It has been a few years since I strolled through the Fall leaves and sites of Japan. The Japanese maples were at their most brilliant colors. It has been my hope to return someday and see the glorious Spring in Japan when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. I may have to wait and see them in Washington, D.C. These cherry trees were given in 1910 as a gift from Japan to the United States, in happier times before World War II.
History of the Cherry Trees in Washington you may not know:
- In 1885, Eliza Scidmore returned from her first trip to Japan and approached the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds with the idea of planting cherry trees along the reclaimed waterfront of the Potomac River.
- Mrs Scidmore, who was the first female board member of the National Geographic Society, was rebuffed, though she would continue proposing the idea to every Superintendent for the next 24 years!.
- Through persistence and some help from Mrs. Taft, the First Lady at the time, in 1909 the Embassy of Japan informed the U.S. Dept of State, the city of Tokyo intended to donate 2000 cherry trees to the United States to be planted along the Potomac.
- The first batch of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910.
- Japanese chemist, Takamine, who discovered adrenaline, was in Washington with Mr. Midzuno, the Japanese consul to New York. Takamine asked if Mrs. Taft would accept an additional, healthy 2000 trees and she did. The first trees were planted.
The Japanese Lantern is a stone statue in West Potomac Park. It is lighted during the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. A pair of lanterns were created in 1651, to mark the death of Tokugawa Iemitsu, who was the third shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty. The lantern was formerly located at the Tosho-gu temple, in Ureno Park, where its twin remains today. The lantern was given, by the governor of Tokyo, to the people of the United States, and was dedicated on March 30, 1954. (Click here to see a panoramic view of the Tosho-gu temple in Ureno Park, Japan)
History of Washington cherry trees continued:
- The first “Cherry Blossom Festival” was held in late 1934 under joint sponsorship by numerous civic groups, becoming an annual event. The cherry trees had by this point become an established part of the nation’s capital.
- In 1938, plans to cut down the cherry trees to clear ground for the Jefferson Memorial prompted a group of women to chain themselves together at the site in protest. “This is the worst desecration of beauty in the capital since the burning of the White House by the British,” a woman chained to a tree proclaimed. Roosevelt, who was President at the time, remained unmoved by the protests. If the activists didn’t remove themselves, he said, “…the cherry trees, the women and their chains would be gently but firmly transplanted in some other part of Potomac Park.” The women finally left and the particular trees were taken out in the middle of the night to be transplanted in another place.
- A compromise was reached where more trees would be planted along the south side of the Basin to frame the Memorial. These women would be happy to know that there are today 2,750 cherry trees in Washington, D.C.
- However, World War II brought some problems. On December 11, 1941, four trees were cut down. It is suspected that this was retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan four days earlier.
- In hopes of dissuading people from further attacks upon the trees during the war, they were referred to as “Oriental” flowering cherry trees for the war’s duration.
- Suspended during World War II, the festival resumed in 1947 with the support of the Washington, D.C., Board of Trade and the D.C. Commissioners and has been an annual event since then. (credit: National Cherry Blossom Festival, Wikipedia and Stacy Conradt)
Japanese Cherry Trees in Japan:
For my reader’s pleasure, the music you are about to hear has been composed by Peter Helland of Norway. His purpose was to help the listener to slow down, relax, and enjoy the peacefulness of his music. Thank you, Peter, for we all need a rest in our often trying world. We also thank you for including the beautiful cherry trees in your video. (It would be my suggestion to use this music, in its entirety, as background music for rest or something you can do while relaxing. Enjoy!)
Music and pictures for “slowing down” and relaxation
Video (Turn up sound)
When we are in Virginia, we receive an email telling us when the Space Station will be flying over our home and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because we have no street lights, it is quite clear and the Station can be seen moving on the path above our heads.
The video I’m sharing with my readers today shows a working relationship between the U.S., Russia and Japanese astronauts. It is a good thing that they are professionals and want to do their work and experiments without political interruption. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
The tour of the Space Station is given by Sunita Pandya Williams, an American astronaut and U.S. Navy officer of Indo-Slovenian descent. She formerly held the records for total spacewalks by a woman (seven) and most spacewalk time for a woman (50 hours, 40 minutes). Sunita was assigned to the International Space Station as a member of Expeditions 14 and 15. In 2012, she served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and then commander of Expedition 33. (Wikipedia)
Thank you, Sunita Williams, for your great tour. As we watch from the ground, we know better what the crews in the Space Station are experiencing amid the stars. Long live international cooperation!
VIDEO (Turn up sound)
Often we hear a philosophy or belief in a specific culture that makes a great deal of sense. For instance, the Japanese believe that when a person turns 60 years old, they are able to start a new cycle of life. They call this special age, kanreki.
It is a time for people to arrange things in a proper place. Some Americans may call it “getting things in order…or even downsizing.” The Japanese think it is a time of celebration and the beginning of a new life cycle, so they celebrate the 60th birthday by giving gifts that are red and having a party. The gift could be a red shirt, scarf, or even red underwear.
Now the color red is a vivid color that has energy and stands out from other colors. Perhaps this infers that this new phase of life should be taken on with a new enthusiasm and with new prospects for the future.
According to Japanese Society, “achievements are celebrated and a lifetime’s troubles are forgotten as the celebrated individual enters a new stage of life with all the joy and possibilities of a newborn.”
Perhaps we Americans should think more along this line and have more fun. We often hear people say things like “Getting old..or older…is not for the faint-hearted.” This seems pretty pessimistic to me. Life is not over…it is just a new chance at a new beginning.
The Japanese also refer to this year as a Year of Reflection.
60-year olds are expected to use this year as a year of reflection. They are to look at their lives and achievements and use this time as a good opportunity to plan the direction in which they would like to move as they begin their second sixty-year cycle of life. Beyond the Kanreki, they celebrate the Koki (70 years old), Kiju (77 years old), Beiju.(88 years old), Sotsuju (90 years old), Kajimaya.(97 years old), Hakuju (99 years old), and Hyakusai No Ga (100 years old). (from online Japanese culture)
As a Christian, we would say to be “Thankful” for a long life and give God honor for all He has blessed us with in life. The Japanese think it is a time to forget the past and move on…leaving it behind. This seems like a very good philosophy of life. If you are passed the age of 60, you can still celebrate…for you have lived longer. If you are not age 60 years old, dedicate your life to the beauty of living…for the years that you may have before you.
Another thing I read about recently was the way the Japanese look at a snowflake. It is a perfect example of symmetry and each one is different. The pictures below were made by Wilson Bentley.
As you can see, each snowflake has a different shape. We could compare them to the fact that every human is made differently and wonderful. The snowflake is beautiful as it floats from the sky to the ground. The time of its forming until it melts on the ground is a short time. So is life. The days of men and women are numbered and short, but much of life is beautiful…especially if we try to see that beauty. Your life was specifically formed to be only you. Each one of us will live and each one will die…as the snowflake sheds beauty on the world until it is no more.
Even the Japanese cherry blossoms come only for a short time in all their glory. Sometimes they even look like snow drifting …drifting…gently drifting. Shortly they will reach the ground, sharing their beauty one more time.
Try to share your special beauty with someone around you today. Celebrate Life!
Enjoy Kyoto in the Snow video. Turn on sound.
(Taken by Althea Pan)
If you have never traveled to Japan, you will enjoy this overview of the city and country life. At the end of the video are some steps in Tokyo that my husband and I climbed and listened to a piano concert by a very young girl, who could hardly reach the floor with her feet. The students of Japan have a great emphasis on learning some form of music. The high school that I visited has a whole wing of baby grand pianos and the students were practicing. I learned another impressive thing about the Japanese education. Two young men were sweeping the halls and scrubbing the floor outside their classroom. I asked if they were being punished for something. The reply was, “Oh no, they are taking turns in having pride for their school.”
The calmness of Japan and its beauty is something we will not forget. Take a ride on the bullet train, walk the streets, and enjoy nature at its best.
For your weekend listening pleasure….the sounds of the violin and the beauty of nature.
Those of us in Florida do not always get to see the beauty of the Fall season when leaves turn their golden colors mixed with red. Perhaps one of our most memorable trips was to visit Japan in the Fall when the maples had turned a brilliant red.
The Fall scenes you will see remind me of my birthplace in the mountains of North Carolina and our home in Virginia. This weekend, however, I invite you to listen to piano music and see Japan again with me in the video below. (Enlarge picture for better viewing.)
Few here in the U.S.A. have flown their flags today as it is not the 4th of July or Veterans Day. It is V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) that should be recognized everywhere in the USA, in Europe and even the world. As we know, the war in Europe had to be won and the Nazi aggression stopped. There were plans, however, that many people do not know about concerning Japan. The free world and especially the democratic Japan, that we know today, would look totally different if the war efforts against Japan had been changed even slightly. Victory in Europe was not enough since Japan had entered the war and had their own plans and goals against us. Below is an article written about the secret documents that are now declassified…and we know now what could have happened, but did not. Millions more could have died had World War II not been completely won on every front.
When I was privileged, as an educator, to go to Japan at the invitation of the present Japanese government, I was taken to one of the many caves used by the military and civilians during the war. This invitation was given to select American teachers as a “thank you” for the reconstruction of Japan after the war ended.
Boyer Writes would like to share this article about the top-secret documents, written by Colonel Buz Kimenis:
Deep in the recesses of the National Archives in Washington , D.C. , hidden for nearly four decades lie thousands of pages of yellowing and dusty documents stamped “Top Secret”. These documents, now declassified, are the plans for Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan during World War II. Only a few Americans in 1945 were aware of these elaborate plans that had been prepared for the Allied Invasion of the Japanese home islands. Even fewer today are aware of the defenses the Japanese had prepared to counter the invasion had it been launched. Operation Downfall was finalized during the spring and summer of 1945. It called for two massive military undertakings to be carried out in succession and aimed at the heart of the Japanese Empire. In the first invasion – code named “Operation Olympic“- American combat troops would land on Japan by amphibious assault during the early morning hours of November 1, 1945 – 61 years ago.
Fourteen combat divisions of soldiers and Marines would land on heavily fortified and defended Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese home islands, after an unprecedented naval and aerial bombardment. The second invasion on March 1, 1946 – code named “Operation Coronet”- would send at least 22 divisions against 1 million Japanese defenders on the main island of Honshu and the Tokyo Plain. Its goal: the unconditional surrender of Japan. With the exception of a part of the British Pacific Fleet, Operation Downfall was to be a strictly American operation. It called for using the entire Marine Corps, the entire Pacific Navy, elements of the 7th Army Air Force, the 8th Air Force (recently redeployed from Europe ), 10th Air Force and the American Far Eastern Air Force. More than 1.5 million combat soldiers, with 3 million more in support or more than 40% of all servicemen still in uniform in 1945 – would be directly involved in the two amphibious assaults. Casualties were expected to be extremely heavy.
Admiral William Leahy estimated that there would be more than 250,000 Americans killed or wounded on Kyushu alone. General Charles Willoughby, chief of intelligence for General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific, estimated American casualties would be one million men by the fall of 1946. Willoughby ‘s own intelligence staff considered this to be a conservative estimate. During the summer of 1945, America had little time to prepare for such an endeavor, but top military leaders were in almost unanimous agreement that an invasion was necessary. While naval blockade and strategic bombing of Japan was considered to be useful, General MacArthur, for instance, did not believe a blockade would bring about an unconditional surrender. The advocates for invasion agreed that while a naval blockade chokes, it does not kill; and though strategic bombing might destroy cities, it leaves whole armies intact. So on May 25, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after extensive deliberation, issued to General MacArthur, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Army Air Force General Henry Arnold, the top-secret directive to proceed with the invasion of Kyushu. The target date was after the typhoon season.
President Truman approved the plans for the invasions July 24. Two days later, the United Nations issued the Potsdam Proclamation, which called upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or face total destruction. Three days later, the Japanese governmental news agency broadcast to the world that Japan would ignore the proclamation and would refuse to surrender. During this same period it was learned — via monitoring Japanese radio broadcasts — that Japan had closed all schools and mobilized its school children, was arming its civilian population and was fortifying caves and building underground defenses. Operation Olympic called for a four pronged assault on Kyushu . Its purpose was to seize and control the southern one-third of that island and establish naval and air bases, to tighten the naval blockade of the home islands, to destroy units of the main Japanese army and to support the later invasion of the Tokyo Plain. The preliminary invasion would begin October 27 when the 40th Infantry Division would land on a series of small islands west and southwest of Kyushu . At the same time, the 158th Regimental Combat Team would invade and occupy a small island 28 miles south of Kyushu. On these islands, seaplane bases would be established and radar would be set up to provide advance air warning for the invasion fleet, to serve as fighter direction centers for the carrier-based aircraft and to provide an emergency anchorage for the invasion fleet, should things not go well on the day of the invasion. As the invasion grew imminent, the massive firepower of the Navy – the Third and Fifth Fleets — would approach Japan.
The Third Fleet, under Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, with its big guns and naval aircraft, would provide strategic support for the operation against Honshu and Hokkaido. Halsey’s fleet would be composed of battleships, heavy cruisers, destroyers, dozens of support ships and three fast carrier task groups. From these carriers, hundreds of Navy fighters, dive bombers and torpedo planes would hit targets all over the island of Honshu. The 3,000 ship Fifth Fleet, under Admiral Raymond Spruance, would carry the invasion troops. Several days before the invasion, the battleships, heavy cruisers and destroyers would pour thousands of tons of high explosives into the target areas. They would not cease the bombardment until after the land forces had been launched. During the early morning hours of November 1, the invasion would begin. Thousands of soldiers and Marines would pour ashore on beaches all along the eastern, southeastern, southern and western coasts of Kyushu . Waves of Helldivers, Dauntless dive bombers, Avengers, Corsairs, and Hellcats from 66 aircraft carriers would bomb, rocket and strafe enemy defenses, gun emplacements and troop concentrations along the beaches. The Eastern Assault Force consisting of the 25th, 33rd, and 41st Infantry Divisions, would land near Miyaski, at beaches called Austin, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Ford, and move inland to attempt to capture the city and its nearby airfield.
The Southern Assault Force, consisting of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 43rd Division and Americal Division would land inside Ariake Bay at beaches labeled DeSoto, Dusenberg, Essex, Ford, and Franklin and attempt to capture Shibushi and the city of Kanoya and its airfield. On the western shore of Kyushu, at beaches Pontiac, Reo, Rolls Royce, Saxon, Star, Studebaker, Stutz, Winston and Zephyr, the V Amphibious Corps would land the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Marine Divisions, sending half of its force inland to Sendai and the other half to the port city of Kagoshima. On November 4, the Reserve Force, consisting of the 81st and 98th Infantry Divisions and the 11th Airborne Division, after feigning an attack on the island of Shikoku, would be landed — if not needed elsewhere – near Kaimondake, near the southernmost tip of Kagoshima Bay, at the beaches designated Locomobile, Lincoln, LaSalle, Hupmobile, Moon, Mercedes, Maxwell, Overland, Oldsmobile, Packard, and Plymouth. Olympic was not just a plan for invasion, but for conquest and occupation as well. It was expected to take four months to achieve its objective, with the three fresh American divisions per month to be landed in support of that operation if needed. If all went well with Olympic, Coronet would be launched March 1, 1946. Coronet would be twice the size of Olympic, with as many as 28 divisions landing on Honshu.
All along the coast east of Tokyo , the American 1st Army would land the 5th, 7th, 27th, 44th, 86th, and 96th Infantry Divisions, along with the 4th and 6th Marine Divisions. At Sagami Bay, just south of Tokyo, the entire 8th and 10th Armies would strike north and east to clear the long western shore of Tokyo Bay and attempt to go as far as Yokohama. The assault troops landing south of Tokyo would be the 4th, 6th, 8th, 24th, 31st, 37th, 38th, and 8th Infantry Divisions, along with the 13th and 20th Armored Divisions. Following the initial assault, eight more divisions – the 2nd, 28th, 35th, 91st, 95th, 97th, and 104th Infantry Divisions and the 11th Airborne Division — would be landed. If additional troops were needed, as expected, other divisions redeployed from Europe and undergoing training in the United States would be shipped to Japan in what was hoped to be the final push.
Captured Japanese documents and post war interrogations of Japanese military leaders disclose that information concerning the number of Japanese planes available for the defense of the home islands was dangerously in error. During the sea battle at Okinawa alone, Japanese Kamikaze aircraft sank 32 Allied ships and damaged more than 400 others. But during the summer of 1945, American top brass concluded that the Japanese had spent their air force since American bombers and fighters daily flew unmolested over Japan. What the military leaders did not know was that by the end of July the Japanese had been saving all aircraft, fuel, and pilots in reserve, and had been feverishly building new planes for the decisive battle for their homeland. As part of Ketsu-Go, the name for the plan to defend Japan — the Japanese were building 20 suicide takeoff strips in southern Kyushu with underground hangars. They also had 35 camouflaged airfields and nine seaplane bases. On the night before the expected invasion, 50 Japanese seaplane bombers, 100 former carrier aircraft and 50 land based army planes were to be launched in a suicide attack on the fleet. The Japanese had 58 more airfields in Korea, western Honshu and Shikoku, which also were to be used for massive suicide attacks. Allied intelligence had established that the Japanese had no more than 2,500 aircraft of which they guessed 300 would be deployed in suicide attacks. In August 1945, however, unknown to Allied intelligence, the Japanese still had 5,651 army and 7,074 navy aircraft, for a total of 12,725 planes of all types.
Every village had some type of aircraft manufacturing activity hidden in mines, railway tunnels, under viaducts and in basements of department stores, work was being done to construct new planes. Additionally, the Japanese were building newer and more effective models of the Okka, a rocket-propelled bomb much like the German V-1, but flown by a suicide pilot. When the invasion became imminent, Ketsu-Go called for a four-fold aerial plan of attack to destroy up to 800 Allied ships. While Allied ships were approaching Japan, but still in the open seas, an initial force of 2,000 army and navy fighters were to fight to the death to control the skies over Kyushu. A second force of 330 navy combat pilots was to attack the main body of the task force to keep it from using its fire support and air cover to protect the troop carrying transports. While these two forces were engaged, a third force of 825 suicide planes was to hit the American transports. As the invasion convoys approached their anchorages, another 2,000 suicide planes were to be launched in waves of 200 to 300, to be used in hour by hour attacks.
By mid-morning of the first day of the invasion, most of the American land-based aircraft would be forced to return to their bases, leaving the defense against the suicide planes to the carrier pilots and the shipboard gunners. Carrier pilots crippled by fatigue would have to land time and time again to rearm and refuel. Guns would malfunction from the heat of continuous firing and ammunition would become scarce. Gun crews would be exhausted by nightfall, but still the waves of kamikaze would continue. With the fleet hovering off the beaches, all remaining Japanese aircraft would be committed to nonstop suicide attacks, which the Japanese hoped could be sustained for 10 days. The Japanese planned to coordinate their air strikes with attacks from the 40 remaining submarines from the Imperial Navy – some armed with Long Lance torpedoes with a range of 20 miles — when the invasion fleet was 180 miles off Kyushu. The Imperial Navy had 23 destroyers and two cruisers which were operational. These ships were to be used to counterattack the American invasion. A number of the destroyers were to be beached at the last-minute to be used as anti-invasion gun platforms.
Once offshore, the invasion fleet would be forced to defend not only against the attacks from the air, but would also be confronted with suicide attacks from sea. Japan had established a suicide naval attack unit of midget submarines, human torpedoes and exploding motorboats. The goal of the Japanese was to shatter the invasion before the landing. The Japanese were convinced the Americans would back off or become so demoralized that they would then accept a less-than-unconditional surrender and a more honorable and face-saving end for the Japanese. But as horrible as the battle of Japan would be off the beaches, it would be on Japanese soil that the American forces would face the most rugged and fanatical defense encountered during the war. Throughout the island-hopping Pacific campaign, Allied troops had always outnumbered the Japanese by 2 to 1 and sometimes 3 to 1. In Japan it would be different. By virtue of a combination of cunning, guesswork, and brilliant military reasoning, a number of Japan ‘s top military leaders were able to deduce, not only when, but where, the United States would land its first invasion forces. Facing the 14 American divisions landing at Kyushu would be 14 Japanese divisions, 7 independent mixed brigades, 3 tank brigades and thousands of naval troops. On Kyushu the odds would be 3 to 2 in favor of the Japanese, with 790,000 enemy defenders against 550,000 Americans.
This time the bulk of the Japanese defenders would not be the poorly trained and ill-equipped labor battalions that the Americans had faced in the earlier campaigns. The Japanese defenders would be the hard core of the home army . These troops were well-fed and well equipped. They were familiar with the terrain,had stockpiles of arms and ammunition, and had developed an effective system of transportation and supply almost invisible from the air. Many of these Japanese troops were the elite of the army, and they were swollen with a fanatical fighting spirit. Japan’s network of beach defenses consisted of offshore mines, thousands of suicide scuba divers attacking landing craft, and mines planted on the beaches. Coming ashore, the American Eastern amphibious assault forces at Miyazaki would face three Japanese divisions, and two others poised for counterattack.
Awaiting the Southeastern attack force at Ariake Bay was an entire division and at least one mixed infantry brigade. On the western shores of Kyushu, the Marines would face the most brutal opposition. Along the invasion beaches would be the three Japanese divisions, a tank brigade, a mixed infantry brigade and an artillery command. Components of two divisions would also be poised to launch counterattacks. If not needed to reinforce the primary landing beaches, the American Reserve Force would be landed at the base of Kagoshima Bay November 4, where they would be confronted by two mixed infantry brigades, parts of two infantry divisions and thousands of naval troops.
All along the invasion beaches, American troops would face coastal batteries, anti-landing obstacles and a network of heavily fortified pillboxes, bunkers, and underground fortresses. As Americans waded ashore, they would face intense artillery and mortar fire as they worked their way through concrete rubble and barbed-wire entanglements arranged to funnel them into the muzzles of these Japanese guns. On the beaches and beyond would be hundreds of Japanese machine gun positions, beach mines, booby traps, trip-wire mines and sniper units.
Suicide units concealed in “spider holes” would engage the troops as they passed nearby. In the heat of battle, Japanese infiltration units would be sent to reap havoc in the American lines by cutting phone and communication lines. Some of the Japanese troops would be in American uniform; English-speaking Japanese officers were assigned to break in on American radio traffic to call off artillery fire, to order retreats and to further confuse troops. Other infiltration with demolition charges strapped on their chests or backs would attempt to blow up American tanks, artillery pieces and ammunition stores as they were unloaded ashore. Beyond the beaches were large artillery pieces situated to bring down a curtain of fire on the beach. Some of these large guns were mounted on railroad tracks running in and out of caves protected by concrete and steel.
The battle for Japan would be won by what Simon Bolivar Buckner, a lieutenant general in the Confederate army during the Civil War, had called “Prairie Dog Warfare.” This type of fighting was almost unknown to the ground troops in Europe and the Mediterranean . It was peculiar only to the soldiers and Marines who fought the Japanese on islands all over the Pacific — at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Prairie Dog Warfare was a battle for yards, feet and sometimes inches. It was brutal, deadly and dangerous form of combat aimed at an underground, heavily fortified, non-retreating enemy. In the mountains behind the Japanese beaches were underground networks of caves, bunkers, command posts and hospitals connected by miles of tunnels with dozens of entrances and exits. Some of these complexes could hold up to 1,000 troops.
In addition to the use of poison gas and bacteriological warfare (which the Japanese had experimented with), Japan mobilized its citizenry. Had Olympic come about, the Japanese civilian population, inflamed by a national slogan – “One Hundred Million Will Die for the Emperor and Nation” – were prepared to fight to the death. Twenty Eight Million Japanese had become a part of the National Volunteer Combat Force. They were armed with ancient rifles, lunge mines, satchel charges, Molotov cocktails and one-shot black powder mortars. Others were armed with swords, long bows, axes and bamboo spears. The civilian units were to be used in nighttime attacks, hit and run maneuvers, delaying actions and massive suicide charges at the weaker American positions. At the early stage of the invasion, 1,000 Japanese and American soldiers would be dying every hour. The invasion of Japan never became a reality because on August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was exploded over Hiroshima.
Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Within days the war with Japan was at a close. Had these bombs not been dropped and had the invasion been launched as scheduled, combat casualties in Japan would have been at a minimum of the tens of thousands. Every foot of Japanese soil would have been paid for by Japanese and American lives. One can only guess at how many civilians would have committed suicide in their homes or in futile mass military attacks. In retrospect, the 1 million American men who were to be the casualties of the invasion were instead lucky enough to survive the war. Intelligence studies and military estimates made 50 years ago, and not latter-day speculation, clearly indicate that the battle for Japan might well have resulted in the biggest blood-bath in the history of modern warfare.
Far worse would be what might have happened to Japan as a nation and as a culture. When the invasion came, it would have come after several months of fire bombing all of the remaining Japanese cities. The cost in human life that resulted from the two atomic blasts would be small in comparison to the total number of Japanese lives that would have been lost by this aerial devastation.
With American forces locked in combat in the south of Japan , little could have prevented the Soviet Union from marching into the northern half of the Japanese home islands. Japan today could be divided much like Korea and Germany. The world was spared the cost of Operation Downfall, however, because Japan formally surrendered to the United Nations September 2, 1945, and World War II was over. The aircraft carriers, cruisers and transport ships scheduled to carry the invasion troops to Japan , ferried home American troops in a gigantic operation called Magic Carpet. In the fall of 1945, in the aftermath of the war, few people concerned themselves with the invasion plans.
Following the surrender, the classified documents, maps, diagrams and appendices for Operation Downfall were packed away in boxes and eventually stored at the National Archives. These plans that called for the invasion of Japan paint a vivid description of what might have been one of the most horrible campaigns in the history of man. The fact that the story of the invasion of Japan is locked up in the National Archives and is not told in our history books is something for which all Americans can be thankful…”
It seems that a day does not go by that the world is informed of another disaster. It may be a natural phenomenon of nature, a crash of a helicopter or the starving people of Africa. We are horrified by the sufferings of people and the lives that are lost. Often the news fades away into the files of what has happened to what is now happening. This was true of Haiti; Katrina and of Japan. How do these people cope with the worst of the worst in their lives?
My two trips to Japan introduced me to people who care deeply about the smallest details. One will not see junk cars sitting around or trash laying in the yards. What people do when a disaster hits to put life back into order says a great deal about the character and values of the people. Things may have gone wrong; the government who was supposed to protect may have been at fault; or nature brought a not expected problem. Whatever it may have been, the Japanese people want to let the world know that all is not lost. They are expecting to build back a future just as they did, with much help, after WWII.
The following pictures show a before and after to Japan’s great loss. These are shown toward the end of the picture list, so study them carefully. You will stand in awe at all that has been accomplished in such a short time. We can only say, “Well done, Japanese people. Your desire to work so quickly is amazing!” It may be years in knowing the full extent of what happened in this small , but great country. Nevertheless, we can be certain that the clean up shown in these pictures speaks volumes.
Click below to view.
Japanese Clean Up
It’s those unusual times like 9-11 when airplanes were told to land immediately and the in-coming international flights were sent to Canada or the nearest place possible. One rarely thinks that an emergency situation can change everything and those in charge of our lives must have their wits about them!
I read this account about the air traffic coming into Tokyo when the earthquake hit. What would it be like if the airport is closed or other airports are full….with fuel at a premium?
I thought it would be good to appreciate these people who do not quite get the same acclaim as Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger on the Hudson River. However, quick decision making and perhaps a little creative thinking is a must! Here is one pilot’s first-hand account:
It’s 8am. This is my inaugural trans-pacific trip as a brand new, recently
checked out, international 767 Captain and it has been interesting, to say the
least, so far. I’ve crossed the Atlantic three times so far so the ocean
crossing procedures were familiar.
By the way, stunning scenery flying over the Aleutian Islands. Everything was
going fine until 100 miles out from Tokyo and in the descent for arrival. The
first indication of any trouble was that Japan air traffic control started
putting everyone into holding patterns. At first we thought it was usual
congestion on arrival. Then we got a company data link message advising about
the earthquake, followed by another stating Narita airport was temporarily
closed for inspection and expected to open shortly (the company is always so
From our perspective things were obviously looking a little different. The
Japanese controller’s anxiety level seemed quite high and he said expect
“indefinite” holding time. No one would commit to a time frame on that so I got
my copilot and relief pilot busy looking at divert stations and our fuel
situation, which, after an ocean crossing is typically low.
It wasn’t long, maybe ten minutes, before the first pilots started requesting
diversions to other airports. Air Canada, American, United, etc. all reporting
minimal fuel situations. I still had enough fuel for 1.5 to 2.0 hours of
holding. Needless to say, the diverts started complicating the situation.
Japan air traffic control then announced Narita was closed indefinitely due to
damage. Planes immediately started requesting arrivals into Haneada, near Tokyo,
a half dozen JAL and western planes got clearance in that direction but then ATC
announced Haenada had just closed. Uh oh! Now instead of just holding, we all
had to start looking at more distant alternatives like Osaka, or Nagoya.
One bad thing about a large airliner is that you can’t just be-pop into any
little airport. We generally need lots of runway. With more planes piling in
from both east and west, all needing a place to land and several now fuel
critical ATC was getting over-whelmed. In the scramble, and without waiting for
my fuel to get critical, I got my flight a clearance to head for Nagoya, fuel
situation still okay. So far so good. A few minutes into heading that way, I was
“ordered” by ATC to reverse course. Nagoya was saturated with traffic and unable
to handle more planes (read- airport full). Ditto for Osaka.
With that statement, my situation went instantly from fuel okay, to fuel minimal
considering we might have to divert a much farther distance. Multiply my
situation by a dozen other aircraft all in the same boat, all making demands
requests and threats to ATC for clearances somewhere. Air Canada and then
someone else went to “emergency” fuel situation. Planes started to heading for
air force bases. The nearest to Tokyo was Yokoda AFB. I threw my hat in the ring
for that initially. The answer – Yokoda closed! no more space.
By now it was a three ring circus in the cockpit, my copilot on the radios, me
flying and making decisions and the relief copilot buried in the air charts
trying to figure out where to go that was within range while data link messages
were flying back and forth between us and company dispatch in Atlanta. I picked
Misawa AFB at the north end of Honshu island. We could get there with minimal
fuel remaining. ATC was happy to get rid of us so we cleared out of the
maelstrom of the Tokyo region. We heard ATC try to send planes toward Sendai, a
small regional airport on the coast which was later the one I think that got
flooded by a tsunami.
Atlanta dispatch then sent us a message asking if we could continue to Chitose
airport on the Island of Hokkaido, north of Honshu. Other Delta planes were
heading that way More scrambling in the cockpit – check weather, check charts,
check fuel, okay. We could still make it and not be going into a fuel critical
situation … if we had no other fuel delays. As we approached Misawa we got
clearance to continue to Chitose. Critical decision thought process. Let’s see –
trying to help company – plane overflies perfectly good divert airport for one
farther away…wonder how that will look in the safety report, if anything goes
Suddenly ATC comes up and gives us a vector to a fix well short of Chitose and
tells us to standby for holding instructions. Nightmare realized. Situation
rapidly deteriorating. After initially holding near Tokyo, starting a divert to
Nagoya, reversing course back to Tokyo then to re-diverting north toward Misawa,
all that happy fuel reserve that I had was vaporizing fast My subsequent
conversation, paraphrased of course…., went something like this:
“Sapparo Control – Delta XX requesting immediate clearance direct to Chitose,
minimum fuel, unable hold.”
“Negative Ghost-Rider, the Pattern is full” <<< top gun quote <<<
“Sapparo Control – make that – Delta XX declaring emergency, low fuel,
proceeding direct Chitose”
“Roger Delta XX, understood, you are cleared direct to Chitose, contact Chitose
Enough was enough, I had decided to preempt actually running critically low on
fuel while in another indefinite holding pattern, especially after bypassing
Misawa, and played my last ace…declaring an emergency. The problem with that
is now I have a bit of company paperwork to do but what the heck.
As it was – landed Chitose, safe, with at least 30 minutes of fuel remaining
before reaching a “true” fuel emergency situation. That’s always a good feeling,
being safe. They taxied us off to some remote parking area where we shut down
and watched a half dozen or more other airplanes come streaming in In the end,
Delta had two 747s, my 767 and another 767 and a 777 all on the ramp at Chitose.
We saw two American airlines planes, a United and two Air Canada as well. Not to
mention several extra Al Nippon and Japan Air Lines planes.
Post-script – 9 hours later, Japan air lines finally got around to getting a
boarding ladder to the plane where we were able to get off and clear customs. –
that however, is another interesting story…”
My hat is off to all teachers around the world and from the United States who go to distant places to teach. They are a special breed. Usually they find their profession to be one of the best in the world…helping people of all ages to learn. They often take time out of their summers; perhaps pay their own way to reach out to a culture that is not their own. They are the greatest ambassadors that America can send. Sometimes, as I experienced, they have to fight with their school districts to take a little time off to be that ambassador. Nevertheless, they go, whether with great professional blessings or without. Thank you, teachers. You are making a difference in this world of strife.
A family in Virginia is mourning today the death of their daughter, Taylor, who was teaching in the JET program (Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program) at Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture, Japan. She was last seen riding her bike back to her apartment after the quake and before the tsunami hit. Before leaving, she had made sure parents picked up their children and that whoever was left went to higher ground. The US Embassy in Japan announced to the family their findings.
This story took me back to 1998 when I was chosen, with teachers from around the US, to be a part of the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program. The Japanese government was honoring teachers from the United States in celebration of fifty years of teacher exchanges and the United States that had helped rebuild Japan after World War II.
The people of Japan made my visit an unforgettable one. You will see in this slide presentation: people of Japan; students, scenery and Japanese traditions. How many of these people were in the northern area of Japan and were swept away by the tsunami, I do not know. I visited Takamatsu City. This prefecture was further south west from the afflicted area, but I am certain that there is great sorrow among all the people of Japan.
I understand why Taylor loved Japan and wanted to teach there. The following video is in honor of her memory and all the teachers who reach out to the world.
For best viewing, enlarge screen and turn on sound.
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In 2009, my husband and I traveled to Japan. It was Fall and the Japanese maples were simply elegant. Deep red leaves sprinkled throughout the land with Mt. Fuji rising in the background. It was a wonderful trip and the people were gracious and kind.
We pray God’s blessings and a steady recovery to all those who have suffered such great loss.
In honor of the people and their beautiful country, I give you this video that I produced shortly after returning from Japan. It is short…and for full contemplation of what has just happened to this country, you may want to let it run twice.
TURN UP SOUND, CLICK ON LINK BELOW AND ENLARGE SCREEN FOR BEST VIEWING. Click on the link more than once, if slow in showing.
If during Advent series, you became a little bored with church services and sacred music, this Boyer Writes is just for you!!!
I am going to give Kevin, the video narrator, credit for saying what I have wanted to say for a long time. There is great confusion in the world about what Christmas is all about! There is a mixture of what is supposed to be sacred and what is trying to be commercial.
As Christians, we are to be in the world, but not part of the world. There is much to enjoy about holiday traditions. Much of it is light-hearted and we cater to the fun we have with family and especially children. No matter how Christmas is celebrated around the world, it is mostly not religious unless we make a conscious effort to keep Christ in Christmas.
Kevin , the young man you will meet, was in Japan at Christmas. He missed Christmas ( or Hanukkah) at home in New York with his family. Through his video camera, we are given an excellent worldly view of what Christmas is like in Japan (and I am sure other places). I think you will agree that in this case Christmas has run amok!!
(Wait until you have time to view this video. Get a cup of egg nog, a Christmas cookie, or a pot of coffee for it is a long one…but worth watching. When you are finished, I think you will run for Handel’s Messiah. Thanks, Kevin. Hope this year’s Christmas was better. )
Click to view and then click again on U-tube
The three weeks that I spent in Japan as a Fulbright Scholar was an experience that I will not forget. More recently, my husband and I returned to Japan where we found the beauty of nature and its preservation one of the most fascinating parts of Japan. Quiet, calm gardens with running water; swimming fish, rocks and white stones raked into perfect form gave us a rest that is hard to find in this busy world. It is my hope that in the day of hand-held, high-tech inventions, the artistry of Japan will be handed down to Japan’s young people. What a disaster if it should vanish with those who know how to make beauty out of bamboo, stone and craft to perfection. The same is true of other parts of Asia.
The ancient art of celadon making in Korea; Jade designs in China; Lacquer artisans of Japan, and builders of the Tea Houses throughout the world. Below are videos showing these art forms. Learn and enjoy!
The making of Korean Celadon Click here to see a video. After viewing, return to view others below.
Making a Japanese Lacquer bowl Click here
Hand making a Tea Room in Kyoto and bringing it to San Francisco. Click to view.
Working of Chinese Jade Click here
ARCHITECTURE and THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN is BOYER WRITES’ last in a series. It has been a pleasure to share my writings and photography with you. How excellent is the history of this great nation. I am particularly glad that during the war with Japan that someone had the wisdom not to bomb the wonderful castles and palaces that are standing today. Even with all that war brings in suffering, it is a world heritage that should not have been lost. Our congratulations to the people of Japan who take great pride in their country and have moved forward to be a great world leader.
Many people were interesting in Japan, but one person in particular stands out. She was caring for the moss at the Castle in Kyoto. She combed carefully all the leaves and other small objects or seeds away from the soft, green moss under the pine trees. I wondered if she thought about what she was seeing in this practically microscopic world. Her attention to detail is what makes so much of Japan special. I could tell she was not eager to have her picture taken, so I clicked one quick shot (shown here) and left her to continue her work of making that spot under the tree as perfect as it could be. Perhaps a lesson is learned here about our specific place in life.
If you have not seen the other parts of our series on Japan, you will be able to find them on the pull down table under history. You are invited to share these with friends who may not know about BOYER WRITES at our web address. www.boyerwrites.wordpress.com
As you will notice, there will be many areas and subjects on which we will write. On the right side panel, notices will be placed for your convenience as you check the site. This will not only include slide presentations after most writings, but also selected videos that are entertaining or thought-provoking. Check for these as well.
Enjoy the following slide presentation on Architecture and the People of Japan Turn on your sound.
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- The path was narrow and the streets quiet except for the distant sound of the shoes of the Geisha of Kyoto, Japan. These are women who have made a profession of entertaining with their conversation, songs and musical instruments. Many start from a very early age and make a career business that sometimes, after years, results in becoming the owner of the okiya, or geisha house. It appears that the term “geisha“, which means artist is different from the more specific term “geiko“, meaning woman of art. They leave their families to train in a strict environment. I learned these facts while traveling home from Japan recently and reading the book, Geisha of Gion written by one of the most famous geishas, Mineko Iwasaki, who has left the profession and is now married with a family. In Gion, one will find the true geiko, as we will call it throughout this writing. A Meiko is an apprentice geiko or geisha. The years of dedication expected and the modern tourist industry has made a place for the not so trained or disciplined geikos in other areas of Japan. Most modern girls find the distractions of cellphones, the internet, and the fashion world a pull when considering this difficult and dedicated career.
- What type of dedication are we talking about? Long hours of practice in music, song, dance,and speech are a must. Think of it as a kind of boot camp. The new geiko may have the job of cleaning the toilets or serving the other members of the household. There is a certain amount of isolation from the family, friends or those thought to be inferior.
- I was interested in the part of Mineko Iwasaki’s book that told of her wanting to visit a young girl in her school. This girl was blonde and was the child of an American soldier and a Japanese mother, who came from the burakumin people of Japan. These people were considered a type of “untouchable” because they handled the dead people as well as meats and leathers. They were the butchers, the undertakers, and shoemakers. As time has passed, these people do not face as much discrimination, but mostly live in ghetto type surroundings. Of course Mineko was never allowed to visit this family again.
- What is expected of a geiko other than entertainment? Previous years of their lives are completely spent in training. As some westerners have thought, some geikos were prostitutes; but this is not the case for the serious-minded geiko today. A virgin is looked upon highly. Her main duty is to give men a heightened sense of male ego. The geiko is taught to hang on every word of the client and to entice him into believing that he has gone to another place….outside the pressures of the real world. It is to bring good conversation, drink, food and laughter to his life. Mostly, by invitation only, the geiko meets with men for a small dinner or a banquet. The geiko may sit with high level authorities, CEO’s of great companies, and with the famous. They have learned a special type of allure and the ability to make the gentleman feel happy… all in the name of art.
After the war with Japan ended in 1945, the American Occupation Forces brought the geiko and their performances back into being. It is said the General MacArthur was so taken by the beautiful kimono and obi (the sash) that he ask the geiko to give him one. However, she refused. She told him the kimono was her life and fortune. He never asked again.
Another ancient form of entertainment in Japan is the Kabuki Theater. It came into being around the sixteenth century for the common people. Performed exclusively by men, some actors can trace their history in Kabuki Theater back ten generations. It is a lively performance with help of drums and singing that is different and sharp to the western ear. Also the modern Kabuki Theater, which my husband and I attended, has mercy on the “seat” of the tourist. They allow one to attend for only one hour instead of the three or four hours that Japanese find a pleasure. Great showmanship with swords and the role of the drums as the Shogun enters carries the plot. Even gently falling snow on the stage gives the audience the picture of a quiet, soft beauty of the Japanese winter.
The traditions of Japan make it a unique place to visit. The authentic Geisha and The Kabuki in the traditional setting is found no where else in the world.
Slide Presentation below 4th in a series on Japan N. Boyer of BOYER WRITES
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His wife is a commoner who attended Harvard and Oxford. She has had her share of stresses in being the Empress. She lost her voice for some time. Their son, Crown Prince Naruhito, is in line to be emperor. He is married also to a commoner, who is highly educated, and has found being a part of the royal family with ancient traditions and the pressures of the Imperial Household Law of 1947 a bit much to handle. The law, in effect, states that the emperor should have a male heir. The couple has had a daughter, Aiko, Princess Toshi. Nevertheless, Princess Masako may be having it a bit easier from the pressure to produce a son since recently the Crown Prince’s brother has just had a male baby. The former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, brought before the government (DIET) a bill to allow a female to be a successor to the Imperial title of Emperor. This was put on the back burner after the male child was born into the family. Only one exception was made to the rule of male succession. Empress Gencho (715-724 ) ascended to the Chrysanthemum throne, which is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world. She was to hold the throne until the son of her deceased younger brother would be mature enough to be emperor. She abdicated to her daughter after reigning nine years. We will see how Japanese history may change in the future.
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Two well-known parts of the Japanese culture are the maples and their sacred mountain, Mt. Fuiji. (Also spelled Fuji) Those who have reached the top of this mountain know well the effort to climb 12,388 feet to the summit.
Fuiji is a volcano and has erupted 18 times. The last eruption was in 1707. Hopefully for those hiking as a pilgrim to a sacred spot or a tourist to the area, this is not a day to make history. The most popular trail for many is the Kawaguchiko Trail. Take your climbing stick, or Kongo-tsue, as called in Japanese. It will be a long, hard climb! For some, it is expected that at least once in a life time, this journey will be made. Perhaps that is why one may see…or be passed by an older lady who has forgotten about her arthritis and is making the journey. One writer spoke of seeing such an old woman who slept next to a door of a hut with no mat or pillow, since this hike is over several days. He saw her again on up the trail as he went down. She continued to go on with only sandals on her feet. She was probably hoping for a viewing from the top of Mt. Fiji at sunrise, which is called “gorging“. This is a spiritual journey. It has only been since 1872 that women were allowed to set foot on the mountain because it was believed that they may anger the female deity. Only monks or priests were given permission to climb. Shrines were built near the summit in the 1100’s . Stations and lodges sprang up around 1430. The north side of the mountain is the most popular.
Well, are you ready for your cup of “midzu-no-sakazuki”? This was a drink of water that was a pledge of those who may be separated by death on the hazardous climb in earlier years. Not that it is the most dangerous mountain to climb, but improvements have been made in recent years and there are medicines for altitude sickness, not to mention hiking boots and equipment.
One may also see the Japanese word “Abunai”, meaning Danger, if rocks begin to fall. Do not expect to stay clean on your hike, as the gritty red and black volcanic pumice gets in one’s ears, nose, scalp and teeth. The air grows thin and oxygen is often needed by some. From this spectacular summit one can view thirteen Japanese prefectures. My husband and I decided the climb was not for us since he’ll have knee surgery soon. I thought this was a wonderful excuse! We believed looking at the beautiful red maples with Fuji in the background was just fine.
Speaking of Japanese maples, the word “momiji” has two meanings. The first is “baby hands” and the other is “becomes crimson leaves“. Tradition has it that if a young child or baby is passed through the branches of the maple tree, there will be health and longevity. The maple has been cultured intensively for over 300 years and is a specialty to those who love exotic trees. Some stand 20 feet tall and the same width around. Known as acer palmatum atropurpureum, by its scientific name, it is a popular choice for ornamental gardens.
To those here in the United States that have not visited our National Arboretum in Washington, D. C. , it is a must see! The Nippon Bonsai Association gave the people of the United States a Bicentennial present in 1976 of 53 bonsai trees and 6 viewing stones. Many of these are extremely old. More to come on this in the slide show below.
Our travels in Japan may be over, but the memories are fresh of the beauty of a nation and its people. ( Stay tuned for BOYER WRITES’ continued series. The next will be on the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Gardens. ) However, the next writing will be a belated veteran’s Day tribute to our WWII veterans. On our way back from Japan, we were able to talk to men in their eighties and nineties going to Washington to see the WWII Memorial; some for the first time and probably their last. These are men and women who gave so much during this time of our history. It is also amazing that in just a few years the country of Japan has risen from the ashes to be the great, free and democratic nation that they are today. For a number of years, the Japanese government has taken U.S. teachers on a fully paid scholarship (Fulbright Memorial Scholarship) to various areas of Japan to visit schools and learn of their culture. I was privileged to be able to be a part of that trip and thank the Japanese government for the privilege. BOYER WRITES by N. Boyer Slide presentation below. Turn on the sound.
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MODERN JAPAN is the topic of this writing. Having just returned from a trip to Japan, I found that the country is one of the most interesting, extremely clean, and happiest of cultures. Perhaps it is their specific ways of doing things. Everything is in order and the pride of their possessions is evident everywhere. The tiny house and front is scrubbed clean. The streets are immaculate . No where could I find a cigarette butt. The toilets are high-tech with everything anyone could want from the “water shower”, as they called it, or better known as the bidet. The accessibility of the hand washer attached to and just behind the toilet was another innovation. One would think that we Americans may be in the dark ages when it comes to this technology.
Politeness is a must in this culture. There is the friendly greeting or a bow to both friend, stranger, or customer. My husband and I found that students would stop us on the street to ask if they could practice their English; flash the peace sign and give a big smile. Education is all important, as I found out in a previous visit to Japanese schools through a Fulbright Scholarship. Often students attend school, field trips, and then have a tutor until late into the evening.
One interesting picture that I will share with you is a sliding board coming out of a second floor school building. It was obvious that the students slide down the slide to their waiting school bus, probably into the waiting arms of a teacher. Innovation….innovation…everywhere! No wonder it was a great surprise when we entered the Kyoto Mall of about 13 floors and heard a full symphony which turned out to be a small child at the keyboard with electronic switches to give the effects of one hundred plus orchestra.
Japan is the very new with the very old. BOYER WRITES will begin a series on Japan. The first is on Modern Japan (See slide show below) and to follow will be the Historic Japan, Japanese Maples and Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and the Gion District, and the People of Japan. Hopefully you will find this interesting and will log on often. N. Boyer of Boyer Writes
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