Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A trip to the fish market, and the first taste of sake

In this letter you can tell Maj. Gillham is in a good mood just from his salutation.  It won't be long before I start posting Frances' letters, and you'll see that she is also playful with her salutations, which may have inspired Maj. Gillham.  It's a short and sometimes humorous letter. 

17 Jan 1946

Dearest Lovely Dovely,

Your letter of 5 Jan, which was written between the other two I received lately, came yesterday and cleared things up a bit for me. I am glad you all didn't have the flu and I don't want you to get it.

You were mean to tell Emily she was eating a large spider. She should see some of the sea food that the Japs eat. Recently I took a walk over through the fish market area. They eat all of anything that comes out of the ocean and these waters contain many more varieties than those around the U.S. Favorite delicacies that you see at all fish stands are octopus and squid. Some of the octopus are fairly big fellows, too. Shark is another standby. There are many "varmints" that I can neither name nor describe. I saw a fish that was an ordinary nice-looking fish except that in addition to its full quota of fins it had six legs. I told Lt. Col. Fiedler, the head of our Fisheries Section, about it and it beat the hell out of him.

I finally had some sake to drink. It is served hot from a little bottle, like I sent the children, into the same kind of little cups. It tastes like a sour wine and I never did feel it to speak of. I went with Reese out to the home of a well-to-do Jap business man. He served it to us. He had a fine home with one western-style room of which he was very proud. We preferred to sit on the floor in the Japanese part of the house. We all put our feet under a blanket thrown over a little frame containing an electric hot plate. That is all the heat they have -- even charcoal is very hard to get now. He owns an apple orchard up on the northern tip of Honshu near Aomori and he had some very fine apples which he served also.

I will have to look up Dr. Sutton when he arrives. I know most of the fellows in the Education Section.

You know I believe that you are the sweetest wife that any man could have. You keep telling me that I am O.K. and it does me a lot of good to hear it whether it is so or not. Anyway, I wish I had you in my arms right this minute. I have your picture before me now. It seems like you should break out into a big grin and walk out of the picture and spend the night with me.

I hope that Monty is entirely well by the time this arrives. I don't like for her to be peaked. Please let me know whether or not you have received the $50 government check and the $100 money order. Also, are the $100 bonds coming through now?

Give my love to Mother Ki, Mother 'Cile, Father, Bryant and all the children. Tell Elizabeth I am anxious to meet her.

Lots of love,



Aomori is the northernmost prefecture on the main island of Honshu and is situated on the Tsugaru Straits opposite the northern island of Hokkaido.  It is located about 400 miles from Tokyo.

As most everyone knows, sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice.  However, many people mistakenly refer to it as a rice wine, when in fact it is not fermented but brewed, much like beer.  It has been a Japanese tradition since about the third century A.D., and it can be served hot or cold, depending on the season.  Maj. Gillham was served warm sake because it was in the winter.  Sake is also used during many Shinto rituals, much like the Christian tradition with wine.  Kamikazi pilots often drank ceremonial sake before setting out on their final flights.