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Wednesdays With Myron - Japan (1953-1956), Part IV

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I went to the public baths in Japan. They were in gardens in separate houses. There were female attendants. I was often in Tokyo in the wintertime. I would walk out through the snow with little straw sandals in a light cotton Kimono and nothing else out to the bathhouse. You took off your Kimono and one of the young attendants and you squatted down and hugged your knees. They would pour warm water over shoulders and your whole body would be soaked. Then you stood up and you had a girl on your back and one in front and they scrubbed you with brushed and soak and you squatted again and they rinsed you a few times. You hadn’t come to the tub to be cleaned; you came to be refreshed. Then you would get into the tub and it was so hot. When you stood up, it looked like you were wearing red underwear up to your neck. If you had the courage (I never did), you would take a cold tub. When you walked back through the bathhouse to the main building, you were the center of a great cloud of steam. It was strange. You didn’t feel the cold even though it was below freezing.

Viewing Terminal Station of Tobu Line From Sumida Park, Tokyo

I met a beautiful young lady from Tokyo. She was the receptionist from the most prestigious Chinese restaurant in Tokyo. She spoke a few other languages because she had to for her job. When I was living with a girl in the little town of Fussa, I would be at the base and walk to the train station and instead of taking the main line in to Tokyo, I took the old steam train into the countryside. This girl I was living with would prepare a bath for me and then make a meal. We would go for walks in the village. I got to know everyone in the village. I could have run for Mayor. I loved the Japanese culture. The way you were treated, their tradition of hygiene and cleanliness, the exotic nature of everything was new. Everything you touched and saw and smelled was a revelation. It was something unknown.

I traveled quite a bit in Japan because I would often leave the Air Force to avoid being shipped out of Japan. I had a lovely girlfriend, a place to stay, I had friends…I didn’t want to go. Because I was a propeller mechanic and there were always more than they ever needed, they were forever getting rid of them. When I wasn’t working in the prop shop and working in maintenance control, I was vulnerable. So I had a deal going with Sylvia Swinney, a greatly overweight Polish Master Sergeant in the Army. She was in charge of special services, which dealt with theater, music and entertainment. She had gotten me out of the air force and into the army, which got me stationed in Sendai in Northern Japan.

I was shocked when I got back from a weekend with my girlfriend that there were orders to send me to Okinawa. I got back Sunday night and I had to be out of there by Monday morning. I couldn’t call her. I couldn’t write to her because I didn’t have the address. That hurt me and I’m sure it hurt her, too, to just have me evaporate. I felt very guilty about it but I didn’t know what to do. So I shipped to Okinawa for six or seven months. 

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