by TED PITTENGER
ON New Year’s Day in Yokohama Terry photographed the three sisters, Myoko, Toyoko, and Itsuko Watanabe. He met them in cold sunlight at the top of the hill on the cobblestoned street that winds up through Nogeyama Park. They bowed low and murmured a Japanese greeting: “Nee-chang Terry-san — Mr. Elder Brother Terry.”
Because this was New Year’s they wore kimonos instead of the baggy everyday uniform of slacks and matching tucked-in blouses. Terry photographed them against evergreens, against a lichencovered wall, and against the sky. His camera was a rare 18-ounce Sport Rolleiflex. In what you now called “The Early Days” the camera cost two cartons of cigarettes worth twenty-seven dollars a carton.
The girls led him out the far side of the park three quarters of a mile to the main street of Ishizakichō precinct, where there was one of the little hummocks of houses and stores the B-29s had
left standing in Yokohama.
In Ishizakiehō people were promenading and shopping. A few men fingered Terry’s musette bag he carried on a strap slung across t he shoulder of his combat jacket. They hoped he had food for sale.
He bargained with a hawker who offered him two live lobsters. ltsuko whispered: “Takhai! Takhai!” They were too expensive. Terry replied: “O-ishi — I like them.” Itsuko did not want him to spend so much money. He put the tip of his right forefinger on his nose, lifted his eyebrows, and said loudly: “O — eeSHEE!” That always worked. He bought the lobsters for 60 yen, as much money as Itsuko earned in one month as a clerk in the Yokohama Post Office.
Itsuko, eldest of the three sisters, was twenty-five. Myoko was twenty-three and manager of the Watanabe household. Toyoko, a messenger in the post office, was twenty. She took the lobsters, tied with string, and held them away from her kimono.
Myoko asked Terry in Japanese: “Where are you now ? ”
“Here?” he asked.
“Yes. What is this place?”
“I don’t know.”
“You are lost ?”
“Yes. I am lost.”
“Toyoko will take you to Papa-san.”
“Thank you. I am hungry at six o’clock.”
“We shall have a feast.”
Itsuko said: “Gude-bye!”
“Sayonara,” Terry said.
The Watanabes lived in the Nishi-ku section of Nishi-tobemachi, west of Nogeyama Park. Nishi-ku was a saucer of land and the fires had burned as far as the rim, sparing terrace upon terrace of houses below. There were two luxuries in Nishi-ku you could not find in most of Yokohama’s fifty square miles: electricity and piped water, a little of each.
The Watanabe house of two rooms and a latrine was built on a platform raised two feet above ground. At ground level in front of the house there was a tiny cooking area on the left and a tiny entry on the right. To enter, you slid back a light wooden door and stepped onto a packed-earth floor. You sat on a ledge made by the front edge of the platform and took off your shoes. You slid back another door — a shoji latticed once with panes of rice paper, but now with coarse, woody stuff — and you lifted yourself inside a nine-by-four straw-matted room. The room behind, closed off by latticed doors, was nine by nine. A thick wall-to-wall mat Terry thought made of jute or sisal covered the floor. There was no furniture. He had lived in this house with the three sisters and Papa-san for nearly three months.
He stood in the entry, leaned into the house and put the contents of his musette bag in a pile on the floor: six cans of beer, a tube of Colgate toothpaste, a box of Fig Newtons, a bar of Ivory soap, a bottle of Palmolive shampoo, two butter sandwiches, a box of Kleenex, and a large Hershey bar. He did this correctly, not speaking, emptying the bag as though looking for something in the bottom. Toyoko ignored his pile of treasure and thus neither insulted the other.
“I go. I come back,” he said. She bowed.
IN a roundabout way, with several changes of streetcars, he rode to the main pier area. At the corner of Nippon-Odori and Honchō-Dōri he got off and walked five blocks to the Hongkong-Shanghai Bank where he was billeted with two other master sergeants. From their third-floor windows they looked down on Yamashita Park bordering Yokohama Harbor.
Terry packed his foot locker and duffel bag and put the tags on them. In the morning he would go with them in a truck to a collection center for soldiers who were going home.
He put the gear on his cot, left the building and walked slowly west. This was the part of the city he liked best, an island on the edge of Yokohama, a mile and a fifth long, three fifths of a mile wide, cut off from the city by the Hori-Kawa and OokaGawa canals. The Japanese called them rivers. To Terry they looked like canals. He had found “canal” in the Watanabes’ enormous JapaneseEnglish dictionary and showed them the word. All three sisters and Papa-san had solemnly shaken their heads at him.
At the end of Yamashita Park you come to Yokohama’s largest pier. Half a block farther west you pass the British Consulate. The guard was changing. They were sailors, but they clocked through the change as though the Empire would crumble if they were not absolutely and perfectly wizard about the ceremony. You expected to see the pavement crack when they slammed their feet down, or their rifle butts splinter with the shock of being slammed down. GIs missed meals to watch the changing of His Majesty’s Guard. Terry squeezed by a small crowd of soldiers and Japanese watching, and walked on past the graceful, arched colonnade of the 8th Army Headquarters building, to the Third Military Railway Service’s Motor Pool. He thumbed a jeep ride a dozen blocks south over the Hagoromo Bridge, past the big Matsuya department store and t he new Quonset hut area, and almost as far as Nogeyama Park.
Papa-san was home, dressed in his best kimono and seated cross-legged on the floor of the front room, next to a brazier of burning charcoal. He was an underfed, bald-headed little man with an expression of being at once defeated and amused by Fate. He rose to his knees and bowed several times when Terry climbed into the room. Terry sat close to the brazier. Papa-san said: “I went to work this morning.”
Terry murmured the polite nothing: “Ah, so?”
“However, I did not work this afternoon.”
“At what time?”
“At two o’clock.”
“At two o’clock you did not work.”
“That is correct. You understand.”
“I am charmed to hear your speech.”
Terry looked blank. Papa-san scratched the top of his bald head. “The public bath,” he said.
“There Papa-san was.”
“With hot water?”
“Oh, that is a sorry state of affairs.”
“No. My friends were there.”
“ Was it good?”
“Yes. It was very good. The water was lukewarm.”
The lattice door separating them from the back of the house slid open. Toyoko stepped into the room. She was dressed in her slack-uniform and she had been sleeping. She and her father spoke to each other too rapidly for Terry to understand. She went outside and returned with the two lobsters now boiled red. More rapid conversation. Papa-san evidently wanted to do something with them and Toyoko did not. Terry assumed they argued how to serve the lobsters. Myoko and Itsuko arrived and joined the argument. They joined Toyoko against Papa-san. There was laughter among the girls and wounded dignity from Papa-san. Then Myoko spoke slowly to Terry. He couldn’t understand her from the only words he recognized: “custom,” “outside,” “lobsters,” and “door.” She drew a sketch for him on a pad of precious PX paper. With this and the dictionary they communicated. He was to referee whether they should hang one lobster outside over the door — a Japanese New Year’s custom. Papa-san wanted to hang the lobster. The girls did not. Terry searched his mind for all the ready phrases he knew. He said: “Many people are hungry.” Toyoko clapped her hands.
Papa-san bit his lower lip and wagged his head. “You speak the real,” he said.
They ate the lobsters for dinner. The meat was put into a common bowl and they helped themselves with their chopsticks. This was a banquet. They had a thin soup made of greens; rice and soybeans cooked together; five-inch ribbons of seaweed (wit h an overhand knot tied in each one) cooked with canned salmon; slices of lotus roots; strips of dried octopus which they crisped over a single-coil electric hot plate; carrot patties, and tea.
After dinner they placed a quilt over the brazier and put as much of themselves underneath the quilt as would fit. Their feet toasted and their ears froze. Overhead one electric bulb spilled soft light out of a paper reflector. On Terry’s right Papa-san dozed. On his left Toyoko, the youngest, repaired some pulled threads in the sergeant’s stripes on his combat jacket. She had parted her long, jet hair in the center and braided each side, catching the ends of the braids with rubber bands. Myoko sat on her left, embroidering a kimono sash. Itsuko turned the pages of the Japanese-English dictionary which was larger than the Columbia Encyclopedia. Terry smoked a cigarette. He did not know how to tell them he was leaving. Itsuko suddenly said: “Hah!” and pushed the dictionary around so that Terry could see what she had found. She pointed to the phrase and asked: “What is this, Elder Brother Terry?” “Woman Suffrage,” Terry read. He thought: “My God, how can I explain this one so she’ll understand it?”
He said: “I, man; you, woman; is that not so?”
Myoko asked: “What are you discussing?”
She had to be shown “Woman Suffrage” and Toyoko had to be shown. Papa-san snored.
Terry repeated: “I, man; you, woman.” They nodded their heads. “We are equal,” Terry said.
Myoko said no, that was not so; Itsuko said she was crazy. Toyoko said: “We do not understand your interpretation, Elder Brother.”
Terry sat ramrod straight, folded his arms across his chest, looked at them with mock seriousness and growled: “MacArthur says so.”
“Ah, McOsser,” Itsuko said; and then the three sisters spoke in excitement.
Itsuko was the aggressive one, tossing her head when she talked so that bobby pins were flung off the thick, shoulder-length hair they strained to hold back over her ears. She was also the most alert to Japan’s new order of the ages. Perhaps too alert. Terry had twice seen her talking to a professional communist who was always waiting for a streetcar on Honchō-Dōri in front of the Yokohama Post Office. Alongside the post office was Memorial Hall, 8th Army’s labor pool center. From a third-story window of Memorial Hall, Counter Intelligence Division men worked a 16 mm. Bell & Howell equipped with a 6-inch telephoto lens, taking moving pictures of the communist and everyone who talked with him. They called him “Moscow Moto.” Terry did not tell Itsuko that her “friend-o,” if he was as much as that, was the subject of a dossier almost as thick as her dictionary.
Myoko stopped the girls’ conversation by putting her hands on her sisters’ arms on either side of her and saying: “Terry-san does not understand. I am sorry, Elder Brother.”
“You are all dried-up old women,” Terry said, provoking so much laughter from them that Papasan awoke, giggled his approval, and went back to sleep. Toyoko wanted to tickle his nose with a piece of straw but Myoko would not let her.
TOYOKO had been Terry’s introduction to the family. One of his sergeant roommates had approached her in Yamashita Park, waving a piece of notepaper. The message, written in Japanese by one of the headquarters Nisei girls, said: “This soldier is looking for a Japanese girl to sweep his room every day and make the beds.” Toyoko and a girl companion followed him to the bank. Whatever apprehension they felt they did not show, nor did they show their astonishment and delight when they were paid with three slices of bread and butter. Terry got himself a Japanese note asking Toyoko to pose for him. “Saturday,” she said.
He had her stand in the twisted steel wreckage of a building, staging the picture with the unharmed main station of the Yokohama Fire Department in the background. Then he said to her: “Your house?” — and she guided him there, walking in front of him, pretending they were not toget her.
That had been in “The Early Days” when you still carried your weapon with you. Terry’s carbine, loaded clip protruding, had frightened the Watanabe family.
And now he did not know how to tell them he was leaving.
If you had to be Army this part was good and something to remember. He had sat in this room and used three hours to explain to the Watanabes how he had gone to the port of Aomori on the northern tip of Honshu, the only enlisted man in a group sent to survey the city as a possible major base. The B-29s or the carrier boys bad hit. Aomori once and neglected to tell Ground Forces. They destroyed the city. A few weeks after Terry had been there, the still uninformed infantry had raced ashore at Aomori with their bayonets fixed. “Nippon coal there,” Itsuko said.
Hers had been the finger that pointed to the phrase in their dictionary to show how they felt about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “It is sad,” Terry read. He looked from one Watanabe to the other and remembered to chuckle after saying: “I am sorry,” so they would know they had not embarrassed him.
They called him Nee-chang.
They asked him why the American Army destroyed Japan’s only cyclotron. Itsuko brought him a note someone had written for her in English: “The Nipponese Cyclotron was made to do cancer research on and always that.” Terry tried to discover why the instrument had been destroyed and who gave the order. He found two Harbor Craft on which the dismantled pieces had been deck-loaded, taken to sea, and dumped overboard. The commanding officer referred him to Transportation Corps Headquarters. They sent him to the Engineers, who sent him to the Provost Marshal, who sent him back to the Engineers. Then Terry’s commanding general had sent for him. “I hear you’re asking questions about a cyclotron,” he said.
“ Yes, sir.”
“Routine, sir. It’s part of the 8th Army’s history.”
“Better lay off, sergeant.”
“I mean it. Layoff. Destroy everything you’ve written, or both of us might wind up on Hokkaido. It gets pretty cold up there.”
“General, I’ve never even heard of a cyclotron.”
“They’re sending one of the Emperor’s white horses back to the States. Ought to be a good story t here.”
“I’ll get on it, sir.”
“What the hell is a cyclotron, anyhow?”
“It’s an atom smasher, sir.”
To the Watanabe family Terry could only give a high shrug of his shoulders for an answer.
IN this room Terry had sung the little nonsense poem some unremembered GI had put together to the tune of “London Bridge Is Falling Down.”
Muahy-Mushy, ah no nay?
As so DESS KA!
Hello, are you there?
Is THAT SO!)
Papa-san was baffled by this but the girls were delighted. Terry was made to sing the nonsense often after dinner and once, when he finished, Itsuko surprised everyone by singing: —
Lunnon briss is fawing down,
My fair radee.
Terry improved her pronunciation. Tonight he said, as he often did when they had been quid for a long time: “London Bridge!” The girls smiled. He and Itsuko sang the English. They all sang the Japanese. They sang softly. Papa-san did not awaken. His kimono had fallen open and you could see a GI sweater underneath. A label sewed inside read: Made By The Colorado Chapter Of The American Red Cross. The sweater was a present from “Santa Clowse” to Papa-san.
Terry had found that he could not get through the language barrier around Santa Claus. The Watanabes understood Christ and Christmas, but they got Santa Claus inextricably mixed up with Uncle Sam, so Terry thought the hell with this and quit trying to explain. He had brought them one of the small Christmas trees which were distributed to the troops. The decorations were bits of Kleenex, strips of red and green Scotch Tape, and three pingpong balls. Terry put five presents under the tree, after the Watanabes went to sleep on C hristmas Eve, one for each of them and one for himself from Avis, his wife. In the morning he had pretended astonishment that the presents were there.
“What is it?” Papa-san asked.
“Santa Claus came,” Terry replied.
“Pardon me. I do not understand you.”
“Unca Sam,” Itsuko said.
“Truman,” Terry said. “Never mind. It is nothing. Pay it no attention. It is a present.” He hold up his. “This is mine,” and pointed to the others: “Myoko, Toyoko, Itsuko, Papa-san.”
“A joke,” Papa-san said.
Myoko said in her gentle voice: “Nee-chang, tell Watanabe.”
Terry lifted his eyebrows as high as they would go. “Isay it! Santa Claus! You’re an old woman!”
“Ha, HAH!” Papa-san said. “You’re an old woman! ”
Terry took the wrapping off his package. They watched. Underneath was a small wooden box. They used a knife to pry open the top. Inside was a hundred-dollar bill wrapped around two rolls of priceless Ansco Supreme film. He showed them the bill and told them the value: three thousand yen. Itsuko said: “Ai!” She recognized Benjamin Franklin.
Terry had given each of the girls a PX compact, a silver pin, and a white silk scarf. He gave Papasan the sweater and a pair of socks. They did not open the presents while he was there. He ate Christmas Dinner with the Third Military Railway Service whose mess hall was once used as a school to train chefs for the NYK Steamship Line.
For the Watanabes he took back oranges, bread and butter, nuts, and a carpenter’s plane someone had left on the open tail-gate of a two and a half ton truck owned by the 1st Cavalry. Papa-san would know how to use a carpenter’s plane.
Christmas seemed now a long time gone. What had Avis once said as a conception of Time? Time is a river of swift rapids, twists, bends, falls, rocks, and long, calm pools — and the Uninverse rides in it, against its current, toward its source.
“I need a drink,” Terry said.
Myoko looked questioningly at Itsuko. Itsuko lifted her eyebrows and shoulders.
“Wheeskee,” Terry said.
“Ah,” Myoko said. She went to the cooking area and came back with a bottle and a small teacup. The label on the bottle told you that this was “very old aged in the wood whiskey especially blended in Osaka for the American Forces.”
Terry tossed down a cupful of the liquor, shuddered, and waited for the length of time he used to smoke a cigarette before he poured another cupful. This was good Time, but rough. Avis might call this a calm pool of Time, with rocks.
Aloud, Terry began a game invented for the girls. “Mark Twain,” he said.
Toyoko, on his left, hid her face in her hand for a few seconds and then said: “Thomas Edison.”
Myoko was ready with “Daniel Webster.”
Itsuko rolled hers out: “Ollliverr Wenndel Holllmes.”
Terry said: “John Marshall,” a new one to them, and they repeated the name to each other and learned who Marshall was before they continued with Toyoko’s “Albert Einstein.” Then the game went hesitantly around the circle, with Terry’s name a new one each time his turn came.
Myoko: “Booker T. Washington.”
Itsuko: “Patrick Henry.”
Terry: “Frank Lloyd Wright.”
Toyoko: “Edward Everett Hale.”
Myoko: “Nathan Hale.”
Itsuko: “Robert Fulton.”
Terry: “David Lilienthal.”
Toyoko: “James Bryant Conant.”
Myoko: “Norman Thomas.”
Itsuko: “John Dos Passos.”
Terry: “Harpo Marx.”
The game ended because Harpo Marx proved as complex as Santa Claus. Papa-san awoke and said this was “American basebol man.”
Terry thought: “Now is a good time,” and he said a phrase learned from them which he suspected was tea-ceremony language: “May I have the honor of addressing a humble nothing to you?” They became instantly expectant. “There is something sad tomorrow,” he said,
Myoko said: “Ashta?” — drawing out the second syllable in disbelief that anything sad could possibly happen tomorrow.
“Ashta,” Terry said, and he chopped the syllable off short. “I go home. America home.”
Papa-san nodded his head. “That is sad,” he said, without emotion, confirming a fact.
Toyoko was sitting very straight. Her eyes filled with tears and the tears overflowed. She did not utter a sound. Myoko bent over her sewing. Itsuko put her fist under her chin and leaned her elbow on the dictionary in her lap. “America!” she said. Terry filled his teacup a third time. “Papa-san?” he asked.
“I have had too much, already,” Papa-san replied.
They went through the ritual and Myoko got a cup for Papa-san. Terry said: “Skol!” Papa-san laughed. A choked-off sob came from Toyoko. Papa-san looked at her severely and shook his head. Another sob escaped. Itsuko loosed a barrage of Japanese at Toyoko, who rose to her feet and edged around the group to go into the back room.
To Terry Papa-san said: “She is sick.”
“Ah, so?” Terry said. Well, this was making a mess of your good-bys. How much better to have gone, as if to duty, in the morning and never to have returned.
Myoko went into the back room to get the family bedrolls out of the room’s storage wall. Itsuko took the dictionary in. Myoko brought Terry’s army sleeping bag and a quilt into the front room.
In the morning, at six o’clock, he drank two cups of tea. Because he did not eat anything, neither did the Watanabes. They rolled and tied his sleeping bag. He sat on the edge in the entry, feeling the raw, wet cold of the morning, joking that Myoko needed so much time to warm his combat boots. When he had laced and buckled these, he turned around to face the room. The Watanabes were all kneeling. Toyoko handed him his musette bag and he could feel the camera inside. She handed him his sleeping bag. He said: “Sayonara,” inclining his head. They knelt forward until their foreheads were almost touching the floor. He backed out the door and got away before they raised themselves. Toyoko ran after him and tugged at his arm until he let her carry his sleeping bag to the streetcar stop.
She asked if he would write, and he said he would on one condition. “Condition of sale” was the phrase he used, but she understood him. He said that she must go back to Secondary School, finish, and go to the University. They compromised. She would finish Secondary School.
He told her to be sure to look in Myoko’s teapot where she kept household money. He told her Santa Claus had been there. He had exchanged Avis’s hundred dollars, getting five thousand yen easily by finding a soldier who had a lot of yen and no way to send the money home. The yen were in the teapot now.
They were the only people waiting on a lifeless dimly lit stage setting of crossroads for Terry’s streetcar. The clanking of the car approaching was the one sound you could hear. Toyoko said “Sayonara” to him in the softest of tones, a way he had never heard her use before.
She was alone then in the grayness and cold, watching until the streetcar was lost in the tunnel where her mother and younger brother had been caught and suffocated in The First Fire Raid.