News & Blog
We have two amazing children who, throughout their lives, have been adaptable to various difficult and unusual situations. In 1964 we tore our 2 year old daughter and 3 year old son away from their grandparents and friends in Oregon, bringing them to Japan, which was a strange and unknown country for them and for us. Don (my husband) and I wanted a one year adventure and the kids had no choice! None of us spoke a word of Japanese and it was difficult for us all, at first, to make new friends in Tsujido.
It turned out that one of the kids’ first “friends” was the English-speaking benjo man who came to our house once a month. He had previously worked on one of the US military bases, probably in Atsugi, so spoke some English. Hungry for English speaking friends, our children soon discovered that they could use their native language to converse with at least one other person besides their parents.
The odor from the vacuum truck, blocks away from our house, alerted us to the fact that we would soon be visited by this man. The kids were pleased, but I wasn’t quite so delighted since it seemed that on the day that he came, my most sophisticated, well-dressed ladies also came for their English lesson.
The kids would sit by the outdoor area where he used his vacuum hose to clean out our toilet, chattering away in English. Although he was initially their one and only English speaking “friend”, they gradually became friends with a few neighbor children.
These two children of ours must have been pretty unsettled at first, but gradually started to fit in, finding friends in the neighborhood, but none of them spoke English as well as that benjo man.
Kids are amazing and I feel that ours were exceptionally so.
What a relief it is that October is here and the hot, humid days of another summer are behind us. As this summer’s temperatures reached the mid to upper 30s and the humidity was 70-80% I couldn’t help but think of the past 50+ summers that we have spent in Japan.Back in the 60s and 70s, before air-conditioning was readily available, there weren’t many ways to stay cool other than wearing as little clothing as possible. For our son, and most likely most other young boys, that meant only underwear in or out of kiddy pools such as the one he loved splashing around in with the son of our neighbor in Tsujido.Stripping down wasn’t only for kids. Occasionally, on commuter trains, businessmen were known to remove their trousers, fold them and carefully place them on the overhead rack and relax in their suteteko. They could, therefore, arrive at the office in dry, wrinkle-free suits. Business women, in their nylon stockings and dresses, were not so lucky; they could use only hankies and “sensu” fans to try to stay perspiration-free. In those days women did not wear trousers or they might have been tempted to follow the example of the businessmen!!I well remember those trains going to Tokyo, with all of the windows open, hot air rushing in, while standing under an overhead fan trying to not pass out from the heat. In the evenings, in our neighborhood, elders sat on their front doorsteps, in their underclothing, trying to catch a cool breeze while coils of katorisenko kept the mosquitoes at bay.Finally in 2005, for the comfort of workers and the conservation of energy, the Ministry of Environment decided that from June to September government offices should keep temps at 28 degrees C.; later, the private sector put this regulation into practice from May to October. In 2011 Super Cool Biz became “cool.” Polo shirts and even Okinawan or Hawaiian shirts were approved as office wear for businessmen. The tie manufacturing companies were losing business big time. I’m sure that businesswomen also welcomed the freedom of wearing more suitable clothing for the hot, humid days.I’m going to try to enjoy the cooler days of fall and think of new ways to stay cool when summer once again rolls around.