Pat Paul, who is half Japanese and spent time in Yokohama, wrote me a lovely letter in response to my book and agreed to let me share it here:
Yokohama Yankee was a fascinating book. I share your experience in being of mixed blood with a bi-cultural upbringing. The story of your family is much more epic and historical than mine, yet I can still relate to it on a few levels. Born in Indiana in 1958, the son of a US Navy captain and his Japanese wife, I was soon sailing for Yokohama with my family aboard the Hikawa Maru. My father was born in Los Angeles, mother in Yokohama, brother in Tokyo and my sister here in Seattle. My parents separated, leaving me with my mother in Yokohama. My father, brother and sister returned to live in the San Juan Islands.
My mother and I returned to Seattle in 1963 as my fathers health was failing, he had purchased a house in Wallingford at this time. My father passed away in 1965, leaving a young widow who spoke little English and her children who spoke little Japanese. During his time in Japan after the war, my father was C.O. of Opama Naval Air Base and worked with local businessman in some sort of capacity with the Occupation. He loved Japan and its people, we were his second set of children, the first being American. I have many old photographs of him at various swanky affairs surrounded by well-dressed business types and attractive young women, he always is the guest of honor. Funny thing is I really don’t know exactly what he did but he sure seemed to be enjoying himself.
In 1969 my mother announced that we were moving to Yokohama for an unspecified amount of time. It had been my fathers wish that we experience our Japanese side. We were not at all happy with this but my mom is headstrong, so we did not argue. This time we took passage on the Oronsay, a P&O liner and sailed back to Japan, disembarking at Osanbashi on a gloomy grey day in October, 1969. I attended Y.I.S. for the 6th grade. Mr Glass was the headmaster and my main teacher was an arrogant young Englishman named Mr French of all things. Ms Chatainville was our French language teacher, she was horrible. I played cricket at YCAC and was there for a private screening of “Yellow Submarine”. It was the genteel life of the well heeled diplomat-business core of which we were not a part of. We lived near Negishi Eki in
Isogo in a very Japanese neighborhood. The gaki would follow me around crying “Gaijin” or “Kureji Boy” (crazy boy) I got used to it. I transferred to St Josephs for 6th and 7th grade. My brother also went there and my sister was at St Maurs. My stomping grounds were mainly Honmoku, Kannai, Motomachi and of course, the Bluff. There were great little excursions with my mates to Zushi, Kamakura and into Tokyo where I had my first Big Mac at the original
McDonalds In Ginza, heaven! Although my dad was Navy, I did not hang out with the American military kids, they were rough and mean-spirited. Being American and having that fixed exchange rate made for a life of entitlement and adventure. We grew up fast and found that the freedoms were many. I would imagine that growing up Stateside would have been boring by comparison. We went to Expo 70 and even got to see Utaemon in the Grand Kabuki in Osaka.
You touch many times on the struggles and challenges of being of mixed blood. I know how it feels to have one foot firmly embedded in either culture, yet never both at once, that is impossible. Seattle is a great place to be for a person of mixed blood, yet that is not to say that racism does not exist here, and it certainly exists in Japan.
We returned to Seattle in 1972. My sister and I enrolled at Blanchet, my brother joined the Army. I transferred out in my junior year partly because of waspish attitudes and “good natured” racism. The friends that I had before leaving America in 1969 were like strangers to me now. I did not understand their attitudes or outlook on life. They seemed immature and unworldly, perhaps that was me being arrogant at a tender age?
My mother knew there would be problems for her kids in this respect. She told me to never be ashamed of my Japaneseness, to always be proud of of her and my father.
And so on through life it went that I was proud of my Japanese heritage, while being a proud American at the same time, never did I consider this a contradiction.
It has not always been so clear cut. I returned to Japan in 1986 to rediscover my Japaneseness with the thought of living and working there for a spell. I came back feeling certain that it was impossible to adapt to their lifestyle. Things had changed. I was critical of the lack of individualism, the hollow soulness, the rampant adoption of vapid and meaningless Western fads. What happened to yukata and geta in the summertime? The contrived pop culture and American fast food restaurants made me feel that Japan was losing its way, it was sad.
But my quest for Japaneseness continued here in Seattle. I enrolled at the University of Washington, Jackson School of International Studies. I was, of course, in the East Asia program with special interest in post WWII Japanese Politics. I felt it important to study about that time, mainly because of my fathers involvement with it, maybe it would shed some light on exactly what he did, such a mystery to me. You mentioned Susan Hanley in your acknowledgements, she was my counselor and had a lot to do with my application process. I also had her twice as an instructor for history classes as she was the worlds authority on the Tokugawa Era, great person. Reading material that was recently declassified, I discovered that the Occupation was more one-sided than previously thought. I became more sympathetic to the Japanese side.
So now that I am on the verge of being “jiji”, as my Edo-ko friends like to call me, I find that making my bed becomes less important. What is important is to continue being a well entrenched Seattleite that makes trips to Japan periodically. I can’t answer all the questions within me about the dualistic nature of my being, do not know if it even matters. What matters now is to enjoy the passage back and forth because I still love Japan. I feel fortunate to have the love and appreciation for a country and people so complex, paradoxical, insecure yet so beautiful, symbolic and rich in tradition and history.
Thank you for putting your perspective on the Yokohama Yankee personage. There are many of us who have straddled the Pacific with their own stories to tell.
Your book puts a stamp of legitimacy on my experience and certainly that of others.
I am a chef. I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1997. While there I had the opportunity to live and work in New York City. It was
a fabulous experience. I returned to Seattle and worked for Lowell-Hunt Catering for 5 years then moved to Sonoma County, CA where I worked in wine sales and
catered many events at wineries in both Napa and Sonoma Counties.
In 2003 I flew to Japan to visit my CIA buddies that had opened a restaurant in Azabu-Juban, near the Mori Tower.It was quite a rush cooking
in their busy little restaurant, then going out after work to drink and eat. Sushi at Tsukiji at 6:00a.m. with sake and beer, then off to work we went, what a blast! I returned
6 months later to do it again, very keen on picking up everything they were doing food-wise.
In 2004 I bought the Maple Leaf Grill, a neighborhood joint near Northgate. I operated as chef-owner for a little over 10 years. It was a great experience up until 2008,
when things began to unravel due to the economy. I stuck it out until the lease expired, then got the hell out of there. I have to mention my mother here, as much as
she can be outspoken about my shortcomings or errant ways, she was an absolute rock during the down years, an unfailing means of support and back-up. She, unlike a lot
of her race, is quite outspoken and says exactly what is on her mind. At 84, she continues in this way.
I took a position with Farestart, a vocational job training program for underpriviliged adults, as chef-instructor in September 2014. It was a job like no other. The interaction
with the students was most fulfilling and meaningful. I left Farestart after one year and traveled a bit, cruising the British Columbian San Juans with my brother and his wife
then off to Japan with my sister, her husband, their son and mom, three generations. We visited Sapporo for the first time, then to Yokohama and Ito City to relax onsen style.
Currently I am preparing for opening a cooking school in Bellevue. My job is to basically run the kitchen, teach classes and assist incoming chefs. I have been busy the
past couple of months writing menus, developing curriculum and testing recipes. I have to say that the “Izakaya” menu was a hit! The chawan-mushi impressed all.
Being back in Japan last Fall was a gastronomic reawakening of the senses. I returned with a new raison d’etre, to delve completely into Japanese cookery. To that end
I have immersed my self in reading cookbooks by Shizuo Tsuji, who is the “Escoffier” of Japanese cuisine. His writings on technique, history and “making it your own” are
invaluable to anyone in this pursuit. And so now I am at Uwajimaya 6-8 times a month, Japan continues to have that hold on me.
The name of the cooking school is Whisk. The website just went active and we are scheduling our first classes for Jan 31.