseeing while I was at the conference. Not only that, he was brave enough to decide were were going to drive there from Sagamihara.

We actually managed to get there, despite the lack of English signage, and stayed in a Japanese style tatami mat room. The walls were a rough kind of Japanese stucco that looked like they were painted with sand grains in the paint. I remember the boys cutting up and acting silly, throwing their socks at the wall when they were getting ready for bed, and the rough paint caught the socks and there they hung like some weird decorations.

This was in 1982, and women were in the work force but the mentality was far different from now. It was amusing that when we arrived the first day, wives of some of the men working at the District asked me if I wanted to go shopping with them the next day. I laughed. I had to attend the conference, take photos and write articles. I jokingly said they could ask Peter W. if he wanted to join them.

That wasn't what he had in mind, though he does love to shop. Instead, the took the boys to see Osaka Castle and various other sights around town, including a big underground shopping area.

After the conference was over, we went to the nearby city of Himeji to see the famous Himeji Castle, which was beautiful and impressive. However, I think the boys were even more impressed with the "samurai warriors" we saw there. They were thrilled to pose with them, as you see in the photo above. We weren't able to communicate with them much. My Japanese wasn't good enough and neither was their English, so I am not sure that my supposition is correct, but I think they were really young guys who were in costume for a reenactment. Peter Anthony was 13 in this photo and Leif was 7 years old. He was ecstatic that they allowed him to hold and pose with one of their swords.

Both our boys became fascinated with the samurai, their armor, their swords, and their history.

The series "Shogun" made from James Clavell's book, came out while we were in Japan, and that, along with the samurai dramas they saw on TV (without any English), fostered more interest in the samurai and in martial arts.

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