Friday, January 22, 2010

Settling into the Dai-Ichi Hotel

Just a quick note on the status of my blog.  The scanner portion of my all-in-one is not functioning, so I am not able to scan any of the 2D memorabilia that WTG enclosed in his letters.  That includes the beer bottle label  he talks about in this letter.  In two weeks I will be up in NJ and will be able to scan some items then and retrofit them into the blog.  I will keep you posted on the developments.

Similarly, this Tuesday I will be traveling out to Harlem, GA, to visit my aunt Emily, one of WTG's daughters.  Apparently she has boxes and Ziploc bags full of items marked "Japan" that she and Martha sorted out a few years ago, so we'll see what kind of gems we find there.  If I find anything of relevance that pre-dates the current blog entry, I'll edit the earlier blogs and let you know about it.

This letter is pretty self-explanatory.  If any of you family members recognize any of the names of WTG's friends that he mentions in these letters, please let me (us) know about it.

Tokyo, Japan
9 Nov 1945

Dearest Darling,

Enclosed is the label from the first bottle of beer that I drank in the Imperial Hotel several days ago.

We are getting better situated here in the Dai-Ichi all the time. Today I had new wall paper put in my room. We have an excellent orchestra that plays for us at dinner -- and the meals and service are excellent.

I didn't think much of the assignment that I drew in GHQ today. It is a sort of editor and rewrite man on official reports. I don't think I am cut out for it and told them so. I may get it changed. Lt. Col. Melane who was at Chicago with me and has been out here about a year, said he would give me a job in the industries section if I could get loose. Lt. Cmdr. Wilson is in that section and I believe it would be interesting work.

Everything here in Japan is built to a small scale. Tell Emily and Monty the drinking fountains and wash basins would be just the right height for them. All the chairs and tables are small and low. This hotel caters to American trade and the beds are long enough and they have stool-type toilets. But in some of the finest office buildings, including GHQ, you can go into a marble toilet and there you can find what one officer termed "a flush type slit trench." And that is just what it is, an enamel, flush type slit in the floor, over which you are supposed to squat.

I rode the subway yesterday and it is about like New York or Chicago, but the lack of papers thrown around everywhere gave me the impression that it was cleaner.

Met a Cmdr. Ling tonight of the Chinese Navy, and went to the picture show with him. (It was "Mrs. Parkington," a very good show.) Cmdr. Ling was on his way to Chungking from Washington where he has been a naval attache for the last year or so. Before that he was an aide to Chang Kai Shek. He did a lot of fighting in China. There was an article about him in the 31 Mar '45 issue of Colliers. If you get a chance look it up. Saw "Barron San" and Lt. Col. Franklin today. Both sent you their regards.

They are getting mail here from the states in 9 or 10 days, so I imagine that as soon as you start using this new APO I will get your letter fairly promptly. Everyone has trouble with their first batch of mail.

This is the longest I have ever been out of touch with you since I have known you. Its only good feature is that it makes me realize how much I love you. It is hard for me to have all these interesting experiences without you here to share them with me. It is less than a month since I left but already it seems like years.

Give all three of my sweet daughters a big kiss for me.

Lots of love,


P.S. Recognized a Major by sight here today as being a brother of Maj. Moore that taught us at Charlottesville. He was the missionary from Japan. When I asked him, he confirmed it. I had never seen him before, but noticed family resemblances -- how's that!


The Tokyo subway system is actually two systems -- the Tokyo Metro, a private company jointly owned by the city and federal governments, and Toei, which is the regional transit authority.  Most rides within the city cost at least 170 yen (about $1.85).  Interestingly, the subway makes up only a fraction of the rail system in Tokyo, with 282 stations out of the network total 882 stations.  By comparison, New York has 468 subway stations, and Atlanta has 39.  The first Tokyo subway lines were operational starting in 1927, having been constructed while the city rebuilt itself after the great earthquake of 1923.

Below is a photograph of an occupation-era Japanese toilet, the kind which Maj. Gillham describes in his letter.  It is similar in concept to the Turkish squat toilets that can be found in certain countries in Europe and the Middle East.

Most modern homes and buildings in Japan now have the chair-style toilets, but, amazingly, many of the new toilets are fitted with two foot platforms on the sides of the seat area for those who prefer the squatting style (see below).

Maj. Gillham went to see the film Mrs. Parkington, most likely in a local theater under control of the occupation forces for use by U.S. servicemen.  The film was released in November, 1944, so it was already a year old by this time.  It's probably the most famous of the Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon pairings from MGM, and it includes some of the studio's finest supporting actors, such as Agnes Moorehead, Edward Arnold, Dan Duryea and a young Peter Lawford.

Maj. Gillham's acquaintance Commander Ling from Chungking (now known as Chongqing), had been an aide to Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of nationalist China, who at this point was continuing his war against the Chinese Communist Party.  As a part of the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945, Japan ceded the territories of Formosa (later Taiwan) and Manchuria back to China.  When Chiang Kai-Shek was eventually defeated by the Communists he retreated to Taiwan in 1950, which is now the main island of the Republic of China.

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