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Kelly goes

Tokyo Travel Blog

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Hand dryer in bathroom. And, yes, it works *much* better than blowdryers in US bathrooms.

I swear, this is my last e-mail today. I'll wait to send the next one till tomorrow morning (my time) / Wednesday evening (your time). :)

 

Yesterday I made a special pilgrimage to Tachikawa. That is either a neighborhood west of the city center or a suburb west of the city center. I can't tell.

 

But I do know it was almost an hour to get there by train, even on an express train. It's a good bit out west.

 

Why would I make this pilgrimage?  There are no tourist sites and it is not mentioned in the guidebooks I have. However, it does have one distinction (to me, anyways):  it's where I was born.

 

Up until some time in the late 70s or early 80s, there was a US Air Force base there -- Tachikawa Air Force Base. My parents were stationed here in Japan from 1958 - 1961. Tachikawa is where the hospital was. In fact, my sister Lisa would have been born there too but my parents returned to the US about 6 weeks before she was born.

 

(My mom says she lied about how pregnant she was so they would let her fly.)

 

For some reason, I expected Tachikawa to be a quiet little non-descript place. The metro station, however, is huge. It's a big transfer place for a number of train and metro lines. There are tons of little shops and at least two large department stores are attached to the station. When I exited the station, I could stay on the plaza and walkways above the street for quite some way or descend to the very busy main street below.

 

I know the base no longer exists. In the mid-80s, I came across a random news photo in the Chicago Tribune noting a ceremony where the US officially returned the land where the hospital had stood. The Japanese were converting it to a park.

 

I have no idea where in Tachikawa that park is. However, an area map at the station showed a very large park -- several city blocks -- nearby so I started there.

 

It may well have been where the base was.

 

For one thing, a base has a good-sized footprint, larger than your average park in Tokyo. This park was big. Bigger than any other park I've seen that didn't include an athletic field.

 

For another thing, the park was closed to the public. It contained a police barracks, some kind of disaster response / evacuation area / etc. There is a logic that says converting a former military base to civilian law enforcement and government agency is a simple conversion.

 

There was a hospital immediately adjacent to it. I thought I remembered the news photo I had seen implying that the hospital had been torn down, though I can't precisely say. 

 

This is just a note of whimsy, but outside one of the gates there was a poster encouraging young people to enlist in the ... air force. No correlation I'm sure but, hey, it could be a sign!

 

Finally, the area was dull, dull, dull. If you've spent any time around US military bases, they are not visually exciting or alluring places. "Military architecture" is almost an oxymoron.

 

Military bases may be tidy but they are, above all, utilitarian. They are not meant to store memories and you are not meant to leave any part of yourself behind, unlike a private home. They are places to be passed through and everything about their appearance and they way they are designed emphasizes this.

 

So, I have decided that this park is the place. Maybe if I find myself in Chicago again, I will go into the Tribune and see if I can't find the photo to get more details, but for now I'll call it done.

 

I had some trepidation about going. As though I were going to encounter something dramatic. In fact, I think the anxiousness is about going back in time. The vast majority of places we lived when I was growing up are places we have never been back to. Once we left a place, we had no claim on it or attachment to it. It was history, almost as though my own childhood were ancient history.

 

The thing about your childhood is that it's never really ancient history. You may leave a place but you never leave the experiences or the memories. They formed you and they always remain a part of you.

 

I've made a point to go back and visit most of the places we lived when my travels took me near them. The only places remaining were Leesville, LA and Tachikawa. I always assumed I'd get back to Louisiana before Japan but life has a way of surprising you.

 

So, this was satisfying to me. One of those "closing the loop" kind of experiences. I have little to show for it, other than my own pleasure and that is enough.

 

Tomorrow:  random observations about Tokyo

 

Till then, thank you for indulging me.

 

Sayonara,

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Hand dryer in bathroom.  And, yes,…
Hand dryer in bathroom. And, yes…
Tokyo
photo by: maka77