A Soul Lost from WWII Comes Home – Part 2


c-10-388
My 81 year old cousin Masako is the first to offer “gassho” to our fallen Uncle Suetaro. She is the last one alive to truly remember him aside from my father (96).

Leyte Pilgrimage – Day One

As we made our descent into Leyte’s Tacloban Airport, I vacated my port-side preferred aisle seat and moved towards the window then buckled in.  Visibly condensed, chilled and misted air flowed out of the specialized air conditioning system above us, very necessary in the Southwest Pacific.  Our final approach was north to south.

The tarmac filled my window and thought to myself, My god.  We are actually going to land on the island where my uncle was killed.  It is finally happening.  Our plane touched down at 4:40 pm.

c-10-422
Touchdown.

I wonder what my cousin Masako felt at that very same instant.  Besides my 96 year old father, she is the last person on this earth that truly remembers Uncle Suetaro.¹  I had been imagining many things of my uncle’s resting place.  I solemnly realized that I had been grieving over what we know happened to him as well as how my father silently grieved for decades… but now, I feared about what we may discover about what truly happened to Uncle Suetaro.  His suffering.  His death.

I slung my orange backpack weighed down with my cameras and lenses over my shoulder then exited from the rear of the air conditioned jet.  It would be six days before I would once again sit in such air conditioned luxury.  The impact of the tropical heat and humidity was immediate on this southern California body.  I began to perspire faster than Hillary could tell a lie.  It reminded me of the climate inside the house when I lived with my last ex – ugly.

c-10-421
A smiling Masako after retrieving her luggage. I wonder what she felt deep inside at that moment.
c-10-403
Also accompanying us was Ms. S. Teraoka; she is carrying wooden boards on which is charcoal ink calligraphy written by her temple’s reverend. Her uncle was a lieutenant who also killed on Leyte.
c-10-424
Mr. B. Kagimoto, a news reporter from RCC Broadcasting Co. in Hiroshima, was also part of our little pilgrimage.

_____________________________________________

After being greeted by Akehira and Calimera, husband and wife owners of the limo service, we quickly exited the heat and humidity into two cooled vans.

c-10-385
Calimera and Akehira, Leyte residents. Their home was also significantly damaged by Typhoon Yolanda. No one was exempt.

We made our first stop of our pilgrimage along the way to our hotel: White Beach.  Code named White Beach (see below) by the American invasion forces, it lays just south of the airport.  There were two Imperial Japanese Army pillboxes left pretty intact for historical purposes.

20048503510_de2739e726_o
White Beach on October 20, 1944. Source: Leyte, Return to the Philippines by M. Hamlin Cannon.

On A-Day, the US Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment assaulted White Beach.

Per Cannon’s book, “…Both squadrons landed on schedule, with only slight opposition, and immediately began to execute their assignments. The 2d Squadron, within fifteen minutes after landing, knocked out two pillboxes on the beach, killing eight Japanese in one and five in the other.”

These are those two pillboxes.

c-10-405
One of the two Japanese pillboxes taken out by the US Army’s  7th Cavalry on October 20, 1944.
c-10-406
(R to L) Mr. Ota, Tomiko, Masako, Namie and Akehira gaze upon a pillbox at White Beach.
c-10-407
I took Masako down to see the interior. The mosquitoes were very happy in there, awaiting tasty humans like me.
c-10-408
Masako determinedly climbing back up the stairs after looking inside the pillbox.
c-10-409
A gleeful Masako, Izumi and Tomiko resting upon the remnants of the pillbox. I didn’t have the heart to inform Masako either five or eight Japanese soldiers died inside that pillbox via rifle fire, hand grenade or flame thrower as the exterior was intact.

Day Two to follow.

That’s when the crying really begins.

______________________________________________

NOTES

  1.  The only other person with active memories of Uncle Suetaro was the reverend of the Buddhist temple adjacent to our Hiroshima home.  I talked with him three years ago when he was about 90 years old but with a sharp as a tack memory.  He passed away last year per Masako.

A Lost Soul From WWII Comes Home – Part 1


c-10-363
On a sweltering, humid day, the family poses in front of Breakneck Ridge after the second of four memorial services. The one with the belly is me. Leyte, Philippines. July 22, 2015.
“Perhaps somewhere on Leyte, while surrounded by the US Army, Uncle Suetaro glimpsed up at the night sky through the dense palm fronds. Rain fell upon his unwashed face. Perhaps he was wounded and if so, perhaps shivering from a raging infection. If he lived until morning, he found each dawn worse that the dawn before. He was starving.
He knew inside his heart he was not evil… But if I am not evil, why am I here dying?

A Soul Lost in a Faraway Jungle, Masako and Spam Musubi

___________________________________

c-10-364
Cousins Namie and Tomiko negotiate an incline on Leyte.  They are all in their late 70’s.

A Pilgrimage to Leyte Begins

At 33,000 feet, the Philippine Airline’s pressurized cabin was cool and comfortable.  An hour into our three and a half hour flight to Tacloban, Leyte, it began to fill with the wonderful, pleasant scent of lunch.

The attractive Filipina flight attendant handed us our meals.  As I took the gold foil cover off the chicken lunch, I turned to my cousin Kiyoshi seated next to me in 46H on my left and said, “末太郎さん、腹へっていたでしょう、” or “Uncle Suetaro must have been so hungry.”

My eyes began to tear up once again.  It would happen many times during our family pilgrimage to Leyte…

______________________________________

c-10-367
The wife of Tacloban City’s Mayor, the former actress Cristina Gonzales, was kind enough to greet our group.

In the epilogue of my story, “A Soul Lost in a Faraway Jungle”, my 81 year old cousin Masako climbed a long flight of stone stairs to the top of a military shrine in Hiroshima.  She said our Uncle Suetaro called out to her.  With that, we knew we would be headed to Leyte.  It was just a question of when.

“When” was last week.  July 19, 2015.

My four Hiroshima cousins and Masako’s daughter went on a six-day/five-night pilgrimage to Leyte, spearheaded by the author of the book “Eternal 41st”, Mr. Yusuke Ota.  With us was another lady whose uncle was verified as being killed on Leyte near the end.  Also with us was a news reporter from a Hiroshima newspaper.

We went to honor not just our uncle who was killed as a Japanese soldier but for all souls who never returned from that island during WWII.

I also took with me a letter as well as photographs from blogger gpcox of PacificParatrooper to be read to her father “Smitty”.  Smitty was a paratrooper with the US 11th Airborne and fought against the Imperial Japanese Army on Leyte – of which my uncle was one.  My uncle arrived on Leyte October 26, 1945; Smitty on November 18, 1945.  Smitty returned home; my Uncle Suetaro did not.

c-10-369
The memorial tabletop, Japanese-style. You can see Smitty’s photos on the right alongside the photos of my Uncle Suetaro. Perhaps their paths crossed but ultimately, their sacrifices 70 years ago led to the US/Japan harmony we have today. Indeed, I like to think they were both victorious.

__________________________________________

Leyte

But first, a quick look at Leyte and its people:

A little Filipina girl runs alongside us as we pass through her small village:

c-10-366
Filipina children we encountered climbing Hill 522 near the invasion beaches of 1944.
c-10-368
A typical transit bus, taken through our van’s window.
c-10-365
Local people almost always watched our memorial services including this young mother and daughter. She is clutching some of the food we distributed from the services.
c-10-371
Vegetable peddler, Tacloban City.
c-10-370
Curious locals watching us near Limon River which turned blood red during the battle per interviews.
c-10-372
Family selling bananas at street side. Bananas grow everywhere on Leyte.

The entire island is in various stages of reconstruction after it was devastated by Typhoon Yolanda less than two years ago.  Death toll estimates range from 6,000 to 10,000 people.

typhoon
Tacloban City and the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.

Mr. Ota is very active in the noble Tacloban City/Fukuyama Sister City relations.  If you would like to contribute to their recovery efforts, please contact Mr. Ota directly through his blog:

http://kkochan.com/

__________________________________________

The pilgrimage continues in Part 2… Please click here.

Just Some Snapshots #15


Some recent snapshots; tinkered with HDR this time.  Don’t ask me to explain HDR ‘cuz I have no idea!  I also don’t believe HDR is particularly suited for macro work but it intrigued me.  There does appear to be a difference – at least to these old bespectacled eyes.

Macro of a clematis flower right out of the camera (i.e., no editing):

c-10-354
Unedited. Taken with Canon 70D, 100 mm macro lens, ISO 200, 1/2 sec at f/11

The photo below taken from identical camera position but with “HDR” settings.  It was subjected to some post-processing:

c-10-349
Edited primarily for pollen and vignetting. A little color correction.

Other HDR shots:

c-10-350

c-10-352

c-10-351

c-10-353

The following were shot with normal settings:

c-10-347

c-10-348

c-10-345

c-10-342

c-10-341If your camera is capable, perhaps you’ll give HDR a shot as well.

She’s Killing Me #10


19194833515_d0fecdb3a3_o
“Noooo-ah!” But too late. She was the last person to get out of the car…again.

She’s killing me, I tell ya.

My Little Cake Boss Diva.

Even way up in Seattle.  Her killing me is not restricted to home.  It is unrelenting.

______________________________

While some of her photographs will be shown below, a quick she’s-killing-me story first.

We weren’t even in Seattle for three hours when the onslaught continued.  (Don’t think she didn’t try to kill me during the flight.  Even my warning her of plain clothes air marshals being on board didn’t deter her.).

After quickly checking in, we met my good friend Rick; like any good buddy, he treated my two kids and me to dinner.

19079123796_504a77d1c5_o
My good buddy Rick, a USAF veteran. He liked blowing things up. Still does… but all his Mustangs are slower than mine.

As I had brought some cigars for him but forgot them in the room, we had to return to the hotel.  While he and his gal waited in the lobby, I escorted the kids up to the room.

Knowing my Little Cake Boss Diva, I sternly said, “Brooke, do NOT touch anything, OK?”

“Okaaay-ah!” she replied… and I headed back down to the lobby, cigars in hand.

I wasn’t with him for more than fifteen minutes before I returned to the room.  Yes, I was worried she was up to something.

So I opened the door.  Wham.  A rush of frigid artic air hit me.  Mumbles (from Happy Feet) would have been pleased.

At the other end of the room, there she was on top of the air conditioner grill…sitting on a blue bed cover sheet with her butt square in the middle with her hands on either side trying to keep the sheet down.  She was attempting to stop the flow of air conditioned air blasting out of the A/C.  Talk about the Lucy Show.  She was Lucy.  I was Ricky, down to the “Ai-ya-yai, Lucy!”

Before I could yell, “Brooke!”, Jack immediately ratted out on his sister.

“Papa, she was doing something that she wasn’t supposed to and turned on the air conditioner!  She doesn’t know how to turn it off so it’s freezing in here!”  He was very pleased with himself for tattling.

Now I could yell, “Brooke!  I told you NOT to touch anything!”

“Hee-hee…” she replied with her trademark “I’m VERY innocent” smile making for a happy face complete with adorable chubby cheeks..

I turned off the air then she scampered over to the one cup coffee brewer.  What do you all that gizmo?  A Keurig?  Sure enough, there was one empty slot.  She had brewed herself some coffee.

19105232875_47cbae4ee2_o“Brooke!  What were you doing brewing yourself coffee?!  You don’t even know how to use that thing!”

“Welllll-ah!  I was freezing-ah!  And I can read (the directions) so I made myself something like a latte, okaaaay-ah?  Sheesh!”

She’s only twelve.  OMFG.

___________________________________________

Anyways, that’s one of her traits…besides doing the opposite of what I say.  She has to try everything…except clean her room.

So as in my previous post – and not being pleased with the way Jack was taking pictures – she commandeered my pretty new bazillion dollar Canon DSLR for pretty much the rest of the trip.

I only gave her one pointer: to cradle the lens with her left hand while shooting.  For once, she actually followed my instructions.

wpid-20150626_103602.jpg c-10-337

c-10-340But anyways, here are some of her photos taken with my bazillion dollar camera:

c-10-329
Jack and me at the bottom left.
c-10-336
Handheld macro!
c-10-339
Handheld macro!

c-10-330

c-10-338
Handheld macro!

c-10-334c-10-328c-10-333c-10-331c-10-332So what do you think of her abilities?

Her photography… Not on how she’s killing me.

A 100 Year Then and Now Photo Project


c-10-326
Grandfather Hisakichi and Grandmother Kono posing in Seattle with their first child, my Uncle Yutaka, in 1910.

My grandfather, Hisakichi Kanemoto, immigrated from Hiroshima in 1898 with my grandmother Kono coming in 1908 to become his picture bride.  They had seven children of which my dad is the last surviving sibling at 96 years of age.  Five of those children called “Hotel Fujii” their home at King and Maynard in Seattle, WA.  Sadly, Hotel Fujii is no longer standing.

_________________________________

My two littlest kids and I took a short vacation trip to Seattle the week of June 22, 2015.  One project I tasked myself was to attempt putting together “then and now” recreations of family photos taken about 100 years ago. Well, mostly 90 years ago but 100 sounded better.  Yet, I was only partially successful; it was luck for the most part:

c-10-322
(Clockwise) Grandmother Kono, Uncle Suetaro, an unknown girl and dad on tricycle.  Dad says the corner brick building had a butcher shop at street level.  Circa 1925.  Color image taken at King and Maynard, June 25, 2015.
c-10-319
Looking east up King Street. You can see the “Hotel Fujii” signage extending out from the hotel above my Grandmother. Year unknown but post 1917.
c-10-317
At King and Maynard. Clockwise from Grandmother: Aunt Shiz, Uncle Suetaro, Dad and baby Mieko. Based on baby Mieko, likely 1925.
c-10-343
Grandfather Hisakichi at far right, taken at Mt. Rainier August 1919. Finding a similar location on Mt. Rainier was a long shot but I had hoped this location in 1919 would not be far from current road stops as they were traveling in a 1913 Chevrolet Classic Six (Note 1). The 2015 color shot was a few hundred yards from the Rainier Inn.
c-10-320
Aunt Shiz dancing on left, looking east up King Street. The bottom of the Hotel Fujii signage is above the girls. My guess is circa 1923.
c-10-312
Grandmother Kono holding baby Mieko. Uncle Suetaro is peeking over the chair looking at his sister. Dad is standing in the middle with Aunt Shiz to his right. The lady is unknown as is the child but we suspect it is Mrs. Fujii. King and Maynard, circa 1923.
c-10-324
Dad and Uncle Suetaro in front of Grandfather’s barbershop. Circa 1922, King and Maynard.
c-10-325
Although a poor recreation, Grandfather is standing at right with his hand on an unnamed male buddy. He is in other photos. Taken at the entrance to Grandfather’s barbershop (best guess as to location). Circa 1917.

This “then and now” project was only partially successful as I did not consider many things:

  1. Other very successful “then and now” recreations by professionals primarily had one thing in their backgrounds that I did not: a building.  I overlooked that fact.  The Fujii Hotel was torn down with only a park left in its place, e.g., there were no windows or doors to line up the old photos with.  For the most part, that made for difficulty in guessing/placing from where the photos from the mid-1910s to the 1920s were taken.
  2. I did not consider the fact that the buildings on this street 100 years ago were built on a hill, i.e., all were built upon a concrete base that was taller at the west end compared to the east end.
  3. Because of the number of cars parked curbside, I had to resort to wide angle shots.  By doing so, perspective in comparison to the original would not be correct.
  4. There were a few homeless at the park who clearly did not want their picture taken.  As my two kids were with me, that became a hurdle.
  5. I did not take into account the time of day (shade).
  6. I did not anticipate the construction nor the large trucks, garbage cans and trees blocking the view.
  7. I misjudged the position from where I took the photographs, affecting perspective and angle.  I should have been ten more yards east for a few of the images.  Too late now.

I also realized that there were no pictures of Uncle Yutaka nor Aunt Michie at the Hotel Fujii.  Uncle Yutaka had likely already been in Japan (1913) by the time these old family photos were taken.  Aunt Michie, of course, was the only sibling not born in Seattle but rather in Hiroshima.

c-10-327
Uncle Yutaka and Aunt Michie, taken circa 1918 in Hiroshima.

A lot was learned.

I only wish I had gained the experience before undertaking this family project.  I do hope my cousins and children will still find these images interesting if not to merely appreciate our family photos from “100 years ago”.

_____________________________

NOTES:

1.  Grandfather (back to camera in center) camping on Mt. Rainier and Mr. Fujii’s 1913 Chevrolet Six:

1913 Chevrolet Classic Six - Retouched

2. King and Maynard today:

18602648003_4b41a9b559_k
The current store “Gossip” behind my kids was a butcher shop in the 1910s/1920s per my father.

3. The northeast corner of King and Maynard, taken June 25, 2015.  The building still stands as it was 100 years ago.

https://www.flickr.com/gp/p47koji/NcY4S9

4. Hing Hay Park where Hotel Fujii once stood; taken from across the street.  My guess is the barbershop entrance was behind the green car.

hing hay
At the corner was a small grocery store. To its left was Hotel Fujii. Taken June 25, 2015.

Thievery in Seattle


image

My two littlest and I are wrapping up a four night visit to Seattle, my dad’s hometown. We head back tomorrow.

I had hoped to take a number of photos during the trip… but thievery occurred on the first day. While Jack had brought along my backup Canon DSLR to use, a thief absconded with my primary Canon camera on the first day.

Fortunately, with my last resort – my cameraphone – I snapped a photo of the thief, caught red-handed with the goods in her hands:

image

Yes, it was my Little Cake Boss Diva. I felt so bad turning her over to my good friend Trooper Gar of the Washington State Patrol… but he was kind enough to allow her to be released back into the custody of her old man.

But indeed, she took control of my camera over the four days. Of course, just like when I escort her to the mall, I end up merely being her porter, lugging around her camera when there is nothing for her to shoot.

image

image

But I had one personal goal: to visit my dad’s old Seattle neighborhood for the first time, children be willing.  I wanted to put together a “100 Year Family Photo Anniversary and Recreation” of sorts.

Dad and all his siblings (except Aunt Michie) were born in Seattle between 1910 and 1925 then raised in the Hotel Fujii at 620 S. King Street.  The hotel is no longer standing, having been replaced with the Hing Hay Park on the very corner Dad frequently mentioned: King and Maynard.

11050683_1667370940145421_6357704840049594108_n
Circa 1925 on the corner of King and Maynard in Seattle. Dad second from left, then Uncle Suetaro standing in front of Grandmother Kono.
1658372_1667371050145410_427184670763728117_o
Taken June 25, 2015 at same corner. The brick building behind them had a butcher shop 100 years ago according to my father.

While this will be my very first try at recreating, the final images will hopefully be superimposed upon one another to show the then and now.  I can’t do the superimposing here at the hotel as my tablet doesn’t have the necessary editing software; the two stand alone images above will have to do for now . The color photograph of my two kids above are straight out of the  camera.

Coincidentally, at the end of our “Underground Seattle Tour” and in the gift shop, we came across “Lost Seattle”, the book in which my grandfather’s barbershop photo was featured.

11224773_1667407330141782_7408692515649901936_n

We thought that was pretty cool.

Short Stories about World War II. One war. Two Countries. One Family

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 601 other followers