Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some general observations while awaiting orders

Zama, Japan
4 Nov 1945

Dearest Darling,

Today was Sunday and I went to church this morning.  I like to go to church when a long way from home like this -- it gives you a tie to your own culture which you crave in a strange environment.  The old hymns are deeply rooted in us.

I wish I could get some of my impressions across to you while they are still fresh.  First I want to express my admiration for the American G.I.  He is a fine, self-reliant and generally well behaved man.  All that I have seen are healthy, well trained and well disciplined -- but they are no robots -- and nothing fazes them.  There is a very evident feeling of comradeship between all Americans in this situation.  A truck driver won't pass you on the road without offering you a lift.  Everyone seems to try to help the others.  I have heard no real griping, even in spite of very nasty details.

This afternoon I went with a couple of others by train to a medium sized country village about 30 miles from here and prowled around a little.  The average Japanese is undoubtedly poor and crowded.  He is almost without exception very small.  Americans look like a race of giants among them.  You can always look right over the top of a crowd.  Most of their small towns are about on a par with the Negro section of a southern city, as far as space and worldly goods are concerned.

I slept in my mummy sleeping bag last night.  It works pretty well.  I hope to get out of here soon.  So far there are no orders and no mail.

Tell Emily and Monty that I saw several little Japanese girls about their ages down at the train platform today.  They were playing a game something like jacks done with two bean bags.  They would bounce these around from hand to hand or to the back of the hand, etc., in different patterns and did it to the time of a quaint little Oriental tune.  They seemed to be having a fine time.

Except for one day the weather has been fair, warm in day and cold at night.

Lots of love,



This might be a good place for some information about Japan -- not encyclopedic or scholarly, but more like bullet-point "fun facts."

-- Japan has the same population as the U.S. west of the Mississippi, but in an area the size of Montana.  Put another way, Japan has 45% of the U.S. population but only 4% of its land area.

-- Germany and Japan are roughly the same size, but Japan has 55% more inhabitants.

-- The average height of an American male is 5'9" while that of a Japanese male is 5'7".

-- The difference between women is the same two inches, at 5'4"and 5'2", respectively.

-- The native name for Japan is 日本, which can either be pronounced Nippon or Nihon.  Nippon is more the official pronunciation, while Nihon is a more casual or provincial usage.

-- The term 日本 means "the sun's origin," and comes from the Chinese perception of Japan lying to the east.  This is why Japan is often called "The Land of the Rising Sun."

-- There have been three Olympics held in Japan:  the 1964 summer games in Tokyo, the 1972 winter games in Sapporo, and the 1998 winter games in Nagano.

-- The Japanese drive on the left, which comes from the ancient tradition of left passage among samurai warriors.  Left passage would prevent right-handed samurai from drawing their swords as they passed, as the sword hilts would usually touch.

--  Not surprisingly, Japan is the largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

-- Because of Japan's temperate climate and relative isolation, fruit is extremely expensive.  Watermelons are a rare delicacy and can cost up to $250 each.  Fish, on the other hand, are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.  The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the world's largest.

-- My mother will love this one:  In Japan it is considered rude to tear the wrapping when opening a present.

-- Sumo wrestling is Japan's national sport, but baseball is the country's most popular sport.  This is similar to the relationship between baseball and football in the U.S.

-- It is considered rude to blow one's nose in public; however, 60% of all adult Japanese smoke, which is allowed in every public place except local trains.

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