Childhood Adventures in Japan

Living overseas and experiencing different cultures was a big part of the Military Brat experience. Judy shares her memories of Japan.

My Dad was assigned to Shiroi Air Force Base just after World War II. I was very young, and I don’t remember the trip to Japan.

My dad went first and my mom and i had to wait until he got quarters on base. I do know that Mom and I rode a train from Dallas to California, and we flew from Travis Air Force Base to Japan.

Even though I was so young, I do remember things about Japan. We had a Japanese maid named Tomi who took care of me. She called me Baby San. I loved her.

Once my mom and Dad went to a night club off base with a some friends. Dad was wearing his bomber jacket. He had been one of Curtis Lemay’s boys who bombed the Japanese empire night after night during the war. A Japanese man saw the patch on Dad’s jacket, walked over and grabbed dad;s neck with both hands as if to choke him.

Dad’s friend tried to pull him off, and the other friend noticed a US Navy shore patrol jeep outside—he ran out and flagged them down and they came in and took care of the situation. Dad never wore his bomber jacket off base again.

Any time we went off base, the Japanese people would want to touch my hair. I was blonde at that time, and they were not used to seeing blonde hair.

Like all brats, when overseas, I had to get shots: cholera, typhus, typhoid, etc. I still remember the Army medic who gave me the shots. His name was Hoyt Flemming, and he would say, “If you don’t cry when I give you your shots, I will give you a piece of Juicy Fruit gum.” So, I would force myself to be stoic and not cry.

The Japanese garbage man would always point in the direction of Mt. Fuji and say, “Sticki Fuji” I am not sure I am spelling that correctly. Tomi, our maid, told me it meant “Pretty Fuji”.

Once my parents took me with them to Tokyo to see a production of the Puccini operal, Madame Butterfly. The play wais about a Japanese woman being left in the lurch by an American Naval Officer, Lt Pinkerton. She, of course, lost face, and commited hari kari—as is the Japanese custom.

At the end of the performance, all the Japanese cast ran out on the stage waving little American flags.

Once, I remember a bunch of folks piling into a big Army truck. We took picnic lunches and went to a golf course, where the men played golf and the women and kids put army blankets (olive drab, of course) on the ground. The women talked and kids played while the men played golf, then we all had lunch. It was strange, that is, doing it that way, but I remember it as though it were yesterday.

We went back to the States on a military ship.  My poor mother spent the entire trip from Japan to Seattle seasick, unable to function. My dad had to take care of me. Neither he nor I got seasick. I had two third birthdays on that trip home, because we crossed the International Date Line. Dad bought me a stuffed giraffe I wanted in the ship’s PX and I almost immediately threw it overboard to see where it would go.

Once back in the United States, my folks sent care packages to Tomi, our maid, for some time. I wish I would have been a bit older so I would remember more . . .

I do have good memories of it.

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  1. My husband is looking for his teacher from Johnson AFB or Yakota AFB schools in Japan in the late 60s, early 70s. Her name is Mrs. Patterson, and she is an African American. He said the school was like a hanger, not a big school. Anyone know where I can go to find past teachers? Thank you!

    • There are some Yokota High School alumni links if you google them. One of the members may be able to help you.

      I was born at Johnson AB in the late 50s, and recently returned from Yokota AB where I worked for a few years.

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