Archive for June, 2011

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
‘Tis of the wave and not the rock;
‘Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee.
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee, -are all with thee!

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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I’ve Seen Things…

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Is it Spring yet?

When I was a younger man with hope for love still residing in my heart, every spring I would seek out a peaceful place to reflect on things and to be grateful, to have a smoke, and to read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. It’s such a beautiful book, that I never would have read on my own, but one of my teachers in grade school read it aloud to the class and I never forgot.

Now spring has come and nearly gone, but sadly neither of the girls I like wants to be in love.  And the weather hasn’t been all that warm either…

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Why I Want to Live and Work in Japan

Why would anybody in their right mind want to work and live in Japan? They have terrible earthquakes there and tsunamis rarely miss them, the people prefer fish over burgers, they drive on the wrong side of the road, gas is expensive and most of them even speak a different language. So what makes Japan so alluring?

There are many reasons why I personally want to live and work in Japan again. You see, I’ve been there before. When I was in the US Navy my ship, the Oklahoma City was home-ported in Yokosuka and several of my shipmates and I even rented a little apartment in nearby Kita Kurihama for a while. But we didn’t see much outside the train stations, and we were away at sea six months out of the year.

When I first landed in Japan I didn’t think I would like it, and I thanked God for all the shots the Navy had given me. Three years later, when I had to leave, I cried – I honestly did. I vividly remember the smell of burning wood, it was everywhere, it was ubiquitous. I’m anxious to know if it is still the same.

While I was in Japan I met a lot of very interesting, and very nice people. But it didn’t take long to figure out that “we weren’t in Kansas anymore” either. One day I took the train to Tokyo to see a concert, and another time I went there by myself. When I stood up to offer my seat to an old woman weighed down by many packages, an old man slipped quickly into the seat and grumbled something in Japanese that must have been “thank you, young man.”

Some years later for my personal blog I wrote about another trip I took:

One night I went to Tokyo. A musical friend had told me about a popular night-club there, and I wanted to see, and hear for myself. I was always pretty good at finding good music overseas, often in the most unlikely of places. In the Philippines in Subic Bay I had found a little bar off the beaten path called the Cherry Club, that had a band with a masterful guitarist who performed all the latest Led Zeppelin songs impeccably. But in Japan they didn’t seem to have much to offer in the way of local rock and roll.

Sure, I had seen Santana at the Budokan, but even they had changed their repertoire to suit their Japanese audience. The Japanese liked big band music, with a lot of brass. Santana came with a lot of drums. I remember being amazed at how many different kind of conga drums there were, after seeing their concert…

So it was with a hopeful heart, and a yen for music, and some Yen to spend that I boarded the densho train, that day at Yokosuka Eki. I had been to Tokyo several times before, but never by myself. I liked the Japanese, and their quiet, dignified manner, but some of them didn’t like my beard. I knew they were itching to talk among themselves about me, and they would have, had they been a more demonstrative and less polite people. From the little bit of Japanese that Eiko and Setsuko had taught me, I knew they weren’t. Mostly they would just grimace and nod, and say “So, so.”

In fact much of my life has become permanently entangled in one way or another with Japan and its people. In another story, for example, I remembered the death of my father:

My ship was in Yokosuka, Japan at the time, preparing to go back to sea. That afternoon the ship’s Chaplain called me to his office in the library and said that a ham radio operator had received a radio transmission from a ham near San Francisco, who informed him that my father had been injured on the job and might not survive. I was immediately granted an emergency leave and hustled out to the airbase at Yokota to board the first flight back to the States. I sat by myself on one side of the transport plane, staring at the wooden casket containing an officer’s dead dependent son, and everything else was just a blur. Death and I, it seemed were racing home to my father.

Later when our ship visited Sasebo in the south, my friends and I took a train to Nagasaki, where we stood at ground zero, but it felt more like the center of the universe. Standing there beside the monolith marking the spot where the second atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan, I was literally overcome with fear at the thought that those horrendous bombs could ever have been used on a people so diligent in their work and poetic in their nature as the Japanese people I had come to know.

English is my native tongue and I have spoken it all of my life. It is the subject that I know best. Teaching it in Japan, and getting to know the Japanese people and learning all about them and their culture sounds to me like a great and noble endeavor, and I’m sure I will take away much more than I could ever give. I am curious about Japan. I want to learn to speak and read Japanese, and I want to learn all about their history, and I want to teach them everything I have come to know and love about my country in my lifetime, a span of over 50 years, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

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