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NSGA KamiSeya, Japan - circa 1957
Images from   Richard Kivi (former CTR2)

Please scroll-down. There are 14 photos.
Click-on each photo to enlarge and read the page.


Sight seeing was a great past-time, especially after I bought my Honda. I'd just head out of the main gate and try to get lost. . . which wasn't hard. I did a lot of riding with a guy named Swanhart. Don't remember his first name.

My 1953 Honda "Dream" -- 175cc twin. I bought it for ¥36,000 ($100 USD at the current exchange rate). I paid ¥6,000 down and then, every payday, I'd stop by the bike dealer and give him ¥5,000 until I had it paid off. Interestingly, after I left the Navy, I eventually went to work for Yamaha International in Los Angeles (the U.S. arm of the Japanese factory) and wound up heading the Technical Writing Department after working for some time as a Service Representative. Many people don't know it, but during the 60s and early 70s a lot of the Japanese motorcycles and light trucks, etc., were designed by Americans (the nuts and bolts engineering was done by the Japanese at the factory).

Ben was a natural linguist and had a good command of Japanese. I went on one of my first liberties with him and it was a kick to hear him chatter with the cabbies.

The exchange rate was fixed at ¥360 to the dollar. . . which wasn't the actual exchange rate. Nevertheless, prices in Japan at the time were such that you could get a really fine meal at a high end restaurant—even on a Seaman's pay. Somewhere along the way, I was introduced to Kobe beef and it spoiled me ever since.

Gordo was really into cars. At Imperial Beach he had an XK120 Jag (if memory serves).

I think this shot of Ben was taken at the Kami Seya Gedunk. I can't remember, now, if it was at the Gedunk or the PO Club, but they made the best chili. Was really good with a bottle of San Miguel.

We spent a lot of time on this street. There was a bar on one of the corners called the Negashiya. At the time, someone said Playboy magazine listed it as one of the ten toughest bars in the world. We got a big kick out of that. It wasn't anywhere near the truth. It was just a nice place to hang out in the wee hours and get a beer and a bowl of yaksoba.

Somewhere around here was an official exchange where you could change your Military Payment Certificates (MPC) for Yen. Later, after I was in Sasebo, I went on leave with Tom (Shotgun) Bird back to Tokyo and Yokohama. We were having a blast when orders came down the pipeline for everyone to return to base. They were changing the MPC to new bills (in an effort to stop or slow down black marketing). I had to go back to Kami Seya and wound up losing two days of my leave waiting to get my script changed. Bummer!

I guess I don't have to add any comments to this shot, huh?

Jazz was big in Japan while I was there and there were some good bands and entertainers at the Japanese jazz clubs. And several of the coffee shops would have string quartets playing Brahms and Mozart. Interesting. Besides Kobe beef, it was at the coffee shops where I got hooked on espresso. Had to wait for years before it became popular in the States.

Aichi Ami was a very popular entertainer in Japan. Did a lot of records, as well as covers of American songs which she would sing in Japanese. And Paul Anka was popular too. He re-recorded some of his songs in Japanese, which surprised me. (At least I think it was him doing the singing. It sounded funny to hear Diana done in Nihongo.)

Michiko Hamamura was also a singer and extremely popular with the Japanese. Epps took this picture of her backstage at one of her performances. He made up fake ID cards saying he was from Stars and Stripes and wanted to do an interview. He made up a card for me, too, but I chickened out. Regret it now.

It wasn't all high end. Most Japanese had to work very hard for very little. The economy was still rebounding.

This was before Kubota tractors became so big.

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