Tokyo – April 2001




During the week of April 12-20, 2001, several members of General Douglas MacArthur’s Honor Guard partici­pated in a Commemoration of General MacArthur’s mili­tary career.  Some of you joined us for that trip; others may have never heard of the Honor Guard.  I hope that this “Trip Report” serves both audiences.

Of course several Honor Guard members plan to write their own Trip Reports to include their personal experi­ences for their families and friends.  Many members contributed to this composite Trip Report.

More information about General MacArthur, the occupa­tion of Japan, the Korean War, the Honor Guard, etc. may be found in “Gaijin Shogun: General Douglas A.  MacArthur, Stepfather of Postwar Japan” (ISBN 0-9678175-2-8) by David Valley (tel: 858-485-7550), a member of the Honor Guard.  I think this is an excellent reference that handles the subject matter accurately and concisely.

Maurice Howe, Editor


Without General MacArthur’s determination that post-war Japan could and would be a model democracy and able to rejoin the other nations of the world in peace, the people of Japan would have languished in starvation and despair.  It was General MacArthur who insisted that the Japan should be “reborn” as a productive nation among nations.  He fought and won against the many voices a­round the world that wanted Japan to be ground into the dirt as repayment for their misdeeds. To say that Mac­Arthur was a benevolent savior would be putting it mild­ly.

Is it any wonder that the Japanese people revere General MacArthur? Sadly, though, modern-day Japan (and mod­ern-day America and other countries, for that matter) have shelved their memories of World War II for more immediate concerns.

Among those who honored MacArthur were the Japanese who survived the war but came home to a ruined econo­my; a ruined food source, a ruined political structure.  And it was they who rebuilt Japan.  MacArthur had the foresight and the authority to make it all happen.  Did he make enemies during the Occupation?  You bet!  But very few of them were Japanese.

Space is too short here to do justice to the contribution that General MacArthur made to post-war Japan, so I’ll not go further.  In addition to David Valley’s book, there is a huge body of research material devoted to Mac­Arthur, the Pacific Arena of World War II, the post-war era, the Korean War.  Few men or women have had such a dramatic and lasting impact upon our lives and times than General MacArthur.  I invite you to learn more of this critical time in world history.

The Honor Guard Company & It’s Members

The Honor Guard Company was formed to protect Gen­eral MacArthur, his office, his home, his family, visiting dignitaries, etc.  And yes, they were called on to protect the Japanese delegation that met with General Mac­Arthur and his staff to confer about the cessation of hostilities throughout the Pacific and Asia.

The group was formed in early May 1945 in the Philip­pines (as Company E, Headquarters and Service Group, renamed the Honor Guard Company on March 9, 1946) and accompanied the General to Japan.  The Honor Guard continued to serve the General until President Truman relieved him on April 16, 1951.  The Company remained intact to serve General MacArthur’s successors until it was disbanded in July 1957.

During the Korean War, many of us volunteered to join the fighting forces there.  I have repressed my seven awful months in Korea, but I am not the only soldier that ever went to war — many brought back worse memories than mine, and many others didn’t come back.  But that’s not what this Trip Report is about…

Over the years there have been some 1,900 men in the Honor Guard (with the Company having one or two hundred at any one time).  They were carefully chosen, and became an elite body of soldiers whose job it was to protect the most important and powerful man in Asia.

After their Honor Guard stint, they became businessmen, teachers, scientists, attorneys, doctors, and the very broad spectrum of “contributors to society” that you should expect from such a one-of-a-kind group.  We had pride then; we have pride now; and we are proud of our ac­complishments and those of our progeny.

Although not part of the military, we think of two of our Japanese friends and their wives, Tatsumi & Sachika Ishikawa and Suguru & Tomoko Morota, as being very much a part of the Honor Guard Association.  They worked at the Embassy as “snack bar boys” for several years.  They have attended many of the Honor Guard Reunions, and were present at the MacArthur Com­mem­oration.

In April 2001 most Honor Guard members were in their late 60s and beyond.  Many have passed away.  Those of us who participated in the General MacArthur Commem­ora­tion were eager to do so.  We’re all glad we made the trip.


Planning a trip like this is a trip unto itself. David Valley had worked long and hard arranging countless details (hotel selection, involvement by US Embassy, Navy and Army, making attendance arrangements with Japanese dignitaries, scheduling the Commemoration events, urg­ing Honor Guard members to attend, and on and on).  David and his wife Dottie lived in Tokyo for several years so they had a head start.  Even so, gluing all the loose ends together was a monumental undertaking.  And it worked!

As for the rest of us, there were chores like renewing passports, buying some yen, oiling the wheels on our suitcases, etc. And what shall we pack?  We needed some special duds for a couple of events, and enough stuff in carry-on baggage to see us through if the checked luggage ended up in Rio.

Del Sol Travel made the actual travel arrangements; even the extra flights & hotels that many of us would need to arrive in Los Angeles on time and rested for the flight to Tokyo’s Narita airport.

The Trip To Japan

Just thinking about 11.5 hours on a plane gives pause.  Add to that the flight time from various corners of the States to LAX.  Several of us were rerouted and delayed but these “war stories” just added zest to the occasion.  For example, some luggage was left behind because the flights were full and the weather “iffy,” but it caught up with us at LAX. Member’s travel plans didn’t allow time to leave home at a decent hour and still arrive at LAX by flight time, so we stayed overnight at the Shera­ton Gateway Hotel, just a short shuttle ride from the United terminal.  This layover also gave us a chance to recover for the day’s travels and rest up for the long haul to come.  It was a good thing there was an occasional “head count” to be sure none of us had strayed.

For who are “statistically inclined,” our plane from LAX to Narita was a Boeing 747-400.  The airspeed was about 685 mph, at 36,000 feet, with an outside temperature of about -60°F.

It was great to have a chance to get reacquainted and chat with our fellow Honor Guard alumni and their wives.  The three meals on broad were quite good.

Arriving In Japan

Jet lag hit some of us hard and others hardly at all.  The time difference is +11 hours from Los Angeles (+14 hours from the East Coast).  We leave it to you to figure out how crossing the International Date Line affected those numbers…  You’d expect this to turn things upside down but we were keep busy and being in Japan was exciting, so many of us scarcely noticed. Recovering from the trip home was quite another matter!

Collecting our luggage and sailing through Customs was painless.  We boarded the first set of buses at Narita Air­port for the journey to the Grand Palace Hotel. Some very efficient Japan Travel Bureau guides met us.  Of course getting 70 tired and dull-witted Americans all pointed in the same direction would have been a chal­lenge for anyone.  Once on the buses, the tour guide made sure we noticed some highlights enroute — Japan’s “Disney World,” a huge Ferris wheel, the Tokyo Tower, and a bit of Tokyo.  Frankly we were too travel-weary to absorb all of that, but it was a good introduction to Japan.

Naturally we compared everything to what we have in the States – the cars, the weather, the shops, etc.  We tried to remember some good advice: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”   Loud boisterous ex-GI Joes were sure to stand out in quiet restaurants but most of us did a pretty good job of leaving a good impression.

The Hotel

When we arrived and suffered through yet another head count, we received room keys, and some meal tickets good for ¥2,000 (about $17).  If we had expected smaller rooms and more modest accommodations than we’d find in the USA, we would have been disappointed.  The staff was very courteous and efficient.  The entire hotel was spotless, the elevators were swift and quiet, and there were 3 phones in most rooms!  We were a bit wary about the extra buttons on the toilet (but that’s another story).  The towels were colored a brilliant gold.  The sink & shower/tub had instant hot water.  All in all, the Grand Palace was the right place to stay.

First Impressions (After Fifty Years)

Returning to any “old stomping ground” after a long absence can be quite an eye opener.  Most of were awed at the size and bustle of the city.

Where there was once open space, there were now high-rise offices and apartment buildings.  Space is precious.  In the old days, the walk from the Ginza to the Finance Building or Embassy would have been very different from today.  Gone are the smelly charcoal-burning taxis.  Then, 3-wheeled motorcycle-pickup trucks carried vege­tables, firewood, and just about everything else.  They have long since been replaced with snazzy new models.  The odor of burned fish (well, to us in those days it smell­ed a tad overdone) was missing, as were – are you ready for this? – The Honey Bucket carts!

And what became of the American Embassy? It was quite a letdown to find a huge new building there.  At least the “Big House” remains.  The tiny homes and stores in that area are all now busy offices.

Yes, you could say it was quite a revelation to return and find almost nothing of the place we left 50 years ago. But it’s mostly all good, and of course “time changes all things.”

Tours, Tour Guides And Buses

Together the Japan Travel Bureau and the US Army satisfied all our group-travel needs.  Buses for optional tours, taxis & subways were at our expense.

The buses were the largest you’d see in the States but had to negotiate some pretty tight places.  We were con­tin­ually amazed at the skill of the drivers to (a) avoid damaging the buses, (b) avoid hitting cars, trees, etc., and (c) getting through impossibly narrow gaps in traffic.  For example, when the bus had to turn onto the street, it was quite clear that light poles, storefronts, pedestrians and so forth were gonna get it this time.  But they didn’t.

The bus tour of the city was quite revealing, as well.  At every corner we saw busy shoppers, office workers, tour­ists, etc., hurrying here and there. There was certainly plenty to see. The old Ernie Pyle Theater had been re­plac­ed by a shiny new building.  We didn’t recog­nize many of our old haunts, with the exception of the Dai Ichi Bldg, the Finance Bldg, and the view of the Palace grounds.

A highlight was the trip to Mt Fuji and Hakone.  We had all been waiting for that.  At least Fuji hadn’t changed!  Most of us had never seen the mountain up close.  The cherry blossoms along the road made that trip extra special.  Add to that the ride in the cable car to the top of the enormous caldera where we saw (and smelled!) the steam and sulfur fumes coming from the fumeroles (proving that Mt Fuji is indeed still considered an active volcano).

Then back down the mountain to Lake Hakone and a boat ride.  Buses then took us to the Odawara train station.  The Bullet Train was a quite thrill – fast, smooth, and on time!

Our Honor Guard Flag

To make the Commemoration more memorable, Bob Johnson and Maurice Howe had a “guide-on” banner made and provided a classy pole for it.  Bob carried this flag during several events, and it made a major hit for “photo ops.”  Bob & Maurice have donated the flag to the Honor Guard Association for use at future reunions and other gatherings. Eventually it will be donated to the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk.

The City

In a city of 12 million and very little “open” land, the price can be as high as ¥20,000,000 (about $170,000) per square meter in the Ginza district.  Tokyo is crowded and busy.  We didn’t notice any vacant storefronts.  The crowds were enormous.  The traffic is so bad and the commute from the suburbs to long, the offices and businesses operate on the staggered schedule.  Even then, at times the streets are wall-to-wall people.

Slums are not unknown but as the tour guide said, “Yes, we have them but we don’t take the tourists there.”  Fair enough.  There were a few “street people” but only a few.  It wasn’t clear whether they were just left be, or periodically purged from view.

Something that stood out was the cleanliness of the streets and the city in general.  You’d see an occasional cigarette butt and sometimes a scrap of paper but NOTH­ING like the mess in American cities.  On our early morn­ing walks, we met lots of “little old ladies” sweep­ing the sideways.

Bicycles and motorcycles were not nearly as numerous as we expected.  Maybe that speaks to the flourishing economy and/or the abundance of public transit.

Although most Japanese cars and trucks had recogniz­able names, many did not.  We guessed that several com­panies make cars more suited to Asian travel needs – size, pollution standards, etc.  It was abundantly clear that the Japanese are fastidious about their vehicles – surely they suffered dents and scrapes with all that traffic but they don’t stay dented long.  We saw only one car with a minor dent.  Compare that to New York City!

Buildings, Bridges, Etc.

In a land where typhoons and earthquakes are endemic, we were a little surprised to see no evidence of damage – any cracks in walls or pavement, any fallen trees, etc.  One sight that reminded us that earthquakes are real – the understructure of bridges and elevated roadways was concrete encased in steel.  We guessed that this reduced damage and injury.

The Japanese are very wary of fire.  This may be a result of wartime firestorms or the likelihood of fire caused by earthquakes.  Our schools and stores have fire exit signs, but in Japan they really get serious.  The carpet in hotels, etc., must be fire resistant (and have special tags to prove it).  Hotels have elaborate write-ups to help in case of fire.  Fire precautions are very much in evidence all dur­ing our stay.

We got the chance to see buildings in various stages of construction.  The Japanese intend for their skyscrapers to stay up – they use a LOT more steel than we do.

In parts of the States, we have an occasional tornado.  In Tokyo they have typhoons.  In fact they can pretty much count of having one or more each year.  Many of the streets are lines with trees.  They have been severely pruned to become a smaller target for the fierce winds, and to reduce the number of airborne limbs.  The trim­ming makes the trees look odd but they seem to thrive.

Parks & Other Visitor Attractions

Tokyo is not only a beehive of activity, is also has end­less attractions for tourists and the Japanese.  It’s hard to walk down the street and not see some park, shrine, etc., and little gems of imaginative beauty.  The Japanese have a knack for turning the most ordinary patch of rocks, a shrub or two, and perhaps a few flowers into works of art.

The Trip Back Home

Things went smoothly as we roared back to LAX. This crossing took only 9 ½ hours, thanks to the Jet Stream.  But it still took up to 32 ½ hours for some of us to finally get home.  Now only was our adrenaline sued up, but our sit-down-upon parts had had the course.  Yes, it was good to go but even batter to get home!

A Cameo Or Two…

We had no occasion to drive in Japan. It’s just as well — we would have flunked.  There are several countries (you’d be surprised how many!) where you drive on the left side of the road — no, don’t say “wrong” side of the road!

In the States we are accustomed to keeping to the right on sidewalks, store aisles, etc.  In Japan the custom is to keep left.  This was a little disconcerting, such as in sub­way stairs and passages, not to mention remembering to look both ways before crossing the street.

The Japanese obey the “walk/don’t walk” signs religi­ous­ly.  There were plenty of ways to identify a Westerner (especially an American) by watching how they react to those signs.

Excellent public transportation and plentiful taxis made renting a car unnecessary.  A taxi costs ¥660 (about $5.50) for the first several blocks, plus a small addition for the next few blocks.  The taxis are immaculate and seat four chubby Americans comfortably.  The price is the same regardless of the passenger count.  For safety, the right rear doors cannot be opened (because traffic whizzes by on that side). The left rear door is opened and closed by some magic by the driver.  Just another thing to get used to…

Personal Observations

Several Honor Guard members asked that their com­ments about the Japan excursion be included in this Trip Report. Their observations are indicative of our experi­ences, and give this narrative additional breadth.  We thank you!

(Some of these essays have been edited for length and overlap with other text, although some duplication was retained because it added to the flavor of this report.)

From Hollis & Lunell Horton–

It is said that you can never go back and, to a large de­gree that’s true.  However, the return to Tokyo after 54 years was not a disappointment, but a great pleasure.

Tokyo was rubble and ruins in 1946. Today it is a mod­ern, clean and impressive great city.  The vast under­ground subway system and fast, clean trains were a pleasure to use.  The unexpected courteous volunteer help of Japanese strangers was a big help in moving about.

Springtime, with cherry trees in full bloom, azaleas bright colored, and trees perfectly trimmed, were im­pressive.  Small equipment and intensive care, quite different from that of the Texas Panhandle farmed the small farm plots.

The ceremonies at the Japanese War Memorial remem­ber­ing all killed by war and the two ceremonies honoring General Mac Arthur at Atsugi and the Tokyo Masonic Hall were fitting and touching.  His legacy should be remembered.

The trip to again see Mt.  Fuji was a “must do” occasion. Other tours and trips to long ago remembered places were great.  Seeing the Dai Ichi Building and visiting Mac Arthur’s office were as if time stood still.

Good weather, good food and a fun, congenial group helped make it a perfect reunion.

From Bud & Joan Hoffmann–

We just can’t express our gratitude for all the hard work that went into putting the trip together.  The coordination & cooperation was incredible! Of course, the flight from LA to Narita was, to us, a killer.

We’re amazed at the cleanliness of Tokyo — the streets, subways, public bathrooms, etc.  Local transportation system was just fabulous.  We pride ourselves on navi­gat­ing the subways (after the first trip).  Japanese people were so kind, so helpful.  We just had to stand around looking stupid, and someone would offer help!

It was quite different seeing Tokyo all in one piece again, after the devastation in ’47.  The various ceremonies that were arranged were wonderful, very moving (I find myself choking up just thinking about them), David’s getup as the General left Joan speechless (rare for her), but she got her voice back and is still talking out the “General’s” appearances.

I think we did quite a few tourist-oriented things during the few days we were there.  We visited the Dai Ichi Bldg., Tokyo Tower, the Palace grounds, Hibiya Park (saw our only homeless people there, sleeping under card­board), the Buddhist Temple, Rippongi and the Hard Rock Cafe, Mt Fuji and the nearby hot springs, and the Bullet Train.  Most amazing was that bus ride from the hot springs down to Odawara to catch the train.  And of course the shopping trips (waiting time for Bud).

From Maurice & Helen Howe—

Around 1980 we hosted a Rotary Exchange student from Japan. Kiyomi has visited us twice since then, so she was anxious to show off her homeland.  She, her hus­band Masato and their son Kento, took us to a dinner at a “real” Japanese restaurant.  What a treat!  We had drool­ed for really good tempura and other delights.  Helen was a little reluctant to tackle some of the delicacies but Maurice dug right in.  Masato’s and Kento’s English was about as good as our Japanese, but thanks to Kiyomi things went very well indeed.

A day or two later, Kiyomi, her mother-in-law and a friend took us to lunch at the Imperial Viking atop the new Imperial Hotel.  Wow!  On the way back in their monstrous Mercedes, we had yet another mini-tour of the city.  The view was spectacular and the food & service were outstanding. Kiyomi also gave a personalized tour of the Ginza.

Helen & I enjoyed walking near the hotel — watching and learning.  Strolls with our friends, Max & Daphne Harrell and Bob Johnson were welcome diversions.  Get­ting tangled up in the subway system proved that our guesswork wasn’t goo enough.  Luckily, helpful Japan­ese men and women volunteered their advice.  When al­most all signs are in Japanese and you understand none it, you need all the help you can get.  We couldn’t help but compare their help, to what we might expect in Boston or Los Angeles.  I think we all came away with the resolve to be more helpful to foreign tourists when we found them befuddled on American street corners.

As an added attraction, we discovered a great little tem­pura café very near the hotel.  It was so good; we ate there 3 times.

From Norman and Toy Ann Smith–

Toy has 3 brothers living within a hundred-mile range.  Had nice visits with them.  One 3-day trip took us to Nagano, home of the winter Olympics.  It was still cold up there but we tried a little skiing. It was really danger­ous, with many patches of ground showing due to the warming weather.  And I’m sure as hell not as young as I used to be — I was so sore I couldn’t walk the second day without complaining.

We know the top 7 men in the Sumitomo Corporation.  I met them in Arizona over 35 years ago.  They were there doing some work for the corporation prior to buying half interest in Phelps Dodge some 20 years ago.  They are wonderful gentlemen.  We met with 4 of them, including Mr. Arakawa, for dinner one evening. He picked us up in his limousine. I wish you could have seen the auto­mobile.  Puts a Mercedes to shame.  Had a nice evening with talking about old times.  Was invited by Mr. Tschida to his home for a full day.  Most wonderful Japanese food I’ve ever eaten.  His wife was super.  Kim, my granddaughter, had previously met the Tschida family and formed a wonderful relationship with their daughter. She is a graduate student of the English Lan­guage.  So speaks English as well as her father.

I’m so glad that we went with all of you. We almost didn’t.  As I only knew two of the gentlemen from my time there.  I did not know David Valley, or must say remember him.  He came in two months before the general left.  I just cannot place him.  But thank god for people like David and his lovely wife.  My wife and I truly appreciate what they have done for us.

Kim enjoyed participating.  She is a nut for General Mac­Arthur also. She met the lovely lady whose husband gave the memorial statue at Atsugi Air Base.  Wonderful to watch Kim and her talk in Japanese.  I popped a couple of buttons.  We are so proud of her.  She has al­ways been special, and not afraid of anything. She is attending Waseda University there in Tokyo.  We will get her back this coming July.

Again, my privilege of having met you and your lovely wife.  And thanks for everything you and David have done to put it all together.  You have surely made a lot of people happy.

Have to mention that I was so glad to see Kiwamu Tuchida again.  I had a lot of dealings with him through my job of being company clerk. I was surprised to learn that the gentleman dressed as the General.  He told me that he had been the clerk also, so we had lots to talk about.

From Max & Daphne Harrell—

Thursday, April 12th

We drove from Brownwood to Grapevine (near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport), and stayed overnight at a motel.  They let us leave our car there.

Friday, April 13th and Saturday, April 14th

We took the motel shuttle to the DFW Airport, and board­ed a United flight for Los Angeles where we had a 4-hour wait for the plane to Tokyo. The flight was eleven hours and twenty-five minutes long.  We arrived at Narita Airport outside Tokyo on April 14th due to hav­ing crossed the International Date Line.  We breezed through Customs and the Honor Guard members as­sembl­ed for the bus trip to the Grand Palace Hotel.  The personnel there were very, very nice and treated us like royalty.  Rooms (that usually rent for $300 per night) were already assigned.

Sunday, April 15th

Easter in Tokyo!  We enjoyed a light breakfast, then walked along the inner moat of the Imperial Palace with Maurice & Helen Howe.  We visited the Science Mu­seum and the adjacent Nippon Budokan Hall and observ­ed young men practicing Kendo (a popular martial art).

The group went to the famous Meiji Shrine where we learned a lot about him and the Shinto philosophy.  We also observed a traditional Shinto wedding.

Next the MacArthur Honor Guard, represented by David Valley, placed a wreath on the Chidorigafuchi Memorial to the Japanese Unknown Soldiers of WW II.  A photo of this event was printed in the April 16th Japan Times with several Honor Guard members and their wives clearly identifiable.

That afternoon we enjoyed a bus tour of the Ginza, the Dai Ichi Building (and learned that the Dai Ichi Mutual Life Insurance Co. has maintained the General’s office as it was during his tenure.  We also saw the new American Embassy and learned that the old MacArthur residence (the “Big House”) was intact and used by the present US Ambassador to Japan.  We also witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the entrance to the Imperial Palace.  It was quite ceremonial and impressive.

Monday, April 16th

A beautiful ceremony was held at the Atsugi Naval Air Station for the General.  David Valley dressed as the General, complete with corncob pipe and sunglasses, and repeated his farewell address to Congress.  (It was very well done!)  This event was coordinated with the US Army, US Navy, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and David Valley.    The proceedings of this event are detail­ed elsewhere in this report, but suffice to say, it went very well.  After the formal ceremony, the Navy band played Big Band music from the 30s and 40s.  A few brave souls jitterbugged in the parking lot. Then we ate a great lunch at the dining facility.

Tuesday, April 17th

We visited the Ginza again, and checked out several department stores.  They were much more expensive than in the States but shopping there was a great exper­ience!

In the afternoon we assembled to board gorgeous buses provided by the US Army, and headed for the Masonic Hall for another commemorative ceremony.  The sides of the buses had paintings of cherry blossoms and Mt. Fuji – they were quite striking.  Colonel Roth (whom we’d met at Atsugi) distributed pins signifying the closeness of the two nations (Japan and the United States).  Lt. Gen­eral Paul Hester (who is the highest-ranking US of­ficer in the Pacific) attended the Masonic Hall ceremony with his wife.

Another highlight of this event was Frank Hunter, a pro­fessional piper.  Bagpipe music was especially fitting be­cause General MacArthur was of Scottish ancestry, hav­ing descended from the Clan MacAteer.  We also learned that the General was a 33rd Degree Mason.

The featured speaker was Mr. Harry Fukuhara, a former Honor Guard member and Nisei linguist who acted as an interpreter for the MacArthur family.  He explained the importance of the Nisei soldiers in the American Army during the war.

The Dai Ichi Mutual Insurance Company was honored for maintaining General MacArthur’s office in down­town Tokyo.

Wednesday, April 18th

It was time for a major side trip – Mt Fuji. The cherry blossoms were in their prime because of the altitude and lower temperature.  The violets, redbud and forsythia add­ed to the array of color.  After a rest at the base of Mt Fuji (another great photo op!), the bus took us to lunch at Lake Hakone.  A tram took us up the mountain for more shopping and sight seeing.  Next came the boat ride on the lake in a “pirate ship.”  The view of the beaches and hills was fabulous – the cherries and redbuds were at their best.

Interesting note – the ladies’ restrooms did not have reg­ular toilet seats.  They were porcelain receptacles mount­ed on the floor.  But they flushed!

Our return from Mt Fuji was by Bullet Train, which pro­vides a very smooth ride at 160 mph.  We shared a cab with Maurice & Helen for the ride back to the Grand Palace.

Thursday, April 19th

Five brave souls (Maurice & Helen Howe, Bob Johnson, and Max & Daphne Harrell) took the subway to Shibuya looking for souvenirs.  With five active brains, we still managed to get disoriented (lost!) in the maze of subway trains (not once but repeatedly!).  Luckily several Japan­ese stopped to help, and one lady even interrupted her journey to escort us to the right place to catch the next train, but we misunderstood her and got lost once again.  We finally took a rest at a fast-food restaurant, bought a cool drink, and discussed how we might get to the Meiji Shrine area to buy souvenirs. There were five of us so we decided to take two cabs.  We reconnected at the Shrine entrance and proceeded to the gift shop.  We found what we came for, and had a soft-serve ice cream to recuperate from our subway ordeal.  Bob bought a green tea gelato, which we all sampled. One would have to love the flavor of green tea with a passion to eat that stuff!  The subway trip back to the hotel went much more smoothly, with only a few wrong turns.

In late afternoon we met at the hotel to board gorgeous buses for the ride to the New Sanno Hotel for our “Sayonara” party. The New Sanno gift shops were quite reasonable so we got a Chokin plate as a souvenir of the trip.  The buffet dinner was delicious, with several kinds of meats, salads, vegetables and desserts.  Friar Neal Law­rence was the keynote speaker.  He told of the re­build­ing of Japan and the role General MacArthur played in this endeavor until President Truman recalled him on April 16, 1951.

Friday, April 20th

We gathered in the hotel lobby along with mountains of luggage for our return trip home.  After leaving the city for Narita, we saw beautiful country homes; many with rice paddies nearby.  How very fortunate these people are to have so much space to themselves when their counterparts in the city have an average personal space of 66 square meters.

On the return flight we sampled sushi along with our regular “western” meal, and settled in for the 8-½ hour flight to Los Angeles.

Tokyo is a beautiful city of 12 million residents, with thousands of azaleas; redbuds, dogwoods and cherry trees in bloom this time of year.  It is a clean, bustling society whose people spend much of their day commut­ing to work, usually by subway or train.  An average of 70 minutes is spent daily commuting just within the city.  People who live in the suburbs may have substantially longer commutes.  The Japanese appear to be a busy, thoughtful, polite and hardworking people who love and enjoy the beauty of nature and cherish simple rituals.  It is a mystery how they maneuver in traffic with so many drivers n the road.

Our lasting impression of Tokyo is that theirs is a great society, but there’s nothing like the wide-open spaces of Texas!