Friday, March 12, 1971

Japan, 1968-1971

On October 20, 1968, I set foot on Japanese soil, where I would server as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (末日聖徒イエスキリスト教会) for nearly 2 1/2 years. I'll try to give a flavor of those years through photographs.

Kobe, October 20, 1968–March 22, 1969

Early Sunday morning, October 20, our plane from Honolulu landed at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. (The Narita Airport wasn't around at the time.) Our flight to the old Osaka Airport must have arrived by 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. The Okazakis met our plane and drove us to Kobe, where we attended church at the Kobe Branch. I knew no Japanese; it was hard to imagine that everyone all around me spoke another language ... and understood each other.

After church, we all boarded a city bus and rode to downtown Sannomiya. We got off at the Daiei Department store and rode the escalator to the top (7th?) floor—a large restaurant—for lunch. I had my first ramen. The smells were so strange. The sound of the slurping of soup was everywhere.

After lunch we went to the Rokko Mansion, the apartment where we would stay for a week of focused Japanese study. I think our apartment must have been on the 5th floor? The apartment was a block or two from the Rokko Station of the Hankyū Densha (Railroad). We learned our first hiragana that afternoon.

Before bed they took us to the neighborhood sentō (public bath). The Japanese public baths were segregated by gender: males in one side and females in the other. (As one first entered the sentō, it was possible to glance into the other side of the bath, but I got used to it.)

We slept on futons on tatami mats. When I awoke Monday morning, I took the following photo out the window:

Looking south from the mission home elders' quarters in Kobe, Japan, October 21, 1968

After a week learning Japanese, it was time for us to be transferred to one of the cities in the southern (western) half of Japan. (The mission consisted of half of Honshu and all of Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa.) My first assignment was Kobe Branch, not far from the mission home elders' quarters apartment.

The Kobe Branch met in a traditional Japanese home:

The Kobe Branch chapel, a traditional Japanese house on Shinohara Honmachi. Taken from the Kobe Branch elders' quarters
Six missionaries lived in small traditional building in back of the Kobe Branch. It had three rooms where three missionary companionships slept and lived. The floors of those rooms had the traditional tatami mats. At bed time, futons were taken out of closets and put on the floor. In the morning the futons were returned to their closets, and the rooms became living rooms. Besides the those three rooms, there was a small kitchen, a laundry/shower room, and a traditional benjo or bathroom. Beneath the benjo was a concrete box into which waste dropped through the "squat and leave it" toilet. Needless to say, that room stunk to high heaven. Periodically a "honey wagon" pump truck would come pump out the concrete receptacle beneath the bathroom.

Kitchen of the Kobe Branch elders' quarters
The benjo in the Kobe elders quarters. Removing the particle board cover allowed a draft to blow from below

Robin Ridge, my first companion in Kobe. He was from Logan, Utah 
In November 1969, Ezra Taft Benson and his wife visited the mission for a conference. This photo shows the Okazakis, missionaries, and members greeting Elder Benson at the Osaka Airport. At the time, the Osaka Airport had an "old look" about it. By 1970, when EXPO '70 opened, Osaka had a beautiful new terminal facility.

Ezra Taft Benson (center, looming above the others) at the Osaka Airport, November 22, 1968. 
L–R: Edward Y. Okazaki, Ezra Taft Benson, Flora Benson, Chieko Okazaki at the Osaka Airport, November 22, 1968
The day after the Benson's arrived, we held a mission conference (大会 = taikai) at the Abeno Branch building in Osaka:

My first Taikai (大会) at Osaka's Abeno Branch (阿倍野支部), November 23, 1968 (I'm in the second row from the back, 3rd from the left)
Here's a photo of Kobe's Sannomiya, looking south:
In Sannomiya (section of Kobe), looking south from Sannomiya Station)
This is the Tor Road Shopping center nearby, November 22, 1968.

Elders Thompson, Slater, Holm, and Slaugh on preparation day in December 1968
On Christmas 1968, President Okazaki took us to see the Takarazuka all-girl revue (not as bad as it sounds). It was actually two programs. The first was a Japanese version of Tom Thumb, all in Japanese with traditional kimonos. After intermission was a rock 'n' roll program highlighting all the popular hits of 1968. It was extremely well done.

(When I told my dad about this, he mentioned that he and some GI's had sung the men's parts in a performance of Handel's Messiah at Takarazuka in December 1945.)

New Year's Day is very special in Japan. It was for us as well. We all went to Kyoto. There were so many kimonos. Kyoto was beautiful!

Kinkakuji "Gold Temple" in Kyoto. Photo taken January 1, 1969

Heian Jingu, Kyoto, January 1, 1969
Kobe elders in Kyoto, January 1, 1969. My companion, Robin Ridge, is in the middle of the back row. (I'm not in the picture—I'm holding the camera).
As we walked around Kyoto on New Year's Day, I was confused by this sign.
So many beautiful kimonos on New Year's Day:

Paul Anderson, my second companion, a Stanford graduate and flutist from Pasadena, California. He became my companion on January 22, 1969.
On January 31 we went to a bluegrass concert at the Kobe International Auditorium (神戸国際会館). We were able to get the Kentucky honeys to come play for us at the Kobe Branch:

The Kentucky Honeys at Kobe Branch
We had another conference (大会) (my second) in Abeno on February 15, 1969:

Sakai-Shi, February 22, 1969–May 12, 1969

On February 22, 1969—after having studied Japanese for only four months—I was transferred to Sakai City, on the far side of Osaka from Kobe.

Needless to say, I was pretty uneasy as I carried a suitcase in each hand, transferring among different railroad/subway lines involving going through tunnels and passenger overpasses under and over tracks. But I arrived safely!

In Japan, more and more homes were getting their own o-furos (bath tubs)—we called them fuds for short. As they got their own, it was no longer necessary to go to the public bath. In Sakai, our apartment had its own fud. A fud had only a cold water tap. In order to have a hot (warm) bath, you first filled up the tub, then went outside and lit a gas heater that would recirculate the bath water and warm it up. It was crucial that you put the bath tub plug tightly in the bottom of the tub.

Well, I had never used a fud before. Within a week of arriving in Sakai—on March 1—I was careless about putting the drain plug in tightly. I got up early to take a bath, filled the fud, lit the heater, and waited a few minutes. Unfortunately, all the water drained out. When I went to the fud, I saw that the water had all drained out, and it was shooting out flames. Fortunately, we were able to turn off the heater without the apartment burning down. This is what the heater looked like afterwards:

That was the last time we bathed in that fud—it was completely ruined. Fortunately, there was a sento (public bath) right across the street from the apartment, so we bathed there for the rest of my time in Sakai.

This photo shows us eating at Osaka's Viking (all-you-can-eat) restaurant.

Blaine Johnson (left) was my companion in Sakai. The photo was taken by Steve Wilson.

Towards the end of my time in Sakai, we went south by train on a preparation day to visit Kōyasan (Mount Kōya) in Wakayama Prefecture, south of Wakayama City. Kōyasan is the center of Shingon Buddhism, which was introduced in Japan in the year 805. Here are a few of the photos I took that day:
A grave yard in Kōyasan

I'm not sure if this person is a visitor, or a gardener, or perhaps a worshipper or monk?
The red robes and hats on these statues were particularly interesting
These are Buddhist priests we saw at Kōyasan
An altar in a temple at Kōyasan
Some beautiful doors in a building at Kōyasan
And a beautiful room at Kōyasan
It was cherry blossom time in Japan when we were at Kōyasan.

Cherry blossoms at Kōyasan
On the way back to Sakai we stopped briefly in Wakayama City. (I would return to open a branch in Wakayama at the very end of my mission.)

Wakayama Castle
Samurai armor on display at Wakayama Castle
There were many visitors at Wakayama's Kimiidera (紀三井寺) because of the many cherry blossoms in bloom at the temple:

Wakayama's Kimiidera
This might be the last photo of me in Sakai
On Friday, May 9th, I learned of my transfer to Okinawa. On Sunday I took the train to Kobe, then flew from Osaka to Naha, Okinawa, on Monday, May 12.

Futenma, Okinawa, May 12, 1969–August 21, 1969

On Friday, May 9th, I learned of my transfer to Okinawa. On Sunday I took the train to Kobe, then flew from Osaka to Naha, Okinawa, on Monday, May 12. I don't recall how I got to Futenma (possibly by bus or taxi?)

Okinawa was still owned by he United States at this time, so cars drove on the right side of the street. Money was U.S. Dollars. Every day we saw American B-52 bombers either leaving Kadena air base to bomb Vietnam, or returning from a bombing run. It seemed surreal. My first companion was Harold Davis Farnsworth.

I "made senior" on June 13. Farnsworth Chōrō left Okinawa on the 15th, and my first junior companion, Tom Sherry, arrived on the 16th. Tom was transferred to Nago, Okinawa, on July 14, to be a companion to Pulsipher Chōrō. Charles Sherratt (from Cedar City) was my next companion.

The weather was always hot and humid, but I got used to it—so much that even tried to avoid going into places that had air conditioning. Here are a few scenes of the Futenma Branch and missionary quarters. The place was a corrugated steel quonset hut with a cinder block addition.

The Futenma laundry and shower
The Futenma kitchen (lots of cock roaches)
The organ I played for meetings

Our cook
Evan Jones, two sisters, Brother Tomori Hideo, Charles Sherratt
Glen Rowe, forever the optimist
Weldon in his new tailor-made suit in front of Futenma chapel
We had an all-Okinawa missionary conference on June 20-22. Here we are on the steps of the Naha chapel:

Missionaries at the Okinawa conference in Naha, June 20-22, 1969
Brother Tomori Hideo was baptized in Nago, Okinawa, on Sunday, July 20, 1969. He was a tailor in Koza.

Tomori Kyōdai and me

Elder Farnsworth, Brother Tomori, and the Branch President's son, July 20, 1969
Here are the members of the Futenma Branch on the same day, visiting Nago:

Futenma Branch members in Nago, July 20, 1969
Sister Tomori Yumiko was baptized on August 10. Here is their entire family:

The Tomori family, August 10, 1969

Nagasaki, August 21, 1969–December 13, 1969

I was supposed to fly from Naha to Fukuoka on August 20. However, the planes from Naha airport were grounded because of a typhoon, so I stayed at the Naha elders' quarters for a night. The next day planes could fly to Tokyo, but not directly to Fukuoka, so I flew to Tokyo, then to Fukuoka.

The landing at Tokyo was the  hardest landing I've ever experienced, but the landing was successful. My ticket showed me flying next to Osaka, and my bags flying to Fukuoka. I successfully convinced the airline to correct the ticket to go to Fukuoka.

I landed in Fukuoka just before 10 pm. with only U.S. Dollars in my pocket. I needed yen to purchase train tickets to Nagasaki, but the banks were all closed. I had until 12:52 a.m. until the train left, so I hailed a taxi and went to the Itazuke air base, where I was able to exchange dollars for yen. Then I caught a train to Nagasaki.

The train to Nagasaki had six cars. It turned out that half of then were destined for Sasebo, and half for Nagasaki. The train would split half-way. Fortunately, I struck up a conversation with a student on the train who informed me that my half of the train was the half going to Sasebo. I walked through the train to the other section, survived the split, and arrived in Nagasaki the next morning at 7:00 a.m. I traveled to the branch via air-conditioned cab!

Here is my first companion in Nagasaki on his birthday, a few days after my arrival:

Steve Aston's birthday party, August 24, 1969
I had been in Nagasaki for only a couple of weeks when we rode the train to Osaka. On Friday, September 5, we left Nagasaki, arriving at the Shin-Osaka station on Saturday at about 8 a.m. The conference took place in Okamachi and Abeno (both in Osaka). I saw Shimada Masakazui, whom I had baptized March 30 while in Sakai. Also Kinjo, Tokuda, and Miyagi Kyōdai-tachi (investigators from Okinawa) were at the conference.

Here are the missionaries of the Japan-Okinawa Mission in Abeno:

All the missionaries of the Japan-Okinawa Mission at the 1st birthday conference
We were back in Nagasaki by September 11.

We met Hayashi Hideji Kyōdai on the 13th and sold him a Book of Mormon. (We would eventually baptize him in Wakayama in late 1970.) On the 14th, Nakae Hiroko Shimai was baptized at Mogi by the sea.

Steve Aston was transferred to Okayama on October 5. My new companion was Elder Browning from Ogden, Utah.

On Friday, October 24, the branch moved to Nishi Yama Machi 1-95 in Nagasaki. Elder Browning was transferred to Kyoto at the end of the month. William Bunker Hansen from Salt Lake City was my new companion.

Then in November we had a conference in Fukuoka for Missionaries from Kyushu:

Here is a photo of me in Nagasaki in October:
Weldon at the old Nagasaki Branch building, October 1969

Kobe Mission Home Language Training, December 13, 1969–January 19, 1970

I spent a month in the Kobe Mission Home, learning how to be a Zone Language Leader (ZLL). I enjoyed it very much.

We visited Kyoto and Nara on New Year's Day 1970. There were lots of beautiful kimonos. Here are a few photos:

Young girl near Heian Shrine, Janury 1, 1970

On the train to Kyoto, January 1, 1970
Another train scene, January 1, 1970
We went to Nara on January 15 for the annual Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day, 成人の日), to celebrate those—including me— who have turned 20 over the past year.

Weldon feeding a deer in Nara, January 15, 1970
One of the activities on Seijin no Hi is the Wakagusayamayaki (Young grass mountain fire = 若草山焼き):

The Wakagusayamayaki in Nara, January 15, 1970

Okamachi, Zone Language Leader, January 19, 1970–February 19, 1970

Hattori, Zone Language Leader, February 19, 1970–March 26, 1970

I was Zone Language Leader from January 19 through March 26 1970, with the same responsibilities and companion (Tim Childs). Midway through the assignment we moved from Okamachi to an apartment in nearby Hattori to live.

This is my companion, Tim Childs, the Zone Leader:

Elder Tim Childs (left) and Weldon outside the Okamachi elders' quarters
All eight Okamachi elders

Kobe Mission Office, March 26, 1970–October 12, 1970

My time in the Kobe Mission Office coincided with Osaka's Expo '70. My assignment: Information Coordinator and Commissarian. I published the mission magazine, shipped supplies to the branches in the mission, and visited EXPO '70 often. I obtained an international drivers' license and drove many visiting dignitaries between the Osaka Airport, the Mission Office, EXPO '70, and wherever else they wanted to go.

I took many photographs while there. Here are a (small) few:
This Christus status greeted visitors to the Mormon Pavilion

Japan's Crown Prince Akihito visited our pavilion during March:

Crown Prince Akihito (in white)
(I later saw the Crown Prince and his wife, Michiko, at the closing ceremonies of EXPO '70)

Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko at EXPO '70 closing ceremonies, September 13, 1970, in Osaka
Mormon Pavilion at Expo '70, Osaka, Japan
A new mission home was completed during the same month that EXPO '70 began. It was located where the old Kobe Elders' quarters had been:

Noriko Ichiki was the mission secretary, receptionist, translator, and all around handy person:

Noriko Ichiki
The Japan-Okinawa Mission was divided in March. Kobe was the headquarters of the new Japan Central Mission (日本中央伝道部). Fukuoka was the headquarters of the new Japan West Mission. An all-mission conference was held in Abeno (Osaka) at the end of April:

Missionaries of the Japan Central Mission, April 30, 1970
On August 13, 1970, the mission held a youth conference/Undō Kai (”exercise meeting" = 運動会) at the Canadian Academy in Kobe:

Twirlers at the Youth Conference, August 13, 1970
Members from Nagasaki Branch (now in a different mission) attended the Kobe youth conference

Wakayama, October 12 1970–March 10, 1971

On Wednesday September 30, 1971, President Okazaki called me into his office and told me I would be sent to open a branch in Wakayama on October 9. Elder Heisuke Wada, who has been in the mission home recuperating from tonsillitis, would be my companion. The night before, Elder Wada and I had been riding home on the bus after proselyting. I had a vivid impression that the two of us would be called to open up Wakayama. ... So when President Okazaki told me, I said "I know." He looked surprised.

President Okazaki outlined a map of Wakayama, a city of about 370,000:

President Okazaki's hand-drawn map of Wakayama

On Monday, October 12, the two of us awoke at 5:15 a.m. At a few minutes after 7:00 a.m., we caught a cab with our suitcases in hand and went to Sannomiya Station, where we caught a train for Wakayama at 7:30. At Umeda station we got on Osaka's loop line (環状線) and went to Tennoji, then transferred to the high-speed (快速) line to Wakayama, arriving about 10:15 a.m. We found a building to rent, then rode the train north to Sakai, where we spent the first night. The next day we returned to Wakayama and met President Okazaki, who signed the rental agreement. We purchased furniture, applianes, futons, etc., for the apartment, and stayed in Wakayama.

The next week two more missionaries came to Wakayama: Robin Harris became Wada's companion, and Ben Gardner mine.

On October 24, the Sankei newspaper published an article about Gardner and my visit with the governer of Wakayama Prefecture. It also advertised free English classes (英会話), which started on Thursday, October 29.

Earlier (on May 9, 1970) I had received a communication from Hayashi Hideji Kyōdai, whom we had taught in Nagasaki; he was then living in Tokyo. He had had problems in Nagasaki, which he had resolved them. He showed up in Wakayama and wanted to be baptized. Here is a photo of him and me on October 25, 1970, right after he was baptized in Shin-Wakaura (新和歌浦), a bay in Wakayama:

Hayashi Kyōdai and me, after being baptized in Shin-Wakaura (New Wakayama Bay), October 25, 1970
Elder Heisuke Wada, who went to Wakayama with me
Ben Gardner, my second companion in Wakayama
View out our window of a soccer field at Wakayama University
Whipple, Gardner and Nishino meeting with the Governor of Wakayama Prefecture
English class party, November 23, 1970
Matsumoto Mieko Shimai, Gardner, Fukushima Yasuhiro, Whipple, baptism day December 20, 1970
Hayashida Hidemi Kyōdai, baptism day, December 27, 1970
Minoru Kamada (lower right), his two brothers, and Gardner Chōro. Then lived down the street from the branch. Minoru became extremely good friends.
New Years dinner with the Nishino Family, January 1, 1970, Wakayama
What's left of a Wakayama hotel that burned shortly after New Year's Day, killing 15 people

Sister Tanikubo, a recent convert, January 9, 1971

Brothers Hayashida (left) and Hayashi, January 24, 1971. Hayashi was baptized today
Kamada Family: Parents and Minoru in front, Kiyoshi and brother in back. February 1971
Hayashi, Gardner, Tsumura, February 9, 1971, across the street from the branch.
Egashira, Hayashida, Gardner, Wada, on my night in Wakayama
Wakayama Branch party, March 1971
All trunked out—my last hour in Wakayama
Sayōnara, Ben Gardner! March 11, 1971

My dear friend Hayashi Kyōdai of Nagasaki/Wakayama met me as I left Japan
Going home: 7 missionaries with Edward Y. and Chieko Okazaki and the Osaka Airport, March 11, 1971
With Shimada Masakazu, my first baptism, March 11, 1971, Osaka Airport
Walter (attending USC) and his new wife Mary at LAX, March 11, 1971
Home again. Fanning Field, Idaho Falls, March 11, 1971