Friday, July 30, 2010

A free day to visit Tokyo

Maj. Gillham finally has a free day and decides to take a trip around town with an army friend.  He describes a tea-making ritual, which is still carried on today and is still as ritualistic.  I heard a report about this on the NPR show The World, and I remember the reporter specifically mentioning 3-1/2 swallows.  At time (and still now, even) I wondered what the difference was between a swallow and a half swallow.

After the letter I have attached some scans of items he enclosed in this letter.  As always, remember to click on an image twice to see the largest size.

24 Mar 46

Dearest Darling,

Last night I got out all your letters postmarked from the 6th to the 13th of March and read them in proper sequence.  That gave me a good chronological picture of your activities for that week.

I am sorry you didn't get to see skiing at Nikko.  The news reporters took some pictures of us when I was there, but no movies.  They took my name and home town and I thought it might get in an Atlanta paper as I gave that address.

I have been running around with Dick Wilson a good deal lately.  He is an energetic fellow with a lot of interest in life and he has been a very good friend to me and helped me out in many ways.  He wa far from the best Japanese student at Chicago, but he has kept at it and now is better than most.  He loaned me a radio some time ago and today he helped me rig an aerial on the hotel roof so that now it is working fine.  The Japanese radios don't work well without an aerial.

Today was Sunday and I had the first day off thatI have spent in Tokyo in some time.  It was a very interesting day.  He and I got a sedan this morning and started out.  First we called on a friend of his who is a leading Japanese opera star.  He has played the lead in many classical operas such as Lohengrin.  We looked at some of his scrapbooks showing him in scenes of the operas.  He is a handsome, likable, relatively young fellow.  He is from Formosa, probably part Chinese, and has a pretty Japanese wife.  They live in a modernistic Western-style house which the fire just missed.  They served us tea and we took some pictures which I will send when they are developed.

Then we went to look at some houses that are being built in one of the devastated areas.  The head of the contracting firm doing the building had us in for tea by the members of a tea cult.  The tea ritual has been developed almost to the point of religion.  We went to a Japanese-style house outside of the main building for this.  We removed our shoes, which has almost become a habit now, and went in and sat on the floor.  There a number of beautifully kimonoed high-class Japanese women served us.  Every single movement of the whole procedure is rigidly fixed in the ritual.  No movement, no matter how small, is casual.  The tea is made from powdered green tea.  It is drunk in exactly three and one half swallows.  The first half swallow is for a taste.  The last swallow is made with a loud slurping noise.

The art exhibit was very good.  I think the Stars and Stripes overemphasized the nudes and baited a lot of G.I.'s out there.  Naturally I couldn't thoroughly enjoy an art exhibit without you.  It was very interesting and would have been a great pleasure with you by my side to comment, and to listen to my ideas.

Last night I met a Mr. Rowe in the bar.  He is here on a textile mission.  He recognized a Lt. Cmdr. and spoke to him.  After the Lt. Cmdr. left he told me he had been a weaver in Mr. Rowe's mill.  Really a small world.

I have a kimono for Margaret.  I was planning to bring it with me, but I will send it in the next package.

Recently saw a Japanese sign:  Underhole.  Finally figured out it meant basement.

Lots of love,


P.S.  A Korean gave me the 100 yuan note.  It is Chinese money.


Here is the article from Stars and Stripes about the art exhibit that Maj. Gillham attended.

Here is another article from the Stars and Stripes that he enclosed as well.  His note at the bottom is a reference to the book and movie A Bell for Adano, which he had spoken about in a previous letter.  The spelling, alas, cannot be changed.

Here is the 100 Yuan note that he mentions in the postcript of the letter, which a Korean had given to him.



Here is something interesting that Maj. Gillham included in this letter but did not mention:  it is a toll ticket from the Hiroshima long-distance office.  I am assuming it was the office that he visited downtown which had fared relatively well in the bombing.