Archival Pix, Part 2

During my senior year at UC Irvine (1981-82), I volunteered to teach English to students from overseas (having just been overseas myself on the Education Abroad Program during my junior year). I became friends with Satoshi Miyake and Takeshi Tajima who were in that program, and eventually helped them become students at Riverside City College. Some four years later, after two teaching at Hamilton High, I thought I would embark on an extended world tour and wanted to start in Japan. (As it turned out, after six months I came home, reprioritized, got a Masters at UCLA, and eventually got back into teaching.)

Nonetheless, Satoshi and Takeshi were a great help as I explored, then lived and worked in Japan. First, I traveled the country, as far north as Hokkaido and as far south as Hiroshima. I stayed in youth hostels, met a lot of kind people, and saw several sites in that amazing country. Satoshi provided me access to his company’s apartment in Tokyo, near the Tsukiji fish market, not far from the Ginza. I eventually became pretty good friends with the guy who ran the Riverside Restaurant across the street, Akira and his crew of friends.

Eventually, I got a job starting up the Utsunomiya American Club, more of a conversation lounge than a school, but a gig. I had a little apartment there in Utsunomiya (Tochigi-ken) and made friends with the little expatriate community. I even wrote a couple of articles in “The Gaijin Rag,” an informal expat periodical. It was there that I met Mark Votier, a Brit who liked the comedy jazz music I’d picked up from a motorcyclist at a hostel in Hokkaido – Hana Hajime and Ueki Hitoshi. It was a nice community, but I often went back to Tokyo to explore that city – Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ginza, etc. With various friends I explored other areas, like Mount Fuji, Nikko, etc.

After spending a cold and lonely Christmas there, and perhaps intimidated by the prospect of perpetual globetrotting, I decided to come home and start life again. Before that however, I had a great ending to my stay in Japan and a wonderful visit to the Philippines on the way back to California…

Mark Votier had auditioned for the Gaijin Karaoke contest with one of those funny songs, but they wanted a group, so myself and another American accompanied him on primetime TV Tokyo. It was a great experience rehearsing and taping the show, meeting people from all over the work, and amazingly, winning the Friendship Prize (probably based on being nice & having fun, certainly not musical talent)! Aaaand, the famous Kent Derricott came on stage with us for part of our performance (probably to cover for our lousy dancing).

Around the same time, Akira Gunji, owner of the Riverside Restaurant and a big Sumo fan, invited me to a Sumo tournament. Not only did we get great seats because he was also friends with Fuji Hikari, an up & coming Sumo wrestler, but we got to go to his “stable” which was also that of Chiyonofuji, the Grand Champion of all Japan at the time. Not only did I get to eat “chankonabe” with actual Sumo wresters, the great Chiyonofuji aknowledged my presence – if only for a second. (Perhaps a more rare opportunity than appearing on Japanese TV for gaijin like me).

Earlier, back in LA, I had rented the house of Jim Casey who had been the sculptor on the set of Apocalypse Now. He had done the sculptures reminiscent of Angkor Wat and had eventually married his model, Neri. Through her, I had a connection in the Philippines, serendipitously close to the Aquino family. A year before, Ferdinand Marcos had nefariously usurped the election featuring Corazon Aquino, the widow of Benigno Aquino and leader of the Laban Party. Subsequently, a bloodless coup had overthrown Marcos, and the people had occupied Malacañang Palace. One of my purposes in going to the Philippines was to witness the plebiscite election of Cory Aquino, which I did.

Earlier, back in Tokyo, when I had to renew my tourist visa, I happenstancedly met a guy named Rhandy Yasis. Not only did we have the same name, we were the same age, and had a few other things in common. Later, when I showed up at his door in Quezon City, it took him awhile to recognize me, but once he did I was embraced like a long lost relative (not the random stranger I’d been in the immigration office). Not only did we hang out singing songs with a few San Miguels more than once, he took me up to Bataan & Pampanga for a family visit. We had a traditional Philippine feast and went to the cockfights. (More on the Death March of Bataan and my would-be-Uncle Ed another time.)

As usual, each batch is a mélange. Maps & me, Takeshi & Satoshi, the Great Buddha of Kamakura & a Shinto shrine, my Japan Rail Pass, etc., the guy in blue turned me on to Ueki Hitosi & Hana Hajime, shots at the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, good times on Manabe island & with Satoshi’s family, shop windows, ads, and other miscellany…

Much randomness: Video, Kyoto, Tokyo, photo album pages. Ultraman, business cards, Tsukiji fish market, etc…

Sumo! Akira & friends from the Riverside Restaurant. The Utsunomiya American Club crew. The “ghost house” and some art. The Gaijin Karaoke (Foreigners Singing) Contest, primetime Sunday night, TV Tokyo channel 10. Mo sumo! Featuring Fuji Hikari, George my boss, and some randomness…

A painting by my artistic friend Rosemary from Canada, Satoshi & Takeshi, a visit to Nikko, Neuromancer in paperback, winter in Tokyo, and a farewell party at the Utsunomiya American Club.

Many rich experiences in the Philippines: Rhandy Yasis’s home in Quezon City, then up in Pampanga & Bataan. Old town Manila and the plebiscite election of Corazon Aquino. Jeepneys & carts! Buffalo, basketball & bananas! Nursing school sculpture, family dinner, and cock fights…

I had moved to Japan in the summer of 1986, but by January I was in the Philippines, and by February I was back in California. Many fond memories – everything counts!

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