Monday, March 14, 2022

March 4

"Ladies/Gentlemen, yesterday (March 4), I completed my 91st year and today started my 92nd calendar year. The best birthday message I received was from a woman friend, a Japanese lady and a great skier from Hokkaido, now living in Yokohama. Was it from Yokohama? Nope! It came from the famous Whistler-Blackcomb Mountains Ski Resorts, the 2010 Vancouver Olympic site, via Facebook Messenger. Never thought she would travel across the Pacific and remember my birthday. Messages were coming in from my children in the US as usual but this skier's message was UNEXPECTED and SPECIAL and made my day. I danced with joy with wavering emotion."

I received another half dozen messages from overseas, a number of Taiwan friends, and Facebook friends.

During the New Year this year, Toshiki Kaifu, the 76th and 77th Prime Minister passed away. He was born in January, 1931, and I thought he was the most successful of our generation. During boyhood, he and I shared the same experiences working as mobilized students at the airplane manufacturing plants. Kaifu was at MHI Nagoya and I at Toray-turned MHI near Hiroshima. I learned that he passed a test to become a boyhood pilot, same as I. I regarded him as a fellow comrade who survived the tumultuous Showa war-time era. Kaifu went to Waseda University, majoring in politics and refining his natural gift of oratory eloquence, but immediately took a job as disciple/secretary of Kensho Kono (1910-1958), a Liberal Democrat politician with free three-meal benefits. Kaifu also helped Mrs. Kono win the election (for one term) upon the death of her husband, which helped him cultivate his own political constituency after this endeavor. Kaifu got elected in 1960 as the youngest Dietman in 1960; then during the scandalous 1980s Recruit's Insiders Trading affairs, he was miraculously chosen as the “cleanest” politician to head the Liberal Democratic Party. Kaifu was 58 years old then.

Now here is my story! What I craved for in my teen years, in reflection, was adventure of other worlds. I was born by the sea – exploring the ocean while growing up! - wherever! - you have to work to live! - then, must learn a foreign language and appreciate different cultures - as well as to increase your sales value - chose (major in) English - first got a hard translation job - studied technology commuting to a two-year college on electricity at night. Was "lucky" enough to go on a first overseas trip in 1957 before the official foreign exchange - then a stable job in NYC in the ‘60s, then on to San Diego, California in ‘70s and ‘80s with family - returned to Japan in 1995. Would have stayed living in California except for an agreement with my spouse - my Californian Dreams shattered and broken.

What have I achieved in California? Work life as compared with my comrade Kaifu? In 1989, I was promoted to Corporate Officer of a US Subsidiary of a Japanese company. That's only two years later than Kaifu becoming the Transportation Minister in Prime Minister Takeshita’s cabinet. Not bad, right? I regularly spoke to over 100 plant employees before they started work.

My speech experience helped when I started working on my Toastmaster speeches upon returning to Japan. DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) Award was consigned to me in 2002, about 5 years after joining the worldwide TM Organization. What I like about TM is that it is a non-profit organization and members are the top tier of the organization, followed by clubs, areas, divisions, districts, regions, headquarters and board of directors (at very bottom) in an inverted organizational chart. You can make as many friends as you like without involving anybody and members are all supportive in achieving excellence, particularly in communication and friendship. TM became my social backbone after retirement. I was reborn and re-established as an ardent TM, traveling all over Japan, Kyushu in particular, in helping TM clubs grow from cradle to being chartered. TM activities became my sense of life fulfillment.

On family life - I am proud my son graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a Master's degree in mechanical engineering and completing the Executive Masters of Business Administration from San Diego State University. He was honored to speak at graduation as valedictorian. My daughter graduated from San Diego State University with a Master's degree in music and she married her classmate who pursued and got his Doctorate. My daughter has given me grandchildren - a granddaughter, now a quality engineer with a chemical engineering degree, and a grandson who is now a freshman at University of California, San Diego. My California Dreams reborn.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

US-Canadian Borders: My Connection

This morning paper surprised me as I was familiar with all the names and locations in the article. It read as follows:

It was about the Canadian borders with the U.S (truckers freedom convoy) in Canada.

The three border crossings are:

  1. Coutts, Alberta, to Sweet Grass, Montana
  2. Emerson, Manitoba, to Pembina, North Dakota
  3. The Ambassador Bridge at Detroit and Windsor, Ontario

First, about the Coutts border. In August 2008, my son-in-law Raymond Warner III (the 3rd) and I attended the Calgary Toastmasters International Convention. On the way to Calgary, I was scheduled to do a presentation at the Japanese Canadian Museum in Burnaby, neighboring Vancouver City, British Columbia, about my Japanese translation of Joanne Oppenheim’s “Dear Miss Breed”. In fact, I was to deliver a dozen translated books to the museum signed by me for the readers gathering there. I thought I had enough time to travel in a rented car, from Vancouver Airport to Burnaby, but an unusual delay at the Canadian customs clearance made my arrival at the museum half an hour late.

I apologized to my audience of 30 people waiting for my arrival. Thankfully, the event went off well.

Raymond and I then drove to Banff (probably my 3rd visit) to the Calgary Toastmasters Convention where TM Kiminari Azuma was representing Japan as a D76 speaker and I wanted to cheer him on.

Raymond's Google direction in 2008 read as follows:

From Calgary, drive down 180 miles south, about 3 miles, take Blackfoot & Deerfoot Trails SE, take Crowsnest Hwy E, Hwy-2 S, Hwy-3E/Red Coat Trail E toward Lethbridge, Card-stone/Fort Macleod, turn right at Hwy 2, now entering US-89.

Coutts is 60 miles southwest of Lethbridge. I was close to Coutts but Raymond and I didn't go through I-15. Raymond wanted to take me on a tour of Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton-Mormon Row, Jackson, Idaho Falls, Craters of the Moon, (almost all are National Parks) before returning the rental car in Boise, Idaho.

I read that Coutts was a town of 250 mostly senior citizens, expanded further at Milk River, previously the site of an RCMP checkpoint. Now Coutts is the busiest port of entry for Alberta and Montana, seeing 800-1200 trucks pass through daily, and is critical to Alberta’s beef and meatpacking industry. The 'truckers freedom convoy' otherwise known as the anti-vaccine mandate protest has prevented hundreds of truckers from transporting their cargo across the Canadian-US border.

Next, about Emerson, Alberta. I visited my Toastmaster friend Rob Duncan in Winnipeg, Manitoba after attending the Toastmaster Chicago Convention in 2000. Rob was stationed in Iizuka City hospital, Fukuoka for a few years (near Kitakyushu). While in Iizuka, he installed Iizuka Toastmasters ahead of Kitakyushu. I wanted to listen to his motivation as well as background.

While in Winnipeg, I extended my trip to Regina to visit Verna Mitura, a Canadian friend I met at the Hino English Club. She represented the Canadian Government in agriculture, a career woman. First, I drove from Winnipeg to Regina straight and just saw nothing but wheat fields. So, when returning to Winnipeg, I took the border routes. I recognized Emerson on my return route. There was a huge International Peace Garden, located on the Canadian/American border near Boissevain, Manitoba/Dunseith, N, Dakota, where I spent a lovely afternoon. I traced border routes through Turtle Mountain, etc. and at Emerson/Pembina, drove straight up north back to Winnipeg.

Lastly, about the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit. I didn't see the Ambassador Bridge, but the name sounded familiar. It was Spring 1957. I was a lucky greenhorn fresh from college to accompany two 'big bosses' as their interpreter traveling almost all major US cities. Detroit then was a must-visit city for businessmen and that's where my Fulbright Professor McCormick taught - Wayne U! The doctor marked my English essay 99! When I telephoned, he was so glad to hear from me and invited me to his home for dinner. He told me that Detroit is the only city south of Canada at that crossing.

The article brought forth fond memories of my travels in the US and Canada and the border crossings, particularly with Raymond in particular. I kept Montana travel routings and diaries printed and bound in a booklet formatted by Raymond in my bookshelf.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Gift to Wife - A Trip to El Morro, Puerto Rico

“Imagine the refreshment of finding water after days of dusty travel. A reliable waterhole hidden at the base of a sandstone bluff made El Morro (the headland) a popular campsite for hundreds of years. Here, Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish and American travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs. Make El Morro National Monument a stopping point on your travels.“

This is the 'catchphrase' of the National Monument of Pueblo, New Mexico. Beside El Morro I introduced in my post on the Pacific Coast, there are quite a few El Morro sites in the US. The one I know well is in the Caribbean, formally called Castillo San Felipe del Morro - the fortification on the corner of the islet of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the city's founding as the oldest city in the United States.

Spain ruled the island for about 500 years. England and the Netherlands were two countries to first challenge Spain. England tried three times (1595, 1598, 1797), all in vain, the Netherlands once in 1625. Then the US challenged in 1898 in the Spanish-American War and won.

I was sent to New York City by my employer in March 1963, when my daughter Yukina was only a few weeks old. My family joined me in June of that year.

I worked at 40 Worth Street, downtown, near West Broadway, renting two desks inside a medium-sized (70 employees) trading company dealing primarily in iron and steel chains. Two desks were for me and my partner - Guy Karaki, younger and a dynamic character, an excellent electrical engineer who graduated from Tokyo Denki University in Kanda, Tokyo. Both of us had to walk to the nearby deserted Hudson River warehouse to ship measuring instruments after the “Ima-Ima” (now-now) calibration to fulfill the occasional customer orders. We already knew that Americans use the so-called “all-in-one” multi-purpose testers, disregarding standalone ammeters, voltmeters, wattmeters, or ohm-meters. So, Karaki and I had tactics to sell, with some success, more sophisticated hysteresis tracers (priced at $5,000) to some higher-level institutions.

As the year-end approached, I mentioned to Karaki that we owe everything to our wives who took care of our children in an unfamiliar environment. Can we offer them a trip during the New Year? First, he looked puzzled, but consented. I finally suggested a weeklong trip to San Juan, PR.

I cautioned him the deal was between us. Do not tell anybody about our plans, not even our employers in Tokyo.

We purchased the tickets and provided detailed instructions on where to visit. Off they went. The El Morro in Old San Juan was included in the plan. We babysat the kids. We thanked them in an unorthodox way then and we loved listening to them talk about their trip.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Karaki passed away after returning to Japan and Karaki himself passed away about 10 years ago. RIP to both. Amen.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

New Year Post - Climbing

I am not a climber, as previously stated. However, I am hoping that I could try an easy mountain on a happy occasion such as New Year’s Day or my birthday; taking-it-slow and easy, forgetting how old I am.

I cannot tell when I noticed it, but I was definitely trying to avoid ascending roads, choosing gentle slopes, or even going on a long detour. Before you know it, climbing seems a bit awkward.

Suddenly you are uncertain if you can even climb a smaller mountain - about 500 meters.

Celebrating my 90th Birthday, I wish to put on record my past mountain treks (Scotland and Taiwan) which I partook coming back to Japan from the US in 1994.

I settled down back in Hino City, Tokyo in the house I had newly built with Nippon Homes in 1970 (living room, 3 bedrooms, kitchen, central heating). The house was rented to my employer while I was in the US. I eventually sold it and moved from Tokyo to Kitakyushu in the late 1990’s.

While living in Tokyo, I had a number of chances to climb Mt. Takao (about 500 meters) either on foot or by cable car. Mt. Takao is a very popular mountain in Tokyo.

While also in Tokyo, I started to travel to Taiwan and made many Toastmaster friends, with whom I traveled often to Mt. Yanminshan, Taipei’s suburban national park. Mt. Yanmin and Mt. Takao are very comparable promenades.

I traveled to Scotland alone and trotted two places - one was Ben Navis, the other Glencoe Valley, both in the Highlands, near Port Williams. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain (1300 meters) and I just looked up in awe. Glencoe is the most beautiful glen I've ever seen, and sadly famous for the Glencoe Massacre. Glen is named after the River Coe. I hummed Danny Boy to myself, "from glen to glen and down the mountain side".

In Kitakyushu, about a 500-meter Mt. Sarakura welcomed me. There at Sarakura, meaning "dish warehouse", you can enjoy a Million Dollar view of Yahata City from the summit, in daytime or at night. You can make it to the top either on foot or by cable car.

Sarakura of Kitakyushi reminded me of Mt. Sara-ga-Mine (1,271 meter) in Ehime, my birth prefecture. As a teenager, I was sent there for 3 months for intensive training to learn how to fly a glider. After hundred-days of training, I received an official certification of finishing secondary class glider pilot. During training, the secondary class pilot candidates climbed Mt. Sara-ga-Mine to watch our Primary Class glider instructor take off from the top of Sara-ga-Mine.

Alina, my grand-daughter, married a 'mountain man' two years ago. I was unable to attend her wedding nor have I had a chance to meet him yet because of COVID pandemic. I'll send this blog to him for comment.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Kamishibai (Paper Theater)

1

The World Kamishibai Day Celebrated its 20th Anniversary on Dec 7, 2021.

My daughter in Santa Barbara, California was surprised to hear about the celebration, claiming Kamishibai a lost art of storytelling. She should remember them from her preschool days in Japan, even though she did not spend much time there. She says she remembers seeing live theatrical performances called “Fairly Tales in the Park”. With a cast of 4-5 actors, this troop performed short plays for children at different parks. They were quite entertaining, dressing up as different characters and using props. It was much different from watching a movie or TV. I believe this performing group surprisingly still exists. I don’t recall ever taking my kids to see Kamishibai. When they were young, I took them to library programs and bookstore events before bookstores disappeared.

Kamishibai, the Japanese paper theater or picture story card show, once flourished during the depression years in the 1930’s that saved many unemployed adults, but disappeared at the advent of World War II. I sensed its revival while living overseas.

What I recollect about Kamishibai was how it demonstrated its power to communicate when the new Japanese Constitution was promulgated in 1948, using the old medium of popular entertainment to educate. An attentive street crowd was informed about important impending changes. The banner and sign advertised the new constitution coming into effect. The photo attached was taken from the famous book, Embracing Defeat by John Dower. Tokujiro Kanamori (1886-1959), State Minister under Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida was strongly involved.

The latest World Kamishibai Day initiative promotes the idea that Kamishibai lessons can imprint unforgettable memories in children, invoking the same level of curiosity and enthusiasm from rivaling content on smartphones and tablets.

2

The San Diego Library “Rebellious Miss Breed” retrospective purportedly continues ‘from Sept 2021 to Jan 2022' and its Kamishibai special program was scheduled at the Rancho Bernardo public library on November 19. I asked my friends, the Kaneko family, living nearby, to attend if possible and report back. Kaneko-san attended with her son’s family, including grandchildren aged 8 and 6. To my and their disappointment, no Kamishibai plays related to Miss Breed were performed that day. However, the grandchildren seemed to have enjoyed them all. The following three Kamishibai were performed by Mr. Walter Ritter, the narrator/performer, surrounded by 10 adults and a dozen children that made up the audience.

  1. Taberareta Yamanba, The Mountain Witch that was Eaten
  2. Chinese folk tale
  3. American tale

According to Mr. Ritter, two Kamishibai stories related to Miss Breed are available. I tried looking for a performance date, but could not find any. They are Boy Tetsuzo, about whom I know and talked to person, and Fusa Tsumagari.

3

One of the most well-known original stories that was first performed using Kamishibai was Ogon Bat (The Golden Bat), a Japanese superhero created in 1931. The popular character eventually made the transition to manga and anime adaptations.

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Tango as Therapy

Few visitors to Boca Raton, Florida, known for its affluence, imagined the area means literally 'the rat’s mouth'. This same Boca in Buenos Aires was named to its port by European immigrants. Today "Boca" thrives as "Junior Boca", young soccer teams adorned by local kids. La Boca, however, wears another face there. It is a popular destination for tourists, like me, to visit colorful houses and pedestrian street “Caminito”, where Buenos Aires tango dancers graciously and sensuously perform.

In 2001, I extended my trip to Brazil-Uruguay-Argentine (bordering Iguaz Falls) to Buenos Aires for two reasons: 1) to attend Buenos Aires Toastmasters meeting and; 2) to visit La Boca.

I took special social dancing lessons in my late teen days until I changed my major from economics to English. My favorite lessons were the waltz and the tango. When I heard music like La Cumparcita ("The Carnival", 1917) or Yira-Yira ("Go Round and Round", 1931), I was so exhilarated. I kept my dancing shoes separate from the family show rack. Lo, I haven't danced the Tango for a long time now.

In tango, steps, or rather leg glides, "Caminando" in Spanish, meaning "walking" is non-stereotype. The couple synchronize with the music, you and your partner and the environment. You follow no single specific rhythm. Because the dance is led and followed at the level of individual steps, the variations can occur from one step to another. This allows dancers from one step to the next, to vary the dance from moment to moment to match the music and the mood. I like the tango flexibility.

Another thing, tango lines your two kneecaps close, corrects your carriage, keeping your posture straight. I felt very refreshed, blowing off my stress after Tango dancing. Tango may be good for physical fitness, akin to Judo or Aikido. Strange that Tango has a therapeutic effect, blasting away daily stress. People in La Boca gathered to free themselves from nitty-gritty lives of poverty.

Tango music sprouted around the turn of the century (1900) in Boca neighborhoods. Most well-known was Carlos Gardel, a French-born Argentine singer, songwriter, composer and actor. Initially it seemed he had a tough time initially, even unable to buy Mate tea to drink, but gradually overcame the challenges. He succeeded in performing in New York and was a huge success.

Alas, he met a tragic death when his plane crashed in Medellin, Bogota in 1935.

P.S.
I participated one night in Buenos Aires Toastmasters gathering named Morris Gellman and was welcomed as a speaker from the Orient. I remember I talked about Japan as volcanic islands archipelago. I am happy to report the Club is sound and going strong. Big cheers! I befriended Lidia Cobo, with whom I exchange emails. Below is a photo of the Cobo sisters.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

4215 Trias

I read the obituary of Miss Clara Breed when I was visiting San Diego as a traveler after retiring from Kyocera. I met Clara several times in the late ‘70s at a fundraising board meeting of the San Diego Balboa Park Friendship Garden project, with the Honorable Japanese Consulate General Will Happen Jr. as President, Clara as secretary (requested perhaps by Joe and Liz Yamada) sitting on the Board, and me, representing my employer - Kyocera.

The obituary opened my eyes to her career as the ex-President of San Diego Public Library, and her close associations with the Japanese community, especially with children during the very dark period when they spent their days in concentration camps during World War II.

I wrote "4215" with my felt-tipped pen, followed by "Trias" on the notebook I carried then and it became my Breed notebook ever since. Trias in Mission Hills, San Diego is located a bit north of Fashion Valley on the slope. The neighboring Hillcrest has UCSD Medical Center Complex on the plateau. I frequented the above mentioned Honorable Japanese Consul General Wil Hippen Jr.’s residence close to Presidio Park for various projects which included the Japanese Naval Force band reception on Ports Call.

Losing husband Ruden, a pastor, Clara’s mother Estella arrived in San Diego in the 1920s, invited by Estella’s sister and her husband. Clara graduated from San Diego High as an honor student. Her school activities were diverse - art, horseback riding, tennis and making graduation albums. She made her own miniature house zoo, feeding foxes, raccoons and possums. I assumed early San Diegans enjoyed a life close to nature.

In the obituary, I read Clara kept a boxful of letters from children and when I called Liz Yamada, she already donated them to the Japanese-American National Library (JANL). She introduced me to Tetsuzo Hirasaki for a meeting and I had a valuable conversation with Tetsu (he passed away shortly after we met).

I visited JANL and copied a few letters from children reading “Dear Miss Breed” as samples. I was told the library was in the process of sorting through them and would take at least six months to finish. Joanne Oppenheim, the author of the Dear Miss Breed (Scholastics), miraculously found out about Miss Breed by inquiring at JANL about her Japanese classmate and started interviewing 'Miss Breed's children'. I heard about Joanne’s interviews through Liz and waited until her book came out in 2006.

The Japanese edition of Joanne Oppenheim's book came out in July 2008. Not bad! The translation took me two years (I wish to thank Eisho-no-Kai members for partial translation) and only had to count days needed to find a publisher. Luckily, Kashiwa Shobo in Tokyo came to my rescue.

I have to thank Teiko Uemura as my great self-sacrificing partner. She helped organize the manuscript into a fine, neatly typed Japanese version. I met her at Kumamoto Toastmasters Club and we bonded over sharing a cordial spirit. She later moved to Hachioji, Tokyo but we remain tied in the same spirit.

Latest Honors bestowed upon Clara Breed:

2014: California Library Hall of Fame by California Library Association

2007: San Diego Women Hall of Fame in the Cultural Bridge Builder category

2006: Smithsonian Institute incorporated four of the Dear Miss Breed letters into lesson plans to be used in Business School documents