Thursday, July 8, 2010

The story of the cherry blossoms

Here is a letter from Maj. Gillham describing a banquet organized by members of his Japanese training class in Chicago, and he also tells another Japanese fairy tale. 

This fairy tale is a classic folktale that is generally known in Japanese as Hanasaka Jiisan, which is known in English as The Man Who Made Withered Trees Blossom, or alternatively The Envious Neighbor.

13 March 46

Dearest Darling,

The pretty Virginia calendar that you sent me has a not in it to beware of the ides of March.  So I will start being careful.

Last night we had a reunion of all the Chicago CATS that we could find in the vicinity.  We rounded up about 20, mostly from the 3rd Class, and had quite a sumptuous banquet.  We held it at one of the billets which was formerly something like the Atlanta Athletic Club.  They had fine lounges, private dining rooms, etc.  The food was G.I., but they certainly dressed it up for the occasion.  You couldn't get have gotten a better dinner, more complete decorations, or better service in the best hotel in the states at $5 a plate.  The furniture in the lounge was rattan and it made me think of our pieces.

Col. Clark was there, and it served as a farewell party for him as he left for home today.  Dr. Smith, the ex-congressman on the faculty, was here with the education group and came.  He is an excellent speech maker.  Others that you might remember were Boron, McCullom, Wilson and Bull.

I recently learned another Japanese fairy which I must tell you before I forget it.  Once a very good man and a very bad man were neighbors.  The good man had a smart dog.  One day the dog went the field with him and showed him where to dig.  When he dug there he found much gold.  When the bad man learned of this, he borrowed the dog and took him to his field with him.  When he dug where the dog showed him, he only found an old roof tile.  He was so angry that he hit the dog with his pick and killed him.  (Don't cry, Monty)  The good man took the dog and buried him and planted a tree by the grave.  The next morning the tree had become full grown.  He cut the tree down and made a nice keg from the trunk.  When he made rice cakes in this keg, they turned to gold.  The bad man heard of this and borrowed the keg.  He made rice cakes and they turned to bits of broken tile.  He was so angry that he burned the keg up.  The good man came and said "Let me have the ashes."  He started home with them in a bowl, but a strong wind came and blew them out and into the trees, and they became cherry blossoms.  And that is where cherry blossoms came from.

I love you, my darling, and I hope it won't be long now before we are together.