Barbara’s Story

The  Story  Of  My  Life

For my grand-children, with all my love. Babachan

I would like to tell you  about my childhood and life in Japan, and I will try to get as far with this as I can.

Part One

My parents left Germany in 1923, not long after the first World War. My father had graduated with a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Berlin, where Einstein had been one of his professors. It was the time of the great inflation, and my father could not find a job. He wanted to become a professor of philosophy, but in those days you had to start by getting paid by the students who were attending your lectures, and that was not enough to live on. However, once, when he was giving private lessons in Greek and Latin to two Japanese junior college teachers, he found he could get a teaching job in Japan. Now my parents could get married.

My grandmother, Mother’s mother, Anne Hebting, nee Binswanger, was very worried about her daughter Annelise. She was afraid that she would have an unhappy life with a husband who had no money and was nearly blind (my father had a severe infection in his eyes when he was quite young – he said he remembered lying in bed with compresses on his eyes). He had macular degeneration all his life after that, and he has always had to read with glasses and a magnifying glass. (One of my vivid childhood memories is of my parents sitting at the breakfast table and my mother reading the newspaper headlines to my father – when there was something in which he was interested he would interrupt her and she would read that article to him.) So my grandmother went to her brother Ludwig Binswanger, a psychiatrist who owned and ran the Sanatorium Bellevue in Switzerland, for help. But Onkel Joy (Dr. Binswanger) assured her that my mother would be made much unhappier by not being allowed to marry Robert, than what she might experience in far-away Japan with him. So my parents left Germany in 1923 for Opa to teach German at a Japanese junior college, the Osaka Kotogakko. The school paid for my parents’ fare on a steamer going from Amsterdam to Japan.  My parents arrived in Kobe harbor the day after the big, destructive earthquake in Yokohama, and Kobe was full of people who had fled from Yokohama and Tokyo.

The principal of the School met my parents at the ship and brought them to a small house outside of Osaka. (The houses meant for the American and the German Professor were not yet finished.) This small house stood among rice-fields, and   their neighbor was introduced to them; he said he lived nearby, and since his house was connected to their house by a bell, they could always call him for help. One day, when my parents came home from work, they found the man’s house surrounded by police. At night he had been going out, robbing the neighborhood. Later we moved to  the house which had been built for us in Osaka. I have many vivid memories of that house where we lived for so many years.

I was born on August  28, 1924. I have tried to visualize what happened at the time of my birth. I was born in Karuizawa, ( a summer resort in the mountains  popular with many foreigners) in a nursing home, or small hospital, run by Dr. Munroe, the Ainu expert, and his Japanese wife. I am told it was at the time of Obon, the Buddhist summer festival. I can imagine my mother lying in her hospital bed, enduring the birth pains, while nearby the big drums were beaten all day long, and the music for the Bonodori dances was blaring from loudspeakers; maybe that’s why I am not bothered by noise and excitement. My parents’  trip from Osaka to Karuizawa, an overnight trip, can’t have been very comfortable for my poor mother. She must have been in her last months of pregnancy.  Mrs. Baerwald, Hans’s mother, told me many years later that I was born prematurely, and that she, having been a nurse, helped my mother in the hospital and managed to get some diapers and baby clothes for me. I wish I had asked Mrs. Baerwald more about details, since I had no idea I had been born prematurely.

That first trip on the train from Kobe to Karuizawa must have been uncomfortable for my mother. But the future trips, which I can remember well, were always an adventure. They  were always overnight trips and we slept in two small compartments with two bunkbeds each, one above and one below, facing each other. Very vivid is the memory of my mother taking out a thermos and pouring cups of freshly squeezed lemonade for us. A rare and special treat. The next day, when the train stopped in Takasaki to add another engine for the steep uphill ride to Karuizawa, we bought unagi domburi (grilled eel on rice) at the station. Takasaki was famous for its unagi domburi, and I have loved it ever since.  The trip into the mountains and to Karuizawa, was steep and slow, and I remember sticking my head out of the window and getting all sooty (they still had steam engines in those days.) The train labored slowly uphill, and I remember once actually sitting on the steps to the carriage and having an unobstructed view from there of the mountainsides through which the train was taking us. Many years later, during our prolonged stay in Karuizawa because of the war, a group of us rode our bikes down that winding road – which constantly crisscrossed the tracks – to Takasaki. It was fun flying around the curves on our bikes. Where the train went straight up, the road curved gently.

There are only a few photos of my first days in Karuizawa, but there are, if I can find them, photos of the house where I lived with my parents until  we moved to Osaka. I don’t know why we lived in that small Japanese house in Funao, since my father was teaching in Osaka, but I gather it was not very far from the school, and I think the two Western-style houses which the school was building for us and the teacher for English, Mr. Parker and his family, were not yet finished. This house in Funao stood among rice fields and had only one neighbor. When my parents rented the house they were told that they would be very safe since their house was connected to the neighbor’s house by a bell which they could ring in case of danger. One day, when they returned from teaching, they saw the neighbor’s house surrounded by police: it turned out that he had spent his nights robbing people in the area!

My brother Roland, who was two years younger than I, was born in the house where we lived at that time. It was a Western style house, which the school had built for us; it was in a suburb of Osaka called Sumiyoshi-ku. Osaka, even then, was a big, bustling city. There was constant building, rebuilding, and road repairs going on so that one day I asked “Is Osaka ever going to be finished?”

Japanese houses have straw mats, called “Tatami”, in their rooms. Our house had only one tatami room; our Japanese maid lived there. The other rooms had wooden floors. The maid was called by name if she was young, and obasan when she was old. Obasan (Grandma or Auntie, depending on the pronunciation), looked after me and my brother, and we learned how to speak Japanese from her. Later, still in Osaka, we had a young maid called Rinko-san, and I remember her. (I remember her particularly well, because during WWII, when Roland I were bicycling in Karuizawa to visit farmers to ask if we could trade clothes for food, we happened to meet by chance and recognized each other immediately.

My father had his study upstairs. There were two big bookcases filled with books in that room. I spent a great deal of time reading there. Next to that room was the room my brother and I shared; in front of that room there was a balcony from which my brother and I could climb onto the roof. We loved to look down onto the street and we saw the people looking up at us as if we were crazy! My parents’ bedroom was a small room just above the stairway that went upstairs. My mother’s ‘study’ was downstairs in a narrow verandah in front of the living room, facing the garden. She had a desk there, and I remember her sitting there often to write letters to her family in Germany.(Years later my father told me how homesick my mother had been for her family in Germany.) My brother and I were allowed to play in the verandah. From there we could also go into the garden.     When I was young, I was often sick, and if I had a fever, the doctor came to the house. He always came in a “Rickshaw” (short for Jinricksha), a small carriage with two big wheels, which is pulled by a man who runs through the streets with it. While the doctor was in the house, the rickshaw-man sat waiting in the entrance way and Rinko-san would bring him a cup of hot Japanese tea. When I did not have a high fever, we would go to the Red Cross hospital in town, which was a very crowded, big building. I saw young people, old people, mothers with their babies on their backs (you could only see the babies’ tiny heads, because the mothers wore padded, wide kimonos over the babies and themselves to keep the baby warm), old and young people. Everybody sat on crowded benches, waiting for the doctor to see them.

When I was young, I went to a Japanese kindergarten. I remember that Obasan had to go with me to the kindergarten, because it was far away, and we had to ride a small train to get there. My parents told me that I had to pass an entrance “examination ” to get into the kindergarten. (Did I have to draw something?) When I was old enough to go to school, my parents taught me at home. Later we had a German governess, Angela, who taught my brother and me, also at home. Angela was wonderful. She pretended that there were other children in my class and she would call them by name. She taught us many things. We made things from wood, or paper, or cloth. We made a big mural by cutting up colored paper to paste on the mural to make a castle, animals, and trees and flowers. She also made up a story about a girl called Annemarie, and that story went on for many years. She could make dolls and even picture books. She made a dollhouse for me from an orange crate and put in it furniture made of match boxes. I loved it. She also took an old folding screen with two panels, cut windows in it, and covered it with wallpaper. If you stood the screen facing a corner, you had a big playhouse with two windows. Then she met a young Englishman who lived in the neighborhood. I think he was the Harold Evans who later married Angela.

Our neighbor was an American who taught English at the school where my father taught German. He and his family lived in a house just like ours. But where we had a flower garden, they had a big lawn with a swing on it that could seat four children. We often played there. He had a daughter called June. June was just ten months younger, and we called each other sisters. It was wonderful to have a sister, but June was also my best friend. My other playmates were all Japanese. I learned many songs and games from them. With June I spoke English, with my playmates and Rinkosan I spoke Japanese, and with my parents, Angela and my brother I spoke German. Actually my English lessons started when Angela met Harold Evans, who came to the house to see her, and would take me on his lap and read “Peter Rabbit” and other Stories to me. Several years later they got married and finally ended up in Australia.

It was a wonderful life, I had nothing to worry about and I had a loving family and happy friends, I lived in a nice house with a lovely garden. We had a swing, metal bars and a slide in the garden. Our house was near open fields, where we could play, and we could ride our bicycles through-out the neighborhood. We also had a sandbox where we often played. On weekends or holidays our parents would take us on outings. We would go to a temple near our house, where we visited the white temple horse which stood in a small enclosed area, and we tried to cross a steep, rounded bridge. Or we would go to a small lake where we rented a rowboat, and our parents taught us how to row. Sometimes we would take a train to the mountains and go hiking. We had a picnic lunch and stopped at a Japanese teahouse where we sat on wooden benches (some of them covered with a bright red cloth) and drank lemonade from a bottle with a marble stopper inside. To drink from the bottle, you had to push the marble into the bottle. In the evenings we often played games with our parents, or our mother would play the piano, and we would all sing together. My brother didn’t like the singing so much, and I often saw him yawning. Maybe he was just tired from playing outside all day. I do remember that, playing cards with our parents, I could see what cards my father had, because he was holding his cards close to his weak eyes and I could see the cards reflected in his glasses.

In the early years June and I played together every day, and most of the time Roland played with us. But when June was old enough to go to school, her father rented a house in Kobe, where June and her mother lived while June went to school. She often came home for the weekends, but I was never sure if she would come, so I made myself a small altar where I would pray that June would come – sometimes God would hear my prayers! Once I was invited to spend a few days at the Parkers’ house in Kobe, and I was allowed to go to school with June. Being in a classroom with many English-speaking children was a new and exciting experience for me. Luckily I had no trouble understanding and speaking English.

Christmas was always very special. For a few days before Christmas one room would be locked. We knew that the Christ child and the angels were getting the room ready for Christmas. Once I looked through the keyhole and saw an angel fly through the room with a present in its hand!  (Another time my mother wanted to sit on my bed to say good night, but I said she couldn’t sit there, because an angel was already sitting there!)

On Christmas Eve, my brother and I would sit with our father in the darkened living room and wait; often June would be there, too, because in her family, they celebrated Christmas Day. Suddenly a little bell would ring, and the doors to the dining room would open. In the dark room stood the Christmas tree,  glowing with white, burning candles. Heavy tinsel decorated the branches and shimmered in the candle light. Golden balls, red apples, cookies and chocolate pine cones hung from the branches. We were not allowed to go near until we had sung several Christmas carols. Roland and I would be looking around to see our presents. Everyone had his own spot on which the presents were laid out, unwrapped. There also was a plate of special Christmas cookies for each of us. (These cookies were made a few weeks before Christmas, and I was allowed to help my mother make them.) When we were through singing, Roland and I would rush up to our presents to see what the Christkind (Christ child) had brought us. After playing for a while with our new toys, we all had Christmas dinner together.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         KARUIZAWA

When I was young, we used to spend the summers in a place called Karuizawa, where many foreigners went to get away from the hot cities. Karuizawa, where I was born the summer of l924,  had many beautiful, tall fir trees and big houses that stood in the shade of these trees. It rained often, and it was green everywhere. The stones were covered with moss, and there were many ferns. Karuizawa is on a high plateau, and there were hills and mountains all around it. There were hot springs and beautiful waterfalls in the area. There was a place called “Sunset Point”, which you could reach by walking up a mountain for about one or two hours. From there you could watch the sun set over Karuizawa and the surrounding hills and mountains. There was also a volcano which erupted sometimes and ashes would fall around us. Once, as a child, when I was lying on the grass by the house, I felt the earth shake lightly and within seconds the mountain erupted, and ashes fell around me. When I was older, I climbed this Mt. Asama. It was a bit scary, because I was afraid it might blow up, but we were told that the scientists could tell when it would erupt, and then the mountain was closed to climbers. We went on many hikes, played with our friends, went swimming in a cold pool. When the weather was nice, we would have tea in an open area in front of the house; a table and chairs were brought out, and the table was set beautifully. Often our parents’ friends came to tea. On my birthday our father and Angela would put on a “Kasperle Theater” (Punch and Judy show) with puppets made by Angela. The puppets had heads carved out of potatoes. I will never forget these birthdays. I also remember when my brother and I were little and how we used to love to squat under one of the big Japanese paper umbrellas, that smelled so wonderfully of waxed paper; we would squat there and listen to the patter of the rain on the paper and smell the fresh smell of the wet earth and the trees; we must have been very little to have fit under one umbrella! Except for two summers which we spent at Lake Nojiri, two summers spent in Takayama near Matsushima and Sendai, where father taught at the University for one year, and the two summers we spent in Germany, we spent every summer in Karuizawa until the end of the war. June and her family spent their summers in Nojiri, so we were only able to spend two summers together.


When I was five, when my parents had been in Japan for six years, in 1929, we went back to Germany to visit our grandparents, uncles and aunts, and  our cousins, all of whom we had never met. We took a train to the big port city Shimonoseki from where we took a ship to Vladivostok in Russia. Our friend Kazuko Araki was going to Germany to study piano under Arthur Schnabel. Her father wanted her to have a comfortable trip so he paid for all of us to travel first class on the train to Shimonoseki, and I have a vague memory of the comforts of first class travel. In Vladivostok we got on the trans-Siberian railroad, which took two weeks to travel through Siberia to Moscow. All I remember of that trip are big planes, covered with meadows and many trees and a few houses. In the station restaurant in Moscow I saw man eating peas with a knife. He somehow managed to get a row of peas on his knife and then slid them into his mouth without cutting himself! From Moscow we took the train to Berlin, which was the capital of Germany. My father told me later that I asked him: “Where is the gate to Germany?”

It was wonderful to spend a holiday with our relatives. Since I was only five, I don’t remember so much about the trip. I do remember spending some time by a beautiful lake in Switzerland, and playing with a little girl called Peterle, with whom I had played in Japan. ( When I learned the Christmas carol “Ihr Kinderlein kommet…” I thought that the part  “Zur Krippe her kommet in Bethlehems Stall” went “Come to the crib in Peterle’s Stall (stable)”! ) My mother’s parents were there, too, and I loved my Grosspapa for allowing me to have sugar on my salad, because I hated salad. I also remember going to a kindergarten somewhere, maybe in Heidelberg where Grossmama and Grosspapa lived. We had little lunch boxes in which we took fruit to school, and I learned to love pears, which we could not get in Japan in those days. I also remember visiting somebody’s house, and the little boy there spitting at me. I was very upset, and couldn’t understand why he would do that. One day we took a walk with an old, white haired aunt, and I am told that I looked at her and said “You’re going to be an angel soon, aren’t you?” and I wonder whether I upset her.

It was at that time that my parents met Angela Lepsius and decided to ask her to be our governess. I often thought, later, how hard it must have been for her, and how courageous she must have been to leave her family, her country and, at 21, to go with strange people to a far away, strange country. She went back to Japan with us, again by train through Siberia. We brought much food along and usually ate in our compartment on the train. I remember one man on this trip, who had such a big belly, that I thought he should have some support on wheels for it. I am told that Roland and I learned some Russian, but I certainly don’t remember that. After we got back from Germany, and were back in Osaka, June and I continued our friendship. Angela met a young Englishman who used to come and visit, and my parents asked him to teach me English. He used to take me on his lap and read “The Tales of Peter Rabbit” with me. June and I spoke a mixture of English, German and Japanese, and it wasn’t till June came back from a year in America in 1932 that we spoke only English together; but by then she was in second grade and I must have been in third grade, but being taught at home. June’s parents rented a house in Kobe so that June could go to the “Canadian Academy” there. Her father kept the house in Osaka, because he was teaching there, and June and her mother would often come home on weekends. I set up a small altar at which I always prayed to make sure that she would come home! One day a friend of mine said: “you can’t always ask God for things. You also have to thank him!” That I did religiously after that! Once, I spent a few days with her in Kobe, and I remember going to school with her. It was a very exciting experience.

Roland and I were taught by Angela. She was a great teacher, and did many art projects with us. During class she would pretend that there were other pupils, too, even giving them names. From the time that Angela came to us, till we moved to Kobe, she would tell me a continuous story about a girl called Annemarie. Even after she moved into her little house in Ashiya – and  I stayed with her  during our move from Osaka to Kobe – she continued the story.


When I was nine, my parents decided that Roland and I should go to the German school in Kobe, a city near Osaka. So we moved to a nice house in Kobe, and my father had to take the train to Osaka every day, and Roland and I had to take a bus to get to school. After my mother had taken us there once, she asked us if we thought we could find the way there alone. I was sure I could, and my mother sent us off. Unfortunately I made Roland get off with me at the wrong bus-stop. We got terribly lost, but luckily we found our way home again, but without having found the school. The next time Mother went with us once more, and from then on we found our way.

The new house was a Japanese house with tatami in every room, except for one room which had a wooden floor. That became my room, and in it stood the piano. My mother started giving me piano lessons, and I enjoyed them and tried playing songs. But I never practiced enough to learn much more and now I am sorry that I didn’t. The house was built on a hill, on three levels. It was entered on the street level. In the bottom was a big empty room with a big platform . Roland and I used that platform to play theater. At the bottom of the hill there was a brook running over some rocks, where we played “Swiss Mountain Guide” or “Germanic Cave Dwellers”. In Roland’s room, which had Tatami, we played “Japanese Family”. And on the balcony, with its railing, we played “Sailors”.

Angela had moved into a small house in Ashiya, a few stations by train away from us, not far from the ocean. She was doing hand weaving and selling the beautiful things she made. Once, while I visited her, during our move to Kobe, there was a “typhoon”, a big storm, in the middle of the night. Because her house was so little, the bigger houses around her protected us from the wind. But the next day we found out that the fishing boats were in the middle of the streets, and in our house in Osaka some tiles had been blown off the roof and through a window into our parents’ bedroom. Later, Angela got married to Harold Wakefield, an Englishman whom she had met in Karuizawa. The wedding was in our new house, and we had a Russian woman come to the house to cook a Russian Easter dinner for the wedding. I loved watching her make the Easter cake, which became the wedding cake; it was a big, white, dome-shaped cake made of cottage cheese, raisins, eggs, and many more delicious things.

In those days my father was also teaching at Kyoto University and he was very happy there. But Kyoto was even further away than Osaka. Still, father found time to spend with us. One thing I remember well about my parents are the breakfasts, when my mother would read the newspaper headlines to my father who had such poor eye-sight, and then read the articles he wanted to hear.

Roland and I enjoyed going to the German school. For the first time we had German friends. I was especially happy in Kobe, because June and her family had moved   to Kobe a few years earlier, and they were living close to us. But June went to a school where English was spoken, the Canadian Academy, and we only saw each other after school or on weekends.

There was a cemetery near our house, and Roland and I would go for walks there with our dog. The Japanese put rice cakes in front of the gravestones as a gift to their gods. In Japan the people who have died are looked upon as gods. Unfortunately our dog used to like to eat the rice cakes. But Roland and I figured that maybe the people would think that the gods had eaten the cakes and would be happy. Once we even watched a coffin being put into the crematorium.

2nd Trip to Germany

In l936, when I was eleven, two years after we had moved to Kobe, another six years were up, and we gave up our house, packed and stored our things, and went back to Germany. I think it was then that my parents sold the piano. I am afraid that my mother must have missed it very much when we came back and didn’t replace it. After a few months in Germany, my parents did not like what was happening under Hitler, and decided to return to Japan. But first we had our holiday there.

The trip to Germany was one of the most marvelous experiences of my life. In Kobe we went on board a modern German ship that carried about 100 passengers. Of course I, who always got sick, got sick on the ship while it was still in the harbor; I had a high fever, and our Japanese doctor came to the ship to see me and prescribe some medicine. Later, when everybody else was on deck, a baby in the next cabin started to cry and wouldn’t stop. I went to the cabin and comforted the baby the way I had seen my mother comfort Roland, by stroking the forehead gently. The baby fell asleep, but I don’t know if I gave the baby my germs. I did not yet know about passing illnesses along.

Besides people, the ship carried goods for other countries, which meant that we stopped at many ports and the trip took 24 days. We stopped in Shanghai, where we visited friends of my parents’; Hong Kong; Manila, where we took a ride in a horse-drawn carriage and were surprised by a tropical rain. (The rain suddenly came down in buckets and then stopped again, just as suddenly); Singapore, where we visited the botanical gardens and saw many monkeys eating bananas; Penang; Ceylon, where little boys dove off of boats to catch coins which people on our ship were throwing into the water; Port Said, from where we went through the Suez canal. Going through the Suez Canal was like being between high sand dunes on which we saw people walking along with camels. In the Mediterranean Sea we passed Mt. Stromboli, a volcano near Sicily, Italy; we passed it in the dark, and we saw the red glowing lava come down the side of the mountain. We got off the ship in Marseilles and took a train to Paris, where my Grandmother Schinzinger and Aunt Eva met us at the station. In those days women, who had lost their husbands, wore black widows’ dresses and a veil. Since my grandfather had just died, my grandmother was wearing widow’s garb, and when she came to put her arms around me, I wondered “Why is this nun kissing me?”

We spent several days in Paris with friends of our parents, the Huldschiners (they later became my guarantors in the U.S.A.). I am told that I looked around the small kitchen of their apartment and said: “Here one has to do one’s own cooking.” (Hier kocht man selber). We visited Malmaison and Versailles. I loved the big lawns at Versailles and did cart wheels on the grass. But otherwise I was disappointed by the palace of Versailles, because there were just rows of big rooms with paintings on the walls, and no throne. However I loved Malmaison, which had belonged to Napoleon’s wife Josephine, because it was furnished and looked just the way it did when she lived there. Among the things we saw there was Napoleon’s rather small bathtub, and I suddenly realized that people were smaller in those days. After Paris we went to Switzerland to visit my mother’s Uncle Joy, Dr. Ludwig Binswanger, psychiatrist, head of the sanitarium Bellevue which my great-great-grandfather Ludwig Binswanger had founded.

When my Grossmama Hebting heard that my mother wanted to marry my father, she had been very worried about her daughter going so far away, to strange Japan, with a man who was nearly blind. She went to her brother, this Dr. Ludwig Binswanger. She told him about her worries, but he said he believed my mother would be much unhappier not marrying Robert, than she would be no matter what problems she might face in Japan. Ever since then Onkel Joy took an interest in Roland’s and my lives. He was fond of my mother, and he had many interests in common with my father the philosopher. So, from Paris we went to Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, to visit Onkel Joy and family. We stayed there for several weeks, and I had a ball. I fell promptly in love with my second cousin Dieter Binswanger. He was 14 and I, 12, had a crush on him for years. I also remember meeting my older cousin Hilde Binswanger, who was a student at that time, and with whom I stayed in touch over the years. There was another brother, also called Ludwig – he was the oldest, a very kind and gentle man – whom we also met and with whom, in later years, I was also in touch until he died of cancer. We then visited my mother’s favorite cousin Onkel Roelli Binswanger, Grossmama’s youngest brother. Uncle Roelli was a poet, and his wife was a painter. Uncle Roellie’s daughter Rotraut, and son Christopher and his family have become good friends of mine over the years.

We also stayed with a family who had a big music box, which I loved. On this box you could play various disks which were made of metal and had small prongs that hit the machinery to produce the sound. I don’t remember the name of the family. I think the place where they lived was called Sulzbach, and I don’t know where that is.

At that time I made a great discovery. I decided not to look forward so much to every new visit, because then I would never be disappointed.

In Germany, Roland stayed with Grossmama, our mother’s mother in Freiburg, the city where our father grew up. My parents left him with her, because he was a good boy and would not need much discipline; Grossmama was a kind, easy-going grandmother. I went to Karlsruhe to stay with my father’s mother, Grossmutter, who was very loving, but she was also very strict, and I could be difficult. Both our grandfathers had died while we were in Japan, Grosspapa (Hebting) in l932 and Grossvater (Schinzinger) just about a month before we left for Germany; that was very hard on our parents, who had seen their fathers only once in 12 years.

Roland and I went to school, Roland in Freiburg and I in Karlsruhe, and that was also a new experience, because the German school in Japan was so much smaller. My Tante Eva, who lived with my grandmother since my grandfather had died, was a piano teacher and taught me piano. She gave music and piano lessons to children who came to the apartment and I was allowed to join them. But here, too, I did not practice enough and she got quite discouraged.

At one point I got sick again with bronchitis, and my mother took me to the children’s department of the University Hospital in Freiburg, my father’s home town. The doctor said I should go to a rest home for children, and suggested a place in the Black Forest for the good air. My mother took me there and returned to her family. I had a wonderful time for the 2 months I was there. My parents thought it would be good for Roland to be there, too, so he joined me there for the last month. My mother, Aunt Eva and Grossmutter came once to visit, and I have a photo of us in front of the Kinderheim. I was there for the two months, and I, who was always so skinny that my mother worried about me, put on l0 pounds. I guess that I, who hated most foods, learned to enjoy eating because I was always eating with many other children. We spent much of our time lying on deckchairs on the terrace, wrapped in blankets because it was winter and quite cold. This was supposed to be good for our lungs. For a while I slept on a covered verandah in a bed with a big down comforter. Sometimes the snow would blow into my face and I loved that. Because arithmetic was my weakest subject, I had to take lessons in that, and also in English, so that I would not forget it. But otherwise I could read whatever and as much as I wanted to. Of course we had to write letters to our parents. We went on walks, or we would go skiing. This is where I first learned to ski by sliding down little hills leaving the ski poles behind. I was also given a pair of skates which could be clamped onto my boots, and we went skating on a pond. My friends and I put on little plays, and we also played at being gypsies, and the boys were Indians – costumes were available. On Advent Sundays, in December, we all sang Christmas Carols under the thick wreath which hung from the ceiling of the big hall. On Christmas Eve we went into the forest at dark and lit sparklers which we hung on a Christmas tree. Can you imagine a Christmas tree covered with snow, in the dark, lit by dozens of bright sparklers?  It was beautiful!  We stood, warm in our winter clothes, quietly looking on. Did we sing some carols? I can’t remember, but we must have done so.

Sometime around Christmas my mother, Grossmutter and Tante Eva came to visit us, and stayed in the town of Koenigsfeld, where the sanitarium was. We loved seeing them, but I, at least, had such a good time with all my friends, that I didn’t even miss my family. My father had already left for Japan to start teaching again; from there he often sent me nori (Japanese dried seaweed) which I loved and shared only with my best friend Christa. Later, Christa and I wrote to each other till there was no more   mail coming through from Germany to Japan. But somehow, in spite of our having moved to Tokyo, she managed to get in touch with me after the war! It is here, in Koenigsfeld, that I had my first boyfriend. He was fourteen to my twelve, a quiet, thoughtful boy. We spent much time together, and we sometimes held hands! After I returned to Japan we stayed in touch by mail until the war put an end to our correspondence.

My mother was happy to now have a chance to spend time with her family, and of course I also had my brother near me, so I was never homesick.

Back In Japan

In April we returned to Japan. Since my father was already there, teaching, we were three on the ship, in a cabin for three. Coming from Japan, we had landed in Marseilles; returning to Japan we left from Genoa. On the last day on the train to Genoa, I caught my thumb in a door, and had a sore finger for weeks. Maybe that is why I don’t remember this trip as well as I did the first, exciting, one.  But I know I had a great time. We played games, got dressed up for a fancy dress ball, I as a gypsy, swam in the pool, and I read all of Jack London’s books, in German translation, that were in the ship’s library – and there were many of them. On the first trip I had discovered Karl May, a German writer popular with teen agers and young adults for his books on the Wild West. They were works of fiction, but it is said that the background was quite authentic. However, I preferred Jack London.

Also on the ship was a group of Australian acrobats. One of the young girls in the group had very curly hair and was called the “Shirley Temple of Australia”. I always loved acrobatics, and watching them filled me with envy, but I learned a few things from them.

In the meantime, in Japan, father had found a lovely little Japanese house for us, right on a stream that came from the hills behind us, ran just past the house and then directly underground all the way to the sea. Behind the house was an apartment house, and behind that a small Shinto shrine. Shinto is the Japanese religion in which people worship nature and their ancestors. A shrine is like a temple, and my brother and I thought the grounds would make a great pet cemetery and we buried there all dead birds and animals we found. (This reminds me of a story about Roland when he was maybe six years old, in Osaka. We had found a dead bird and we decided we needed to bury it. So Roland dug a hole and put the bird in it. When the burial was over, I said “and now the bird will go to heaven,” but Roland answered “no it won’t.”  So the next day Roland dug open the grave and showed me the bird and said “See, it didn’t go to heaven.”  (A scientist from the beginning!!)  Behind the shrine came the forest and then Mt. Rokko. Many German children in our school had fathers who worked for big companies, and the families lived in big, western style houses in the hills of Kobe. We always lived out of town, in Japanese houses, because the   rent was lower. But nothing could beat our romantic little house by the stream. Another plus was the fact that I could walk to June’s house in about 15 minutes. My friend Gretchen lived further away, closer to the city, but also in a Japanese house, maybe because she had a Japanese mother. I used to have to take the tram and then walk to get to her house. Every time I visited Gretchen, and after we finished our homework, her mother would give us thick slices of toasted white bread spread with butter and strawberry jam. That was always a special treat, because we never had toast at home (we got bread from the German Bakery in Kobe). We, our family, didn’t go out to eat often, but when we did I always ordered  toast and tea.

Although I had missed almost one year of school while in Germany, I was accepted into the next grade. Roland and I had to get up every day at six in the morning to get to school by 8 o’clock. We had to get dressed, have breakfast, walk k 20 minutes downhill to Rokko Tosanguchi station, ride the train for 15 minutes to Sannomiya station, and then walk through Kobe, up the hill to our school at the foot of Mt. Futatabi – another 20 minutes. But the walk through town was fun. There were many Japanese schoolchildren on their way to school with their light-blue smocks and matching hats if they were in kindergarten, or in the navy-blue uniforms  of the middle school and high school children. We walked past shops that were already getting ready for business, pharmacies, a pet shop, candy stores, clothing stores, a barber shop. Once I saw a man watering his canary, giving it a shower in its cage on the street. Sometimes, especially on the way home, when we had more time, we walked through the Ikuta Shrine area. We walked past a shop that had a sign saying ”Please try our flesh milk.”

We had school from 8 to 1, and then went home for lunch. Sometimes, on very hot days, we would tease each other on the tiring way home by describing the tall, frosted glasses of cool, fresh juice we used to get on the ship. That would make our mouths water, but also made us thirstier. Once a week we had sports in the afternoon, and we had lunch in a small noodle shop behind the school. For a while I had lunch on sports days with a friend of mine, Eva Vogelsang, who was in my brother’s class, and with her family. I remember especially the potatoes boiled in their skin (Pellkartoffeln)  which we peeled at the table and then ate with a gravy of small bits of crisp bacon. One term I had Wednesday lunches in the home of the German Consul General. Frau Balser was always very kind to me.

At home I spent a great deal of time reading. I always got books from Germany for birthdays and Christmas. One of my father’s colleagues, who lived and taught in a small town in Kyushu, had two daughters about my age. Our parents used to exchange books by mail. I think that it was our mothers who wrapped and mailed the books, and I am grateful to my mother for making all these books available to me. I started carefully wrapping each of my own books in brown wrapping paper to protect the covers and  wrote the titles of the books on the back. I wanted them to look like a library. Unfortunately, this was one of the many projects I started and never finished. Much later I studied to be a librarian, but I never worked as one.


The  Flood

We were all very happy in the house by the river, but our happiness came to a sudden and sad end after about one year. It was du   ring the rainy season, end of May or early June, and it had rained without stopping for many days. My brother and I went to school that day. It was the day when our father always came, a few hours later, to teach Latin. Around noon water started running down the hill, past our school. In the street behind the school, where our noodle-shop was, the Japanese wooden garbage boxes started sailing away, like boats. A rope was strung along the road, so people walking along could hang onto it, to keep from being swept away by the water. Pretty soon we saw one and then more houses on the hill above the school collapse as if they were made of building blocks that a child has pushed over. After that, the pieces of the houses, furniture, and even people were washed down the road, past our school. The teachers and the big boys stood in the gate of the reinforced-concrete wall that surrounded our school, and started pulling people out of the water and into the school. We all gave our school track suits to these people. One man was already dead when they pulled him in, and that is the first time I saw a corpse. Roland and I were very worried about our father being caught in the flood, but hoped that he had stayed at home (which he had) because of all the rain. After it was all over, actually very quickly, Roland and I walked down the hill to the train station. On the main road to the station we saw streetcars and automobiles buried in sand and dirt up to the top. Houses and buildings were collapsed or damaged. Of course the  trains were not running, so Roland and I walked on the elevated train tracks toward home. On the way we met an American friend of ours, Mr. Shaw, and when we asked him about our parents, he told us that they were OK, but that our house had been swept away by the flood. He did not know where my parents were, so we walked to June’s house, which was still standing, and she told us that my parents had gone to the home of a friend, Fraeulein Victorius, June’s piano teacher, who lived in the neighborhood. It was wonderful to see our parents alive, but we were very sad to hear that our dog had been left in the house, because he didn’t want to go out into the rain, and my parents didn’t think the whole house would disappear; my mother and father rolled up the new carpet we had bought in Hong Kong on the way home from Germany and put it in the room farthest from the stream, and left the dog there, too, thinking he would be safe. The neighbors in the apartment house behind us had come to tell my parents that they could see that the water from the river had started undermining the foundation of our house. The logs and boulders that had been swept down from the hills behind our house had blocked the entrance to the underground tunnel, and the force of the current was tearing at the sides of the riverbed. So our parents and our maid Tsunesan grabbed a few valuables: Tsunesan dumped our silverware into a tablecloth, Mother took her jewelry, my father some important documents like pass ports, and they put our new Chinese carpet and the dog, who refused to leave the house in the rain, into a room on the far side of the house thinking that would be safe, and left. I don’t know when they went back to check on the house, but when they did, they found that it was completely gone – only the gas meter was left among a pile of rocks. Where our house had been, and all the way down to the ocean, there was just one wide riverbed. Further down from our house, on the left hand side of the road – now  the riverbed – stood  one half of a two story house, with a clock hanging on the wall of an upstairs room, with the rest of that room and the room below torn away. The apartment house behind us was damaged, and later burned down (by its owners?) and only the ruins still stood. Roland and I had given away our sweat suits in the school to the people who had been rescued from the water, so we really had only the clothes we were wearing. The next day my parents bought us all some new clothes, and a friend returned a book I had lent her. I will never forget the feeling of proud ownership I felt as I looked into the closet in June’s room and saw my new dress hanging there, and below it, in a box, my book.

We were the only Germans who had lost their house, so the community started collecting things for us. They were very generous. For years we lived with the furniture and clothing given us at that time. My father got a pair of shoes he called the “trumpeter shoes” (die Trompeter Schuhe), because they made a strange squeaking sound when he walked. He also got another pair of shoes which looked just like the trumpeter shoes and were called the “brothers of the  trumpeter shoes.”  My mother got a very elegant grey suit which she wore till she died, some seven years later. I, then, got the suit and wore it to my wedding in 1950. Then I wore it till we went back to Japan in l953. There I wore it for several years until, one day, our dog tore it from the line on which it was hanging to be aired! That was the end of it. It had lasted for twenty years!

We all stayed with different friends until we went to Karuizawa,  where we were split up, again staying with different friends for the summer. I stayed with the Parkers’ in Kobe until June and her family left for Lake Nojiri, and then I was invited to stay at the Refardts’. Roland stayed with a friend’s family. I don’t remember who it was, probably the Pfluegers. This is one of the many times I suddenly realize with a stab of pain that Roland is no longer there for me to talk to, and with whom to exchange memories.

I don’t remember where my parents stayed. (I think they stayed with Miss Victorius, my parents’ friend and June’s piano teacher).

Our New Home


The houses in Karuizawa were all completely furnished so we were able to spend a comfortable summer. When we returned to Kobe, we rented another house, closer to June’s (much to my joy), and my parents started all over again in Japan. This is the house that has the exact same address (except for one different digit in the house number as the house in which the Tsunemochi’s (distant relatives, recently discovered), live. This time my parents did not have the things they brought with them from Germany; the wedding presents, and many things from their parents’ homes, and the few things they had bought since, were all a great loss. The emperor gave a small amount of money to each family affected by the flood. Much to my father’s anger, the gas company came to read the gas meter which stood all alone on a post among the ruins, and he had to pay. The members of the German community got together to help us get resettled. They donated used furniture and clothing. Two different people happened to give my father identical pairs of shoes. One pair of these shoes squeaked when walked in and my parents called them “The Trumpeter Shoes”. The other pair was called “the brothers of the trumpeter shoes”! My mother got a lovely grey wool suit which she wore till she died, and which I wore, too, for years in Japan, in the States, then back in Japan where, one day, hanging on the line to be aired, the dog tore it off the line and ruined it!

It was a very hard time for our parents,  much harder than Roland and I realized at the time. Roland and I were happy with what we had, and we even had a new dog; but we always remembered good old Menko, who had been with us since our days in Osaka.

It was wonderful to live so close to June, and we spent much time together. I often spent the night at her house after having supper there. I loved Mrs. Parker’s cooking because it was quite different from what we had at home.  They often had different kinds of Japanese food, while at home, when we had Japanese food, we usually had Sukiyaki.

I liked to get up early and take our dog for a walk in the woods behind our house while June liked to sleep late, so that I often went alone or with Roland. We would bring home salamanders which we caught in small ponds. Once I went alone, trying new trails, when I came to a steep slope which I had to cross; at the bottom was the rivulet which also flowed  past our old house and went underground there, causing the house to be washed away! Half way across the slope I slipped and slid on my side down the hill, ending up with my skirt torn and my thigh bloody. Looking like that I had to cross the stream, climb up a small embankment to the highway and walk home along the frequently travelled road; nobody stopped to offer help!

June and I loved to play in our “Secret Garden” which was an empty lot with a wall around it which we had discovered in the neighborhood. One of our favorite games was “Meeting in America after many years” in which we acted out many versions of an unexpected meeting in the States after we were grown up. June’s father had been talking about going back to the States, and we were dreading the separation.

Our new home offered good opportunities for climbing; I could climb up to our roof and from there onto the roof s of the neighboring houses. I often wondered why my parents didn’t object, but I finally figured, after I got older, that my parents probably thought it was safer to have me not afraid than having me fall from feeling insecure. I’ll never forget when I stopped climbing. It was in Karuizawa, on my 18th birthday. I decided it was about time I acted grown-up, and so I climbed one of the tall Karuizawa pines – which stood near our house – as a farewell gesture. That was it!

When I turned 14, the German school had no more grades for me, so I entered the Canadian Academy. I entered the first form, which must have been the first year of high school. It was a much bigger school than the German School, and I think there were 22 in my class. It was pretty easy for me, because the German school was one year ahead in Math, Geometry and Latin – subjects in which I was not very good, but which were now much easier for me. They had hockey and I wanted to learn to play.  I remember standing on the hockey field with the hockey stick in my hand, not knowing what to do. Obviously no one came to my rescue, because I gave up after this first experience. But I was good in track and field, setting a new record at CA in the 100 meter dash.

It was during my year at CA that a Japanese newspaper organized a Junior Olympics for all the foreign schools and Japanese schools in the Kobe area. I think it was on a week day and I seem to remember going with my CA schoolmates on a bus to the meet. The kids in the bus were teasing me and calling out Heil Hitler, but I cannot remember any further teasing – it must have been an isolated incidence. I won several prizes at this meet, among them the first prize in the 100 meter dash. A few weeks later, much to our family’ surprise, we got a letter from my Grossmama in Germany with a clipping from the Berliner Illustrierte, (somewhat like Life magazine) with a picture of me receiving my prize for the first place in this race. On the same page was a picture of Princess Elizabeth getting a prize for first place in a swimming event. Grossmama wrote how happy she was for me, but my Grossmutter warned me not to become conceited with my having appeared in the magazine. I thought it was so typical of my two grandmothers.

The British community in Kobe always celebrated Empire Day in the summer with a big sporting event in which I also got prizes for running. I just loved to run!

The year at the CA was a wonderful year for me. The classes were big. We were 22 in First Form!). I found new friends, but June remained my closest friend although she was a class below me, being ten months younger. There were dances to which my parents let me go. But at one point my mother felt I had been to enough dances and would not allow me to go to one which I longed to attend. I remember begging and crying, but mother was immovable! I was heart-broken, but that passed, too.

We got a new dog, a shaggy part shepherd, sweet and gentle, whom   we called Wolf.  [He came with us to Tokyo, but disappeared one day when rationing had started and food became scarce. We feared he had been caught and eaten, for we never found him again.] –  We also got a new cat, longhaired and black, called Mohrle.  Mohrle liked to lie near the shichirin (charcoal burner). First she singed the hair on one side of her body, and then the other side by lying too close to that shichirin.  She ended up as part of the crew of a German freighter going back to Germany!

Life at school and at home was great. When we were smaller, Roland and I fought a great deal, partly in fun, and as a result of our tussles the Japanese sliding doors got damaged often and we had to pay to have them repapered with our allowances. June used to get a big kick out of watching Roland and me fight. Being an only child she found these fights entertaining. I don’t remember why we fought, but I think it was often because I used to tease Roland mercilessly. But maybe we also fought just for the fun of it.

Beginning of the War


When Germany started the war by marching into Poland, the German consul demanded that the German families take their children out of the enemy school  so. My parents would have liked to keep me at CA, but they felt it wise to go along with the consul’s wishes.

Now the German school was forced to hire new staff, which was difficult because it would take long to bring in someone from Germany. My father continued to teach Latin, we got a young teacher from a Japanese Catholic boys’ school to teach math, and our class went to the chemistry lab of a German company (I think it was IG Farben) for our chemistry lessons. I think they put the ninth and eighth grades together, because I remember some of the younger ones being in the same class with us ninth graders. We had a happy year far from the war in Europe.

Get info on Gripsholm and the leaving of Americans and British

We had a new teacher, Herr Geyer, who had recently come from Germany and had brought with him strange new ideas – of returning to old Germanic ways, such as jumping over an open fire to celebrate the summer solstice, and other customs that were new to us. He gave his first  child a Germanic name. One thing which he introduced, however, was very popular. He made each one of us start a “yearbook” in which we were to  write  things that happened throughout the year, such as Japanese holidays and how they were celebrated, important happenings at home, at school, or in the world. We were to illustrate them with our own drawings, photos, or newspaper clippings. We all enjoyed very much working on these yearbooks, and I am very sorry that mine did not survive the air-raids. Another new teacher was Mr. Schoenborn who was young, lively, a good teacher and very popular. I cannot remember what he taught. He later volunteered to return to Germany to join the army there – at least that is what I remember – and he died when the auxiliary cruiser on which he was travelling, was torpedoed.  (He was not the only one from the German community to meet such a fate.) Besides our studies we had outings, games in the woods above our school  and trips to Japanese-German functions. Once we were invited to a radio station where we sang German songs. One popular school project was providing speech, music and sound effects to silent children’s movies, which had come from Germany. We sang in our music classes, and I still remember the lovely folksongs we learned. The Hitler Youth songs which we learned at the meetings of the German Youth  of Japan were partly old folk songs and partly new ones, and partly old and new marching songs. We learned crafts, such as book-binding, cutting forms out with jigsaws and painting them etc. I was briefly in charge of a small group of girls, and we had meetings at which we talked about the war, about programs we could organize, and we sang. Singing is an old German pastime. There is an abundance of lovely folksongs, and the Nazis took vantage of this by  producing many new songs about hiking in the woods, the beauty of the fatherland, of youth and the future – with nice melodies similar to the old  songs. My parents were very concerned that we might swallow the Nazi propaganda wholesale, and tried to keep our minds open for other ideas without feeling alienated from our group. They stayed in touch with their Jewish friends and made sure that we were always polite to everyone. My first art teacher was a lovely Jewish lady, a Frau Mendelsohn (spelling?) who taught me charcoal drawing. To me she seemed quite old, and her hands shook when she approached the paper, until the charcoal  she was holding touched the paper and she drew firmly and beautifully. What made these lessons even more enjoyable was that June was sharing them with me. Shortly after the move into our new home I started violin lessons. Angela’s sister, Gitta Lepsius, had come to Japan at some point – I don’t know when – and was living near us. She became a good friend of ours until she returned to Germany ten or fifteen years after the end of the war. (At that time she lived in Yokohama, and one Christmas she offered to teach me how to make dolls for the crèche under the Christmas tree – one of you still has these figures. When she left we bought her wicker armchairs and table for our house on the beach in Akiya). Gitta played the violin and was my first teacher. Later I had a Spaniard, who lived not far away, as teacher. I can’t remember his name, but I remember that the people in his neighborhood thought he was called  Mr.”Keep Smiling” because he had a sign saying that above his door! I was making pretty good progress when we left for Tokyo. I remember taking my violin to Sachiko’s house – I had to go by train – and Sachiko accompanying me on her piano. It was fun, but I don’t think this happened often. When we moved to Tokyo my parents couldn’t find a violin teacher and so I practiced on my own for a while, but made hardly any progress. I am very sorry my parents never got another piano, for it would have been wonderful if my mother could have accompanied me when I played the violin.

What happened in those few short years we were in the house at Shinohara Kitamachi? Not much – the most significant probably was the time Roland had a few itchy spots which we thought came from mosquitoes, or were fleabites. But then I got a high fever and a bad red rash, and the doctor diagnosed Scarlet Fever. So Roland and I were sequestered in the big upstairs room (actually two rooms without the paper doors in between) which was our parents’ bedroom and my father’s study. Then my poor mother also got scarlet fever, and, being an adult, she suffered much more than Roland or I did. We had a very nice Hungarian doctor, Dr. Scutor, who looked after us. When my father asked him  what he could do to help his poor suffering wife, the doctor answered: “Wipe tears!”  So now the three of us were quarantined upstairs. My father was the only one allowed to see us. He had to wear a white coat when he was in the room and had to constantly wash his hands with an antiseptic solution. Father hired a nurse to help, since Tsunesan was busy with the household.

After we felt well enough to read and do other things I started sketching my family, and I still have a number of sketches of our mother and Roland (dated Jan.’40) mostly reading. When we were better, we had to bathe often to remove all the dead skin from our bodies. I loved that; we went downstairs where the  big Japanese tub was and the nurse scrubbed us.

Unfortunately my fever had been so high that, for the rest of my life, I have had palpitations, and in my seventies I was found to have atrial fibrillation. Ever since the scarlet fever my heart did all sorts of bothersome things. But I am sure our mother suffered much more than Roland and I ever realized.

This must have been the year after I went to CA. CA had been a great deal of fun, and a very new experience. But now I was back in the German School, and June soon left for The United States.

We  often had overnight visitors, other Kotogakko teachers and their wives, who were happy to get away from the country-side and to visit the big City. I called our house the “Hostel to the Travelling Kotogakko teacher.” For my parents it was good to see different faces and have different, and stimulating conversations.

As I look over my old diaries, I find that I started the first notebook in January of 1940. I called it my “Allerleiheft” (Book of all sorts of things). First I entered a half page of things I had recently learned in school. Then came a new word I had learned: bigott (bigoted) and its synonym.

Then I wrote my first poem on the 6th of Feb.:

Ich blick hinauf ins dunkle Sternenzelt,

Wie klein und unscheinbar erscheint mir diese Welt,

Hineingestellt in jene ewig fremden Sternenwelten.

Ihr Leuchten gibt uns einen frohen Schein,

Was wird wohl unser Strahl in ihrer Ferne sein?

I look up into the starlit sky

How small and insignificant appears our world

Among those ever distant worlds of stars;

Their shine gives us a happy glow;

What might our glow be in their so  distant sphere?

My parents gave me the humorous poems of Christian Morgenstern to read. I enjoyed them and wrote one of my own in his style, Feb. ‘41

Palmstroem hat, von allen Sorgen

wohl beschuetzt und wohl geborgen,

in seinem Waldheim Urlaub.


Um das Waldheim ist gespannt

ein Netz gewebt von Palmstroem’s Hand.

Keine Sorge, gross noch klein

kann in Palmstroem’s Heim hinein.

So ist Palmstroem vor den Sorgen

unsres Alltags wohl geborgen.



Palmstroem has, far from all sorrows,

Well protected in his borrows,

A Holiday.


Around this home there is a net

He’d made, so he could best protect



No worries, neither great nor small,

can enter through this fortress wall.


Thus Palmstroem is so well protected

From the life he has rejected.


Then  I entered things I had to buy. On the same page is a photo of my very close friend Gisela Gernoth. Her father, who had worked in Hankow, China, had died very suddenly while Gisela and her mother were on their way back from Germany where they had visited Gisela’s brother, who was in a boarding school there. They had packed up the things in their Hankow home and had stopped in Japan – possibly to see which was the best way to get back to Germany. They may have been in Japan for about a year. Gisela and I became close friends. This friendship also included my friend Gretchen Krebs. We were a happy threesome. After the war Gisela and I made contact again and we have kept up this friendship across the oceans. I got in touch with Gisa (that’s what she calls herself now) on my first visit to Germany after the war. By then she had married a script-writer working for Bavaria Film  kunst. At one point she entered a competition for amateur painters and won the first prize. Ever since then she had success with her paintings. But one day her husband suggested that she, too, write a movie script. She did, and the movie was a success. Later it came out as a novel. She has written several novels since then, and when I visited her in 2004, she was writing another book. Since she had had a stroke, this is quite an undertaking. She showed my friend Inge and me how she does this with two fingers of her crippled hand, typing on the computer.

I write in Feb 41:  “I am glad that I won’t be there when Gisela leaves. We will definitely make the bicycle tour of Germany we have planned. I can hardly believe that she is leaving. …. Now I don’t have anyone anymore.  June is gone, and I will see Gisela for the last time today. Nobody with whom I can  roughhouse, or with whom I can have a really good conversation. All of them are younger than I, even   the boys.”

The only attempt at making it a diary ends there. I was learning about the French Revolution and I pasted in pictures of important people of that period. I had enough space to write about their lives, but never took the trouble.

After that I used the book to write down my thoughts and experiences, always dated, so I guess it was a kind of diary. I also wrote in it an occasional poem. I wonder what made me think of death, but I wrote a poem about a cemetery on 31.8.1941 (We must have been in Karuizawa) It is all about a cemetery and a fresh grave in which a child has been buried. I just  cannot figure out what made me write it; could it be a premonition that my mother would die in a few years? Maybe the surroundings made me melancholy. My mother is buried in a small cemetery which is located in the corner of the big cemetery in Karuizawa. The mother of a friend of mine had died not long before, and part of the

rock that marked her grave became the headstone of my mother’s grave.



Karuizawa is beautiful in a dark, somber way. Paths wind through forests thick with tall, dark firs, the rocks along the side of the paths are covered with moss, the air is pure and full of the smell of the pine needles. It rains often, and that is good for the pines and the moss. Most of the houses there  were built by missionaries (mostly Americans, some British). The houses are  built of wood and are usually quite roomy. The first house we lived in was a little ways from a small settlement where many Germans spent their summers. This area was called the “Hunnenwaeldchen.” (Forest of the Huns.) We were at the edge of it, up a small incline, and right next to us were the tracks of the little train that took visitors to Kusatsu, the hot springs where many lepers went. Roland and I often played on the tracks, but my parents didn’t worry, because the sound of the train on the tracks reached us long before the train did – and it did not run very often, nor very fast. I was old enough when we moved from there so that I have quite vivid memories of the place (helped, of course, by photos.) We often brought a table out and had lunch or afternoon tea under the tall firs. Ever since then I love eating outdoors.

It rained a great deal in Karuizawa, and Roland and I loved to  sit under one of the big Japanese umbrellas which are covered by a thick layer of wax-coated paper. We loved the smell of the umbrella and the sound of the rain on the taut paper. There was a magical quality about the place. Almost a fairyland.

There was a shed next to the house. Roland and I often played in it. One day we saw something -a ghost? a spirit? – something that flashed through the shed. Both of us saw it! We often spoke of it in later years and wondered what it could have been.

To get our drinking water we had to take a narrow path for a few meters down the hill to a small spring and carry it in pitchers up to the house.

There was only one house above ours, on a hill on the other side of the tracks, and a German scholar, a teacher like our father – but older – lived there. I still  remember my parents’ embarrassment when the elderly gentleman came to tea one day. I had heard my parents talk about people who were Nazis, and people  who were not Nazis. So I thought I’d join the conversation and asked  Herr Winkler, “Are you a Nazi?” to which he kindly said, “no, I am not.” I nodded understandingly and said “You are too old, aren’t you.” My poor parents must have felt very embarrassed, especially since he was Jewish, but they said nothing to me, and he smiled.

Karuizawa still has a very special place in my heart. I was born there, we went through the hardships of the last year of the war there, and my mother died there and is buried there. My father lived to be 90, and when he was ill and in a hospital in Yokohama, I came to Japan and was there when he died. He had chosen a spot in a cemetery near Yokohama – where he said he could look at the mountains, and that is where he was buried. Later, I returned from the States, took part of his ashes (which I had kept) to Karuizawa to bury them under our mother’s gravestone, and attach to the stone a bronze plaque with both my parents’ names and the dates of their births and deaths.  (Roland designed and had the plaque made in California.)  I had never seen anybody in that corner of the Karuizawa cemetery and wondered how I could get the ashes into the grave and attach the plaque to the stone and plant a flower. But, like a miracle, someone was working on a German grave there, and I asked whether he could bury the ashes under the stone, attach the plaque to the stone, and plant the flower. He said he would do it, I paid him and left. When I came back the next day, it was just like always before: there was not a soul around –  but the plaque was nicely attached, the flower was planted and everything was in order.

I hope that one of these days I can visit the cemetery again!

Now back to my diary: I have a few undated pages in my diary where I puzzle about the meaning of life. I start again in 1942 and write about books I have read, music I am listening to, my thoughts about life.

On June 14th I write:



All mein Denken, all mein Sehnen

Geht dem Unbekannen zu:

Einem Land, das ich nicht kenne

Einem Mensch den ich nicht nenne,

Denn ich weiss nicht wer es ist.

Was es ist kann ich nicht sagen,

Kann nur jubeln, kann nur klagen,

Denn die Ungewissheit drueckt.

Ja sie drueckt, doch kann sie heben

Meine Seele hoch hinaus,

Und ich mein’ ich koennt nicht leben

mehr in diesem engen Haus.

Weit hinaus, hinaus ins Ferne

Treibt mich meine Sehnsucht fort,

doch ich wuesste ja so gerne

Wohin treibt sie mich nun fort?





All my thinking, all my longing

Turn around all the unknown:

A land I do not know,

Someone I cannot name,

Because I don’t know  who it is.


What it is I cannot say,

I can but feel such joy, such sorrow

Because of the uncertainty.

And yet my soul is lifted high

And makes me feel I could no longer

Live in this confining house.


Far away into the distance

My longing drives me on.

But what I’d like to know so much:

Where is it driving me?

(This poem was too hard to translate well)

On 31 Aug ‘41 I wrote another poem about a cemetery. I think the somber beauty of the surroundings brought these feelings on. Then I add: I wish I could spend a few more days in Karuizawa.

The next page I’m back to what I am learning: Pictures of Greek columns with Doric, Jonic and Corinthian design. Then I start wondering about the meaning of life, listen to Brahma’s second symphony, write a poem about how beautiful life is and list the books I have been reading, making a few comments. At one point I write: “It’s strange, there are such sad things in this life. Luckily for me there have been no terribly sad things, but still there are little things in my daily life that make me sad, unhappy, angry. And then there are hours in which I get over these feelings and think how absolutely WONDERFUL life is!!!”

I give the names of four German books I have read and then “They Brought Their Women” by Edna Ferber (in English).

At one point I write: “I must have time, much time.” and “I wonder whether I’ll be an old maid like Frau  von H?”

June 14th 1942, another poem “Where?” Wondering where my longings will take me. A few days later at the Yokohama Pool, I jumped feet first from the 10 meter board and hit the water with my face and got a concussion. My friends accused me of trying to show off, and I had to admit I probably did.

During the summer holidays that year I did  much reading again, and I describe the books. (The books written in English I read in the original.) Among them O’Henry,  “Best Short Stories.” Then I describe a trip to Asakusa with my class.

Read ”Darby and Joan.”

That summer ‘42 in July I went to the camp of which I have this little book I have shown you. I have notes in my diary of the first aid course we had there. Back in Karuizawa I heard that the first love of my life has returned to Germany, probably to go into the army, (a one-sided love, I may add!). I think our parents couldn’t afford to rent a house in Karuizawa that year, so Roland and I stayed with different people that summer. I spent some time in the house of German Ambassador Ott. I wrote a little poem about Karuizawa. Entries about books read, observations about my friends. I am sharing a room with the Ott’s daughter Ulla, whom I have known since we were much younger, and she and I always got along very well, but I discover to my embarrassment that she has been reading my diary.

Sep. 20 ‘42 “Everything has an advantage, and even if it shouldn’t have one, pretend it has one. When one thing isn’t right, maybe something else is.”

In one book   I am reading, I am amused by a remark a brother makes about his sister: “From  11 to 12 she lies in the hammock and is sad!”

25th Sep. I listen to Brahms’s second symphony and describe a little insect that sits on my page and cleans itself.

One day later only one comment: “I’m homesick for Kobe.”                                                                                                                       Now I am 18 years old, and where there were never many young boys or men, there are now young Ge German sailors who are on two auxiliary cruisers in Yokohama harbor. Knowing young men is a new experience, and I am having a difficult time concentrating on my studies. Then there is a terrible explosion in Yokohama, the two German auxiliary cruisers are blown up. It was never discovered how this could have happened. I think most of the crew are rescued and find homes in the German Community. We take in a young sailor about 21 years old. His name is Guenter. He is polite, intelligent, and he and I become good friends. He considers me his little sister. Everybody in the house, including Tsunesan, our old maid from Kobe days, likes him. Tsunesan is usually very critical of our friends. (When a guest stayed too long, she would put a broom upside-down in the broom closet; that was meant to sweep the guest out of the house, I guess.)

I have to study hard for my final exams, and Guenter helps me with things like math and science.

Those were happy days, my only concern was passing my final exams, but I didn’t study as hard as I should have. Sometimes I got together with my friend and classmate Jutta Wenneker. We did not do much studying together, but we’d take walks together to relax.

Another friend, Ingrid Buhre, not living too far away, was a class below me, and I was able to help her with some of her homework; it was especially good to help her with math since that made it a kind of review for me. My closest friend at that time was Ursel Loch, who was my age, but one class below me because she had been interned in Indonesia by the Dutch at the onset of the war, and had lost a year that way. We had very much in common. Unfortunately she lived in Yokohama, a bit too far for us to see each other often. But sometimes she came to spend the night and we would talk into the wee hours of the morning. I still remember my bedroom with its view into the garden which sloped gently downhill, and I could see the moon and the stars at night. It was a pretty garden, well established and not too much work. Once I heard an “Uguisu no Taniwatari”, a kind of nightingale. It sang beautifully. (That reminds me that a nightingale sang in front of my window at the Bluff Hospital in Yokohama when Julie was born).

It is a difficult period for me. The pressure of the exams. No close friend living  nearby. I miss June. On March 15 ‘43 my exams begin.  I know that I did poorly in my German composition, a subject in which I am usually quite good. I am embarrassed and angry. I got poor marks in the sciences, but I had expected that. As usual I did well in physical education and in English.

After our graduation we were invited by friends of one of my classmates, Walter Kuhweide (who died quite young, later, in Germany). His parents had a nice dinner for our class at their home. That time I learned not to be greedy. When the food was being served I took a big portion because it looked so good, but when the waitress came around with it for seconds, I still had some on my plate and she passed me by!

One graduation party was held at the Wennekers with a nice mixture of us ex-students and adults. Jutta and I put on a little skit, I read a poem my father had written for me about graduating, and Inge and Helga Trapp gave a great dance performance.

There were several earthquakes during that period, and I find that I am getting used to them. When the exams were over I graduated with a “satisfactory” and was satisfied. Nothing great, but I passed. Now came a period of parties, a few balls. I had a great time.

Six Months in Kobe

Then I had to start thinking of my “Pflichtjahr”: every German girl had to work (one year if she didn’t get her Abitur, or half a year if she got the final exam) in a family with many children. I had to find a family I liked and who wanted me. In the end it was decided that I should go to Kobe to be with a very nice family we knew.  They had three children and were expecting their fourth. Mrs. Dieterich was very kind and patient with me. I helped with the housework and with the children, two girls and a little boy. When the new baby, another little girl, arrived, I learned to bathe and to change her. I wrote a short poem about the beautiful eyes of the little boy and how they made me feel a bond with him.

Very few of my former friends were there. Those of my age were mostly still in Tokyo and my younger friends were still at school in Tokyo; only my good friend Eva was still around.

Kobe harbor also had a few German auxiliary cruisers, and I met some very nice young men. One gave me a pretty little Japanese dish which I still have. Again, I am amazed – in retrospect – how well these young men, far from their homes, behaved. I had Sundays off, and had a pretty active social life. I kept in touch with my friend Guenter in the Tokyo area, until he, too, disappeared on a ship  bound for Germany. Many years later I heard from him again. His ship had been captured, and he ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Canada. From there he went to New Guinea, after the war, and finally ended up in Australia. I will have to listen again to the tape he sent me from there. For years, after I left for the States, he sent my father Christmas cards!

In the summer the Dieterichs went to a small summer cottage on Mt. Rokko. They did not bring their maid with them, because the maid had to cook for Mr. Dieterich who only came up on weekends. I had to clean and had to help with the cooking. I had fun cooking and even learned how to make noodles from scratch. My friend Eva was there, too, with her parents. There was a pond in the neighborhood where we could swim. I also had fun with the Dieterich kids. It was a nice summer even though I had to work hard. On Sundays I often went down to Kobe. After my half year with the Dieterichs was up, I returned to Tokyo.

Back In Tokyo

There are difficult times that await me in Tokyo. The future is a blank. I am stuck in wartime Tokyo, no more school; I have to find ways of passing my time. There are parties and balls where I meet young men – all older than I, and working. I have my few friends in Tokyo, two good friends in Yokohama. I’m trying to find a meaning to my life and read a great deal. It is February and cold. I write in my diary on Feb 2, ‘44: “It happened now, again: What I had just been thinking and wanting to write down has escaped me. But there is one thing I realized yesterday, and father helped me to come to this realization: Don’t expect anything from life, give to life from that which you carry within yourself; don’t reach for something in life, search for something within yourself. There is not much sense in sitting down and saying ‘I am curious what life will bring me.’ You’ll soon be disappointed and say ‘Life is boring.’ Look within yourself to find that with which you can shape your life; and should you have not enough within yourself, utilize that which comes to you from outside: thoughts and ideas of other people, the beauty of nature and the secrets of life. But I just said don’t expect anything from life; yes, don’t expect the secrets to expose themselves to you and confront you. No, search for these secrets and you will find much that cannot be revealed to someone else who is not searching for it and is not trying to find it, change it and absorb it and give it shape with your own thoughts, until from a small idea, a sentence, comes a revelation. “

“ Geheimnisvoll weben

Stets durch dein Leben

Menschenschicksale hin. “


“Human destinies

Constantly weave

Mysteriously through your life.”

At one point I realize that only  work is truly satisfying!

I longed to hear good music, wich was not often available except on records, and I continued to  read a great deal.

Parties, but no boyfriend. I helped in the house with laundry and other tasks, but also tried to keep up my Japanese language. At one point I got a scholarship to study Japanese. It was a scholarship originally intended for South Asian students, but since they could not come to Japan because of the war, I got that scholarship. A young woman was my teacher. The few polite phrases I know in Japanese I learned from her. She taught me a song about Mt. Fuji which she sang in a funny, quavering voice. But I liked her.

Wartime  Karuizawa

July 1944.

We are back in Karuizawa, and I help in the household, learn Japanese, and read. My friends Ursel and Jutta are here. Jutta is engaged to Fritz, the son of the Schneewinds. Inge Schneewind, his sister, was in my graduating class. Their family was one of those who came from Indonesia. Handsome Fritz is a U- Boat captain. He has to go back to sea and his U-boat is hit by a torpedo shortly afterwards. It is a terrible blow for the Schneewinds and for Jutta.

Sachiko comes to visit us for a week. She is married now and living in Sendai. Being a good Japanese daughter she had to marry. She didn’t know any young men, they are probably all in the war, but she remembered that there was a Japanese gentleman on the ship on which she and her family had returned from Germany, and he spoke German. He had gone to Germany to study beer brewing. When the war broke out he had to join the Japanese Army and go to Manchuria. So Sachiko and her mother had gone there to speak to him. When he returned to Japan, Sachiko got married.

I am so happy to see my old friend again.

My parents commuted between Tokyo and Karuizawa. My mother was representing Mr. Karl Mehnert’s magazine “The Twentieth Century” in Japan. Mr. Mehnert and his wife were stuck in Shanghai. At one point that job ended because of the lack of communication caused by the war. But before that, my mother had been to Shanghai once, to speak to Mr. Mehnert and to make the arrangements for her representing his magazine in Japan. In Shanghai she bought an overcoat for herself and a lovely dress and a bathing suit for me.

Our maid, faithful Tsunesan, remained in Tokyo to take care of the house and my parents when they were there. A German exchange scholar who had arrived from Germany was also staying in our house.

Our life in Karuizawa was simple, but we were happy.

On 9.8.’44 I wrote in my diary:

“I don’t seem to get around to studying Japanese. It’s just that there is so much to do in a household. Today I did the big wash (sheets etc) -( no washing machine in those days!) In the afternoon I went briefly to the Machi (our main shopping street) with Ursel. Then we wanted to do some studying, but now it was time to prepare dinner.”

Friday 11.8.

“The other day I read ‘Der Weizenstrauss’ by Heinrich Zillich. Quite nice. Maybe a little too sentimental. Siebenbuergen (Transylvania) is described with such love that it brings the country close to you. This war-generation, which is still living in the happenings of the last world war appears too sentimental to me; is it really true that these happenings, no matter how deep they went, could reverberate for so long and change people so much? The “Anna Karenina”, the 2nd volume of which I am working on now, is so human, all people are presented with such realism that one experieces with them and feels with them. But maybe that is why I am finding it so difficult to continue reading. Anna, as a human being, gives me so much to think about, that I regard her like a living person. But the way she is so little concerned about her life, what I mean is that she seems to let herself be driven by her feelings too much, that is what makes me angry.”

(There is more about a book by Hans Carossa, and about “Anilin” by Schenzinger).

“Guenterle is alive; he is a prisoner in Canada.”

Sunday, 20.8.44

“ I am so tired, and yet I am sitting in the kitchen keeping watch. Roland and Sachiko are sleeping. At 11 I will wake Sachiko and Roland. Roland will see Sachiko off. They will bicycle to the station and I can go to bed. It’s been a long time since I have had such a dismal day as today. I didn’t feel like doing anything, least of all reading. I haven’t read a truly good book for a long time {etc. etc.}”

Friday, 7.9.’44

“Today Mother came back from a short stay in Tokyo, where she packed for our move. I haven’t quite decided whether to be happy that we will be living in Karuizawa for good. On one hand one is safer here; it is rustic and lovely here; but isn’t it going to be terribly monotonous and  boring? It is true that I have a lot to do with the household and my Japanese lessons; and I also have to read more; and I have also decided to continue with French, violin playing, English, etc. That should fill my days, the way it was last summer;  but I just want some diversion. When Mother talks about Tokyo I get quite fidgety from a fear that I might miss something. Then, oh, how I wish I could be down there. There are days when I don’t want to see anyone; and then again there are times I can’t be enough among people.

I am happy that Ursel is up here. Sometimes, when I don’t know what to do with all my thoughts, I turn to her. Then we talk about trivialities as if they were great world-shaking events.”

I don’t remember at what point we brought our things up to Karuizawa, and I don’t know what all was brought up. But there were the two big German iron bed-steads which we got after the flood. At any rate that is what I think, because those beds came with us to Tokyo after the war. And I know we brought my violin, because I mention practicing with it. But what happened to it later, I do not know.

The house we were renting at the time was quite big and had belonged to American Missionaries. Some of their things were stored in a room upstairs. I got some books out of the room so I would have something to read ( and returned them to the room, of course.)

The German community distributed canned goods that had been purchased in Japan and were to have been shipped to Germany via Siberia, but then the war with Russia broke out and nothing could be sent or received. These canned goods were distributed to us. We got smoked salmon, sardines and mackerel. Somehow we had found one bicycle for rent, but needed a second one and we traded several (about six or seven) cans of sardines for it.

Our neighbor had acquired a goat for goat milk, and it was tied up outside their house so it could graze there. They had a baby and milk was not plentiful.

We spent the first winter in Karuizawa. I remember we had a root cellar in which we kept apples and potatoes – the mainstay of our diet. My mother called them “heaven and earth”. Once I ate a frozen apple and it tasted like a melon. A few things which I can remember will give a picture of the winter: we had a Japanese bath tub. To conserve wood we had baths about once or twice a week. Because the water pipes were not wrapped against freezing, we had to keep the taps open: the one in the kitchen and the one in the bathroom. Since we only bathed twice a week, ice would form below the dripping faucet, and soon we had a small iceberg in the bathroom. So when bath-time came around, each person in turn had to sit in the bathtub and pour hot water over the iceberg till it was completely melted and could build up again until the next bath. The bathwater then was used the next day to do the laundry. I will never forget the sheets on the line turning to sheets of ice. It took a long time to get them dry.

Mother and I wore gloves when we cleaned house, and we went every so often to the stove to warm up. The stoves were basically a metal drum, with an opening in the front to let in air, and a big opening in the top to put in the wood. I think we had one stove downstairs, and   one  upstairs. I remember the stove upstairs clearly; it seems to me that we spent most of our spare time around that stove. When it threatened to go out, my father would take very small slivers of wood and place them over some paper and light a match to them. That would make enough of a fire to restart the wood that had stopped burning. My father would call that the “little sympathy fire” (ein Sympathie Feuerchen).

The German community had bought a piece of forest, and men, women and children hiked up into the mountains. The men cut down the trees, the women cut up the branches, and the children helped gather the cut up pieces. Everybody brought makings for a soup, a big pot was put over a fire, and we cooked our lunch, an “Eintopf” (a one pot dish). When we were all tired, we took as much wood as we could carry on our backs home with us. The rest was brought down by some workmen.

My father started a “seminar” on “The History of Philosophy”.   I think the attendees were Ingrid, Ursel, Morido and I. I cannot remember how long this continued. Morido and I or Ursel and I spent a great deal of time together. Particularly Morido and I until the Japanese authorities forbade Japanese citizens to associate with foreigners, and Morido had Japanese citizenship.

My friends Jutta Wenneker, Inge Trapp, and Hella Janson were taking a course from Susanne Klein-Vogelbach, who had been our teacher for gymnastics at the German School in Omori. So I joined them for some of their classes, and we also spent many evenings together in Susanne’s room. She became a good friend and advisor. We were working on a routine, expressing music (Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”) with dance movements. We were ready to perform when the war ended, and our performance was attended by the first American GIs to come to Karuizawa for “Rest and Recuperation”. After the performance a young GI asked if we could take a walk together. So we walked and talked. At one point he asked me if he could have a “pitcher” of me. I couldn’t figure out what he wanted till I found out he wanted a photo of me, but I didn’t have one with me, and I don’t know if I even had one at home.

After we had brought up some furniture, books, etc., Mrs. Harich-Schneider, a pianist, but primarily a harpsichord, cembalo and clavichord player, asked whether she could bring her grand piano to our house. [The last Christmas in Tokyo we had invited her to our home and she had her clavichord brought to our house on a “reea-caa” ( a bicycle with a cart behind it)] My parents agreed, and she had her grand piano shipped to Karuizawa. It was wonderful to have her give concerts in our house, attended by members of the community.

I think I have already mentioned that we received rations of canned sea foods, and had traded several cans of sardines for another bicycle so that Roland and I could both get around better. One important task of ours was to bicycle into the country-side to visit farmers, and trade items of clothing for food. We had a great time doing this, and since we couldn’t very well go to the same farmers all the time, we travelled far afield. The farmers were always friendly and would ask us in to sit by the fire. They’d say “dozo o-agannatte.”  “Please come up and sit” on the tatami of course. Once we got to eat new potatoes that were cooking in a pot hanging over a fire, and ate them, dipping them into miso. One farmer told us horror stories he had heard about the things Americans did to the Japanese prisoners of war. But that happened only once. We tried to tell them that these stories probably weren’t true, but they believed what they read in the papers or heard on the radio.

One day we came to a small village we had not been to before. We were bicycling down the main street when we ran into a young woman who looked very familiar. The three of us stopped, looked at each other, and practically fell into each other’s arms: the young woman was Rinko-san, who had worked for us many decades ago, when we were still very small and living in Osaka. It is absolutely amazing how quickly we recognized each other. I never got to go back to that village, because the war ended soon after the meeting and I went to work in Tokyo, but Roland went back there repeatedly.

One time Roland  decided to go further afield by train. He got off at some unknown station and asked where he could find someone who sold apples. He was told to go straight down the street from the station until he came to a big farm. He went, and when he got to the right place he was shown to the “bekkan” ( a separate little house – in this case for the grandmother) where the owner’s mother lived. He was received very cordially and asked to sit at the “kotatsu” with the old lady. I also got to experience this later, when Roland and I went there for New Year’s. At that time we were offered toasted mochi to eat with wonderful apricot jam. I don’t know what happened on that first visit, except that Roland was so very graciously received. He was told that this big farm produced and canned a variety of fruit for the Japanese Army. Roland was given several jars of canned fruit to take home. (I don’t know whether he traded them, bought them or received them as gifts – I think the last is true.)  This was   a big surprise and a wonderful addition to our meager diet. Talking about diet: That first autumn, when we realized that we would be staying in Karuizawa, I helped mother make Sauerkraut. She bought many heads of cabbage, chopped them up and placed them in a barrel with lots of salt, pounding the cabbage while adding salt and more cabbage. I don’t remember how long we let it sit. Probably into the winter;  it was good!

At one point, when the German Navy had captured a British or Australian supply ship, our community got raw coffee beans, lard and coco butter. The coffee beans were very valuable and were used for trading goods or services. The lard was rendered with onions and eaten on bread or used for roasting potatoes etc. I can’t remember what we did with the coco butter. Somewhere mother got or still had some wool which was knit into a sweater for me by a German lady who was paid in coffee beans. We got milk which we had to pick up at a local dairy, but it was rather watered down, and some days the supply had run out by the time we got to the shop. One day, when Morido and I went looking for food, we found that in a little town (Kusatsu) near us we could buy watermelon juice. It was very unusual, but refreshing and tasty! Miso was available and we put edible weeds from the garden into the miso soup. Once, somewhere, I got a piece of meat which was not very fresh at all. I boiled it and boiled it until I was sure I had boiled all the germs away. It was rather tasteless, but it was meat. I am afraid that my mother skimped on the food she ate so that our father, Roland and I had enough. I don’t remember feeling really hungry, and I think we got used to our new diet. (Many decades later I asked a friend who had been in Karuizawa at that time whether he had been hungry, and he said he had been hungry many times.) It wasn’t till after the end of the war that I really realized how poorly we had eaten. And I am sure that my mother wanted my father, Roland and me to eat as well as possible, and that the lack of proper nutrition caused my mother to lack the resistance she needed when she got the Meningitis that killed her.

We walked a great deal: up Hanareyama, walks within Karuizawa itself, a hike up to “Sunset Point” (which Morido and I made one night by moonlight, and where we saw what we thought were bear tracks!), to the lava beds around Mt. Asama, and more; walking on the lava beds was interesting because air had been trapped in the hardening lava and made the ground sound hollow. We also had to walk when we visited people on Atagoyama, where there were many houses and one couldn’t bicycle. I think the Paasches (I took Kanji lessons from Mr. Paasche) lived a short way up the hill on Atagoyama.

When it snowed, the countryside was beautiful, but then Asamayama would erupt and the snow would be covered with its grey ash. I remember one summer day when I was about 12 years old lying in the grass. I remember the  silence that suddenly fell over nature, not even a sound from insects, as I lay there. Then, within minutes Asama erupted with a big bang spewing big grey clouds that gradually dissipated in the wind. I don’t remember any ashes falling at that time.

On the 29th of November ‘44 I write: “I am alone. For the first time in my life all alone for 10 days.” My parents had gone to Tokyo, and Roland was at school in Gora, near Hakone, in a hotel to which the German School had been evacuated. I felt lonely, almost sad. A telegram came, from Akasaka, and I was worried that something had happened to my parents, but it said: “Ration card in the dresser, buy shoes”.  I can’t remember if, or where, I did buy shoes!

On the 30th it snowed for the first time. I continued my Japanese lessons and enjoyed them. Mr. Paasche, to whose house I walked about twice a week, was teaching me Kanji. At one point he suggested that I learn the Chinese reading for the Kanji, too, but I decided the Japanese reading was enough for me!

It was cold at night, and when I read in bed, my fingers got stiff from the cold. I read German, English and American literature, and later also French. It seems that my scholarship was still paying for the Japanese lessons with Mr. Hashimoto (of whom I remember only that he was a kindly, elderly gentleman) and Mr. Paasche. At one point I wrote in my diary: “Today I am really looking forward to my Japanese lesson. Work is still the best medicine, after all”.

An exciting interlude was a ski-trip with friends to Shiga.  It was not only downhill skiing (no ski-lifts, and we had to walk up any slope we wanted to ski down), and we often put seal-skins on our skis and went cross-country or further up into the mountains through the snow. One hike was through the “Maerchenwald” (Fairytale Forest). Another was to a hut at the top of a mountain where we got a delicious hot drink and some sweet mochi (abekawa). Then we all skied together back down to the hotel. That was always a thrilling run. Another was further afield, then down into a gorge and up the other side to Hoppo, a small hotspring resort where we would get lunch or occasionally take a hot bath. One of the young men at the hotel, I think he was Austrian, gave some of us women ski lessons, which we appreciated very much. After the war the US Army took over the hotel and built a ski-lift and a rope tow near the hotel. They met the hotel guests in Yugawara at the train station and brought them to the hotel by weasel. Once, when I went there with my American friends and had breakfast at the hotel and used the ski lift, the manager of the hotel ordered a Japanese policeman to fetch me at the little Japanese hut where we were staying near the hotel.  He said to me that he knew I had taken the weasel (a kind of motorized sled) to the hotel, had eaten there, and had used the ski lift. He ordered me to leave the area at once, or he would get the police to remove me. I got my back pack, put the skins on my skis and took off to a much higher little Japanese hut, the “Shiga Huette”. The one where we had been staying was the “Maruike Huette”. The friends who had come with me were  Americans, so they  had no trouble. After climbing for a while I looked down over the hotel, the ski-lift and the slopes and felt, in a rather exciting way, like an “outlaw”.  (Here, enter Roland’s description of Shiga)

The stay in the hotel was fun. I don’t recall many Japanese people being there, but maybe they did not have as much spare time as we foreigners seemed to have. For my first ski trip to Shiga I had earned the money by tutoring some younger students from the German School. When I got my first pay, the money was stolen out of my day-pack while on the train going home. I was heart-broken, but my parents took pity on me and paid for the trip.

On the 22nd of January I put 1 9 4 5  on top of the page in my diary in big letters and two big exclamation marks. Rather prophetic, because this turned out to be an eventful, and also very sad year. I wrote :

“ I am lying in bed with a cold and am enjoying the inactivity. It is very cold, and my fingers are almost too stiff to write. This year I did not celebrate New Year’s Eve, but slept into the new year. At least a healthful beginning.

A winter in Karuizawa is cold! Housework in the mornings is almost unbearable.”

I still had part of the scholarship I had received in Tokyo, and I continued my Japanese lessons with kindly Mr. Hashimoto, who came to our house to teach me, and also with Mr. Paasche at the Paasches on Atagoyama. At one point, when I was very dispirited, I threw myself into my studies. For the first time I realized that studying, too, can be medicine.

I don’t remember at what point my parents stopped going down to Tokyo. I am sure mother’s work was finished, and my father had his winter holidays.

0n Thursday, 24 May 1945, I wrote:

“Today  is a heavenly day. So full of sunshine and spring air. So peaceful and quiet. But how much unrest is under this peaceful surface that wants to lull us into thinking that we are living in paradise. The de la Trobe family sat in their garden, in the warm sun, at a nicely set table. Can you imagine anything more peaceful? But where is Mr. de la Trobe? He died recently. Where is Henner? What is Henner doing, the soldier on the Eastern Front? And on top of everything Mrs. de la Trobe has a weak heart. (Mrs. de la Trobe died not long after this entry and she was buried in the same cemetery where mother was buried a few months later, and they both share a big rock which was split in two for the two headstones.) Oh and Jutta! our clown is quiet and pale. No more hope that Fritz will come back. Where has Jutta’s future gone?”

Two  poems, one of which I can translate, follow:


An meinen Freund, den Mond

26 August 1945

Your glow will go with me.

No matter where you go

Not lonely will I be.



I write about literature and poetry. I feel sorry for Morido who can no longer see his German friends because the Japanese are not allowed to associate with any foreigners – even allies. I read much.



The War is Over. Peace again!


Tuesday 8.28.45 I write in my diary:

“My birthday! 21 years old! A truly nice, harmonious day. Sad only mother’s tears this morning and father’s illness tonight. American occupation planes over Karuizawa as a morning greeting. First birthday in this peace-time. Just as with my parents whose 21st birthdays also fell into the first year of peace after WWI. Roland prepared breakfast and the birthday table. Lovely book and a dear letter from Morido. How that letter has comforted me. Afternoon and evening with the Gymnastics class, including Hella and Ingrid.”

I will never forget my mother’s tears that day. It seems she had had a lump in her breast, and although the doctor had declared it benign, she was still haunted by thoughts of death. I think the war, her worries about her family in Germany, and about us, here in Japan, an infection from an insect bite had all affected her health, and I am afraid she really believed she was going to die soon.


“It is hardly noticeable that there is peace. But sometimes small, insignificant things show that the war is over. I am so happy about that. Why think about a difficult future; I am sure everything will go well, also in Germany – although I always have to remind myself that the situation there is very serious.”

At this point we were living in a different house. Why we moved, I don’t know. Was the rent less? Was it easier to take care of because it was smaller? I never questioned my parents about this, and obviously it did not surprise me. It could also have been because it was easier to heat  because it was smaller. The stove pipe from the stove in the living/dining room went through the ceiling into our  parents’ bedroom to help keep that a little  warmer. My room, across from my parents’, was  quite big as I remember. Roland’s’ must have been next to that of our parents. It is really strange how memory works. I remember my bed being sometimes against the narrow wall, sometimes against the wall that ran parallel to the walls of my parents’ and my brother’s room on the other side of the stairwell. His room was quite small, and that is where my mother’s body lay when she died. Strangely enough I have a completely different memory of the house that we were living in at that time, compared to my memory of how it was when we had Mothers’ memorial service there. It is almost as if I were remembering two different houses. Could that be because one was a happy time, and the other a sad one?

Our life in the new house continued in the same way as before. Roland had graduated from school – gotten the Abitur –  and was getting engineering lessons from a German engineer whose family had also been evacuated to Karuizawa. He had a completely different social life from mine. He had friends of his own age, and I did not see them often –  or did not notice, so occupied was I with my own life. It is really interesting how our memory of places is colored by what happens to us at any particular time.

So now I was almost 21 and attended lectures and talks given by members of the community – not that I remember much of what was said.

I wrote the following about the rain (it always rained much in Karuizawa and that was what kept it in such lush green): “Are there rains such as we have them in Karuizawa anywhere else? This rushing takes away your breath. It wants to tear you along, on and on, down and down. When it hits the roofs, it sprays up white. And when it stops, there is quiet, but also emptiness. I love it, this rushing of the rain.”

I am often asked what we heard about the atomic bomb being dropped on  Hiroshima. I only have a vague memory of someone saying that a terrible bomb had been dropped that had killed many people. I don’t remember hearing of a second atomic bomb. It all seemed so remote, almost as if in another world.

Oddly enough, I do not mention in my diary how we found out about the end of the war,  and yet the memory of that day is very clear in my mind. We had heard that the war was over and that the Emperor was going to speak on the radio. Since people not connected with the German Embassy were forbidden by the Japanese government to have short wave radios, I went to the home of my friend Jutta, who was the daughter of the Naval attaché at the German Embassy.  Of course we did not understand a word the emperor said, he spoke in very formal, stilted Japanese, but we didn’t need to understand, we knew the war was over. It was one of those moments one can never forget. After the speech I bicycled home. I will never forget that ride through the silent, deserted streets; not a soul around. It was an awesome feeling; I realized that I had witnessed a life-changing moment.

For now, however, life continued unchanged till, pretty soon, the first GIs came. The hotel where the women and children evacuated from Indonesia were staying, was occupied by the US army for R&R (rest and recuperation). The poor evacuees had to find new homes, and a sign was put above the entrance to the hotel: NO GERMANS AND DOGS ALLOWED. Susanne and our group gave our dance performance to Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” which was attended by members of the armed forces. One GI talked to Ingrid and me after the performance and we took a walk together. These were men who had been fighting in the war until so recently and were now happy to see young girls.  The young GI Ingrid and I talked with, asked me for my “pitcher”; it took a while for me to realize he wanted a photograph of me (I didn’t have one). I don’t remember seeing much more of the GIs who were in Karuizawa, and our life continued quite unchanged for a while. The Americans, of course, needed to get English speaking people to work for them, and many Japanese were hired who spoke some English. But we Germans were all suspected of being   Nazis and it took a long time before some of us were hired. In my case I got several jobs in the coming year, and each time I was fired after a while because of my membership in the “German Youth of Japan”. The Japanese were hired because they were needed, just as the Germans were hired in Germany because they were needed, even though they had been in the Hitler Youth.  In Karuizawa our life continued unchanged. Every once in a while we would hear of a German who had been hired by the Americans.

On the 18th of October I wrote in my diary, and what I wrote shows that life went on as usual; but then, on Dec. 12th, I wrote: “ Here I sit with cold feet and hands in snowy Karuizawa. Yesterday, after a week of sick leave…..” (I didn’t finish the sentence).  After some weeks or months working in Tokyo I got hepatitis. What had happened was the following: One day, when I was walking down the street near the Marunouchi Hotel, (I had not been feeling too well,) I walked past two working men who were sitting by the side of the road eating  rice out of their bento bakos (lunch boxes). I suddenly felt a great craving for plain white rice. Later a friend took me to a doctor, and it turned out that I had jaundice. So I got sick leave and went home to Karuizawa. But the fact that I took  sick “leave” means that I had gotten a job! Since October 31, 1945  my friend Hella and I were working at the PX in Tokyo. Hella knew Fosco Maraini, an Italian photographer-writer and his wife. They had spent the war years in Tokyo, and she was employed in the PX and got Hella and me a job there, too. I lived in Omori with Hella and her family, and the two of us commuted daily to Tokyo. We were stock clerks and had to figure a certain percentage of the original price of the merchandise to be sold, add that to the old price and write the new price tags. I enjoyed working, the conditions were good, and we soon became friends with our two bosses who ran the PX.  It was against the law for us to  buy anything in the PX, but they were not very strict about it. My Mother longed for cigarettes and I didn’t know anything about cigarettes, but I had heard about “Camel” cigarettes, and that is what I bought for her. (The power of advertising!) She also wanted lipstick and rouge – her health was poor and she looked pale. My parents were delighted with anything that I could get for them. Once, after having spent a weekend at home, I had my suitcase stolen on my return trip from Karuizawa, in the local train from Tokyo station. My bosses let me buy a pair of new shoes and some other necessary items in the PX.

Mr. Janson, Hella’s father, was not well, so as soon as I found a place to live I moved. Mr. and Mrs. Maraini were living in the Marunouchi hotel and told me of a nice, small room that was available. The hotel was near Tokyo Station and the PX, a very convenient location, on the edge of a group of buildings around the heart of Tokyo. These buildings were probably left unbombed on purpose so that they could be used by the US armed forces.  From my room I could look down onto the foundations of an adjoining building that had been bombed out. One sight I will never forget is that of a young GI on guard duty, with a gun over his shoulder, amusing himself by balancing along on the remnants of the foundation of that destroyed building. What he was “guarding” I couldn’t figure out.

Once, at a party at the Jansons’, our bosses had been invited and had brought along a friend of theirs. This man, who ran the US Army radio station WVTR, Bob le Monde, and  I started dating. He was quite a bit older than I, but we got along well and I fell in love with him, and when he returned to the States it was my first real heartbreak. Once he told me about this “new machine” in the US, the TV, and what it might lead to. When I came to the States in 1950 I saw him on the stage in Hollywood, where he was the announcer on a TV show the name of which I can’t remember.

Hella and I continued to work together and enjoyed ourselves. We liked our work, our bosses; we were dating and being invited out to dinners in the Officers’ messes in the area. Hella was very embarrassed by the greed with which I ate everything I could lay my hands on. I put on so much weight that my American friends called me “pleasantly plump”.

While I was dating Bob, I met, through a friend of mine, a young man named Bob Feary, who was interesting and attractive and was in the Foreign Service. We went out together a few times. One day, when the second Bob called and said “here is Bob”, I answered “Which Bob?” which was rude and lost me a good friend.

I tried to get up to Karuizawa as often as I could, but when I was in Tokyo my mother wrote me lovely letters which I have kept and which I cherish. When Bob (1) left, I wrote a poem about the loss I felt, and I sent it to her. She wrote how much she liked the poem, but said; “I don’t  want you to be so sad!!”

My mother’s last letter to me was written on the 16th of February 1946, and she died on the 22nd of February, after just a few days of a cold which turned into Meningitis. My Father had called me first to cancel a visit I was planning, wanting to bring some friends up for George Washington’s birthday. He said Mother had a cold. Then he called again and asked me to come home at once, because Mother’s illness had turned out to be Meningitis, and to bring penicillin. I spent that whole evening and night trying, with the help of my American friends, to get the penicillin. I finally got it the next morning, and, rushing to get to the train station, I saw Bob Feary in a car in front of the DaiIchi Hotel; I begged him to give me a ride to Tokyo Station. He took me there, I caught a train, and when my father met me on the platform in Karuizawa he had to tell me that my mother had died that night. I think, and I hope, that I will never again experience such a sad moment.  Even today I can’t think or talk of my mot her without crying. Fortunately she had recently received a letter from Uncle Ludwig Binswanger in Switzerland. In it he wrote that Mother’s sister and family were well, and that her brother Gero was in a Russian prisoner of war camp. She was not happy about that, but she was glad he was at least alive. I am glad that she never knew that Gero was not heard from again, and declared killed in action in the last fight for Berlin. She was very close to her younger brother. Her last letter to me was written on February 19th. We had a lovely memorial celebration for her in our little house in Karuizawa at which a friend read Mother’s favorite poem, a poem by Rielke “Alkestis”. We placed her in a wooden coffin which Roland put on a sled to pull over the snow to the cemetery. When spring came we planted flowers around her grave with the tombstone which was half of the de la Trobe tomb stone).

I had to get back to my work at the PX and had to leave Father and Roland alone in cold Karuizawa.

At one point I was transferred to the Yokohama PX, but my job there did not last long (from 25 January to end of March) because my former membership in the German Youth of Japan again made me ineligible to work for the Armed Forces. I picked up on my shorthand again, but was not really interested in it. I moved from the Marunouchi Hotel to a very nice room in the home of a member of the Kawasaki family.

I went, as often as I could on Sundays, to the Hibiya Concert Hall. The Hibiya Hall had been taken over by the army and on Sundays they gave free concerts there. Again, these were meant only for the occupation forces, but since no one was checked when entering, I often went there either alone or later, when Roland was in Tokyo, together with him. One Sunday I met a young lieutenant who happened to be sitting next to me at one of these concerts. He was a very nice young man and walked me back to the Marunouchi Hotel where I was living at that time.  We  said good-bye at the door to the hotel. I never expected to see him again. He was stationed in Taiwan, I think, and he was leaving the next day. Then, several months later, when I was at a Hibiya Hall concert again, there was the same young man. He had been posted to Tokyo, and we saw each other often and became good friends. When he went home to New York State, we corresponded for a while. Then came my move to the U.S. and my marriage to Don. The first time Don and I went together to a concert of the symphony in San Francisco, whom did we run into, but the same young man, Bill Rifesnyder. We talked and found that we had mutual friends, but we never saw each other again. Maybe we’ll meet again at a concert in Seattle?

Another time, when Roland and I went to a concert, a GI asked Roland during intermission where the rest-room was and Roli, not knowing what a rest room was, thought it meant a lounge and answered: “there is one over there in the Ernie Pyle Theater, with soft chairs and music. “!!

When spring and the start of a new semester came, my father resumed his teaching. He would come down from Karuizawa once a week for several days and stayed in Urawa with our friend Dr. Dietrich Seckel. Father’s old friend C.K.Parker, June’s father, was back in Japan as a civilian with the Army because of his knowledge of Japan and its people. He lived in Tokyo, and whenever father was in the area, we would have dinner together. Father enjoyed seeing CK again, and I was happy to get news about June. There was also another former resident of Japan, Percy Buchanan, whom I remembered from Nojiri days. He was billeted in the Dai Ichi Hotel and he took me there for dances on several occasions. (Something my mother had been happy to hear.)

I went out a great deal with many different people, one of them a very nice Hungarian art historian, Dr. Horvard. But I felt restless and uncertain about my future. Many weekends I spent in Karuizawa with Father and Roland, and had a wonderful, if often sad, time.

On  the 31st of March I wrote in my diary: “A terrible storm blows outside. It seems as if all the dust of Tokyo is in the air and now forms a yellowish haze. But it is finally warm. But for how long? “

My parents had sent me our old maid Tsunesan’s address and encouraged me to visit her. In my diary I write of the visit: “The visit with Tsunesan on Tuesday was so nice. This dear, beloved old soul. But it was sad. We spoke of Mother.”

The next time I visited Mother’s grave in Karuizawa, I wrote in my book in German:


An Mutters Grab


Hier liegst Du nun und ruhst in Frieden.

Wir aber stehn vor Deinem Grab

Und sprechen noch mit Dir

Als wenn Du lebtest.


You now lie here and rest in peace.

We, however, stand before your grave

And speak with you as if you were alive.


On the 15th of May my father wrote a beautiful poem which I am not going to attempt to translate


Noch hoer ich jenen herben

Und traurig leisen KLang:

Im Fruehling ist gut sterben

in Blueten und Vogelgesang.

Doch eh’ der Mai mit Glaenzen

in diese Waelder drang

musst ich Dein Grab bekraenzen;

von Frost die Scholle klang.


Heut’ aber kommt von Sueden


ein Wehn mit waremem Hauch

bringt zu der Todesmueden

die Fruehlingsbotschaft auch.


Der Vogel singt vom Rain,

im Fruehling ist gut sterben!

Mich trifft der Herbst allein.

On the 23rd of May I got a job in the Prosecution Section of the International War Tribunal.  Commander Denzel Carr, whom my father knew from early Japan days, was working at the International Tribunal in Tokyo, and got me a job there, translating German documents into English. I had a wonderful time there. The work was interesting, and working with me were Uli Straus, whom I knew from early Karuizawa days, my former schoolmate and friend Mechtild Karsch, and John Mills, a young lieutenant in   the British Navy. Besides working, Uli and I would entertain each other by writing limericks and drawing “Goons”. We had a great time together and became good friends. Also working there was another young British Naval officer. We all got along well and had our lunches and relaxed on the lawn in front of the building. Mechtild and John started dating and went out together until John left Japan. [He came back several years later with his charming French wife and became one of my father’s friends, and I saw them again when I came back to Japan from the States in 1953 with my new family, and again another time in Austria.] My work was, as I said, interesting and I enjoyed the challenge. Once I was given a VIP ticket for the Trials (where my friend Jack Greenberg was the court reporter, as I found out later after I met him) and saw Konoe being interrogated.

I had a pretty busy social life. I do not remember the sequence of events, or how I met the different people I now called friends,  but besides my friends in the office, there was Jutta Wenneker, my class-mate at the German School in Omori, and Harold Evans who was the assistant to the New Zealand Judge at the trials. Jutta and Harold, Bill Rifesnyder (after he came back the second time)  and I went out together frequently. Jutta at one point had to make a very difficult decision whether to be repatriated together with her family to Germany or to marry Harold and stay. In the end – she was already on board the ship for Germany – she decided to marry Harold and got off the ship in the last moment. She and Harold got married in a simple ceremony at the Imperial Hotel with the New Zealand Judge as best man, me as bridesmaid, and my father standing in for Jutta’s father.

This period was a very interesting time for me, both because I enjoyed  translating and because of the people I met at work. There were parties with people from many nations. I remember several good looking Russian officers who spoke excellent English, though  I never got to know them. One Frenchman at the trials took English lessons from me and had his chauffeur pick me up at my job and take me back again for every lesson.

When Commander Carr’s family came to Japan, I got to know his wife and daughter Jane, who was close to me in age.  My parents had known Mr. Carr when he was teaching in Japan, and my father was happy to see him again.  Jane and I became friends  and did  many things together.  She drove a convertible and I can remember how impressed I was when she drove this car, with the top down, in a relaxed fashion with an arm on the rolled-down window. I had never seen anything like that before. I went to Hawaii many years later to visit her there.

I was very sorry when I had to leave this job, too, because of the DJJ. I got a good reference from Commander Carr when I left. I continued to go to dances, had dates, and went on a few outings with a group which called itself the “Imperial Marching and Chowder Society”, which included an American of German descent (Willo von Moltke). He agreed to send a letter for me to my mother’s Onkel Joy in Switzerland to inform him of what had happened to us, how we had survived the war. One of the members of this group was Lt. Marcel Le Rocque. We dated for several months, fell in love, and wanted to get married. He had been in the Army Language School and spoke and wrote Japanese. I had found another Japanese teacher, a very nice old man, who taught me language and Kanji. Marcel LeRoque, called Rocky, joined me in my Japanese lessons. I was in LOVE. We took trips together and  he came to Karuizawa and met my father and Roland. We got along so well, had such wonderful times together, and were so in love that we got engaged on the 27th of Sept and celebrated our engagement with my father and Mr. Parker in the room of Rocky’s boss.

From the beginning Rocky had told me about his parents who, as French Canadians, were anti German, and who, as catholic, could not conceive of having a non-Catholic, German daughter-in-law.  But Rocky promised me he would go home, get his discharge from the army, get a job that would take him back to Japan, and we would get married. In the meantime we had wonderful times together. Just before his discharge he got measles, and I  had to say farewell to him in the door of his sickroom.

Rocky and I corresponded till, on the 14th of January 1947 I write in my diary that I had heard from Rocky that he was not coming back to Japan. I was heartbroken and on the 23rd I wrote the following in English:


I dreamed where the was no dream;

I saw beauty where there was none,

and I loved where there was no love.

I was blissful in the light of a young morning!

Till one day I awakened to see my dream break.


Still its memory kept following me,

calling me back into its caress.

But I saw new fields stretching –

saw a new day dawn.

And I left the fresh shadows

and soft lights of the morning

to walk into the bright,

Sometimes oh too bright light of the day.


(PS – many, many years later he got in touch with me again, wrote a letter and asked me to reply by sending my letter to the address of the school which he was running. But foolish me, I was embarrassed to send a letter to the school and sent it instead to the home address which he had on the back of the envelope. Of course I never heard from him again, and I can find neither the letter nor the envelope with the address.)

Through Denzel Carr I also met old friends of his, Yale and Helen Maxon. The Maxons had lived in Tokyo before the war and had been in a Madrigal Group at that time. This group had been started by a Japanese businessman who had studied at Oxford in England, had sung madrigals there, and then had started Japanese and a non-Japanese Madrigal group in Tokyo.  Helen invited me to join them in this second group, and I learned to love singing madrigals. We sang at different occasions such as a wedding, the re-dedication of Yokohama’s Christ Church after its restoration from war damage, and I sang with them until I left Japan in 1950.

Mechtild was looking for a place to live, and I offered to share my two rooms at the Kawasakis’s with her. I had moved to these two comfortable, large rooms in the home of a member of the Kawasaki family after leaving the Marunouchi Hotel, which, my mother had heard, had a bad reputation. I don’t know what could have caused the bad reputation. I never noticed anything. Besides me, a friend, Lulu Schuette (formerly Schmidt, sister of my class mate Werner) lived there, and also Fosco Maraini, an Italian journalist and photographer, and his  wife and two little girls. Fosco later wrote a book on Japan, “Meeting With Japan” which was published in English in 1959. I don’t remember anything objectionable going on at the hotel. I do remember one time, though, when an American officer, slightly inebriated, tried to force his way into my room.

But I just grabbed his hat and threw it into the hallway and when he ran after it I locked my door.

I was lucky to have found the two rooms at the Kawasakis. I think it happened because I was teaching English to another Mrs. Kawasaki whom I had met through a good friend of mine, a friend of Jack Greenberg’s, Leonard Rand. She knew that a sister-in-law (I think) wanted to rent out two rooms. The door to these rooms was to the left of the entrance to the Kawasaki home and set back, so we also had a private entrance from the garden. Since Mechtild, who shared the place with me, and I usually used that entrance we had little contact with the owners; but they were kind and we were allowed to use the ofuro (Japanese bath tub) on bath days. Mechtild and I got along well, but then, sometime later, she met an American Major, fell in love, got married and eventually moved to the States.

One thing I remember very vividly from those days: I was always very allergic to the Japanese lacquer plant (urushi) from which the lacquer for lacquerware is made, and which – I was to find out painfully – is also an ingredient in some paints. The toilet seats in the War Ministry Building, where the trials were being held, and where I was working, had been newly painted. Unfortunately that paint contained some lacquer and I, not knowing that, had sat on one of those seats and ended up with a terrible lacquer rash on my bottom; so bad that I had to sleep on my stomach for a long time. This is one of my memories from my nice rooms in my new home. One advantage, though, was that I got to teach English conversation to the Mrs. Kawasaki who had recommended me to her sister, where I was living. I did this for quite some time and had many good times there. One day I was even invited to share the ofuro (Japanese bath) with this Mrs. Kawasaki.

I continued to live in my room at the other Kawasakis’ until the Gakushuin (Peers’ School) offered my father a place to live in the building that had been the  boys’ dormitory. My father  had been living in Karuizawa till then,  coming down to Tokyo to stay with my parents’ good friend Dr. Seckel so he could go to teach at the University. When the Peers’ School started again my father, my brother and I moved into the former library of the school on the second floor of the building. The library was a large room which we divided with bookshelves into a living room, and a bedroom-dining room combination. Father and Roland slept in the bedroom quarter of the library, just wide enough for the two big metal German beds we were given after the flood, and a wardrobe, and I slept on the couch in the living room. Our “dining room-kitchen” was separated from the “bedroom”  by a curtain. There was a small room next to ours for Tsunesan. The dear soul had agreed to come back to us. The “dining room” opened onto a balcony that ran along Tsunesan’s room and some other unused rooms, and ended in a balcony that ran along two sides of the building. Above us was a flat roof that covered the building and was the scene of many a happy party of ours. From there, on clear days, (especially after typhoons), we could see Mt. Fuji above the roofs of the city. Roland put a roof over the narrow segment of balcony in front of Tsunesan’s room, and that is where we had  our  “shichirin”  (charcoal burner) for cooking. We couldn’t find good bread, so Roland built a “bread baker” by making a loaf-sized wooden box that had a metal plate along each long interior side of the “baker”. He connected each metal plate to electric wires, one +pole and one -pole, and when the wet dough was put in the baker, the electricity went through the dough until it was done, i.e. dry, and the electricity stopped flowing, and the bread was done! – and we didn’t get electrocuted!  –

The only disadvantage of our new residence was the lack of a proper bathroom. Since this had been a boys’ dormitory, the only facility on our floor was a rest room with pissoirs only, and I had to learn to use these, because the other, more inclusive bathroom, was in the basement. There, in the basement, was also the bathroom proper, a large community bath, to which people from the other buildings came on bath day.

Once we had moved, I continued teaching English. I had started teaching at the “Tokyo Conversation School” and at the Waseda University’s English Speaking Society. English speakers were very much in demand because most Japanese wanted to learn English. I can’t remember all the places where I taught. I think the job at Waseda continued even when I got the job at the Girls’ Middle School in Meijiro, where  we lived at that time. One of my Waseda students wrote me a letter one day, asking whether he could visit to “become intimate” with me. (One of the many funny uses of the English language I encountered during those days, when I was living with Father and Roland.) While I was at the Mejiro girls’ school, one of my students, Keiko Hiratsuka, invited me to her home to meet

her family. Her father, it turned out, was a well-known Japanese wood-block print artist. I was received very graciously by the family: Father, Mother, and three daughters.  After  dinner Mr. Hiratsuka showed me his prints, and gave me at least twenty of them, not numbered, but all signed by him. Many years later (in the ‘60s) the owner of a Japanese art shop told me that he thought I must have the largest private collection of Hiratsuka prints in Japan. We became good friends with Keiko and her family. By then Roland and I had found a wonderful group of American friends which Keiko eventually joined, and to which I will devote a chapter later.

My father was teaching at Gakushuin again, and he was told he could teach either in uniform or in formal attire (a cut-away or tails). He chose the uniform and when not teaching, he kept his jacket in the coat closet at the school.

The Japanese Government had been looking for an English teacher for the crown prince (the crown prince did not learn German) for some time. A very charming woman, a Quaker called Mrs. Vining, was chosen. When she moved into her new home which was near ours,  she invited us to her home for dinner. (Our living arrangements were so primitive that we never could return her invitation). At dinner, when Mrs. Vining mentioned Quakers, Roland asked whether the Quakers had anything to do with Quaker Oats. This she answered with a gentle, smiling “no”. Later she wrote a book about her experiences in Japan: “A Window for the Crown Prince”.

Fortunately for Father, the walk to Gakushuin was short. But he was also still teaching at Tokyo University, and for that he had to take the train and then walk a pretty long way to the University. Meijiro Station was not very far. As a matter of fact we often heard trains passing in the night, and one night I woke up thinking the train was coming through my room and tried to move a table out of the way. The table had been enlarged by placing a wooden board on it and it had some teacups on it that we had used the evening before. I picked up the board to get it out of the way of the train that I thought was coming through our room, and set it aside which meant that I dropped it!

One day, on the suburban train, in the section reserved for US military and civilian personnel (which Roland and I used to ride although it was forbidden) I met a very nice looking, tall young man. We got to talking, and he said he wanted to see me again. Thus began my friendship with Jack Greenberg (he was the court reporter at the trials, as I mentioned earlier).  He had many friends and often took me to parties to  which he had been invited. We got along very well, and I always felt very comfortable and protected, very much at ease in his company. We never became lovers, but it was a beautiful friendship. Jack often came to our place for dinner. One day Harold Evans told me that the New Zealand Judge had found a book on Japanese woodblock prints that was written in German and which he wanted translated. Harold suggested that I might be interested in translating it into English. So I did that, and Jack, having such a broad knowledge of the English language from his work as court reporter, helped me with it and we had a great time working together. The New Zealand judge was very happy with the translation and – although  I had not expected to be paid for my work – insisted on paying me something. Later, when I started babysitting for the Hammerles, I was able to use that money to buy myself a raincoat from their Montgomery Ward Catalog.

Father, Roland, and I had a happy life together except for the moments of deep sadness over the loss of our beloved wife and mother. This sadness never left us till the end of Father’s and Roland’s lives, and will stay with me till I die, too.

Quite by luck, one of those strange incidents that can change one’s life happened. That was the beginning of the Inubashi, a small group of young German, Japanese, and American people. But I will have to begin from the beginning for that story:

In one of the women’s billets where non-military female employees of the Armed Forces lived, I think it was called the Osaka Building, there was a room which housed five  young women called Carol Chambers (from California), Barbara Vestal (from California), Marjorie Murphy (from Minnesota), Kay Russell and Yoshi Nakandakari (from Okinawa).

It all started with Kay Russell, who worked in the Department of Information and Education with, among other people, a Japanese gentleman. This gentleman invited Kay to his home for dinner one day. After dinner photo albums were brought out to show Kay a little about the life of the family. Among many photos were some of two Caucasian children, a boy and a girl. This was interesting to Kay and she asked who these children might be.  They are the children of my former teacher was the answer. Kay was curious: Where do they live? When she was told that they were living in Tokyo, she asked whether she could meet them. These children were Roland and I, and Mr. M. (I wish I could remember his name) invited Kay, Roland and me to dinner, so that we could meet. Thus we got to know Kay, and later her roommates Carol and Barbara. At that time Carol and Barbara were teaching two young students of Tokyo  University English: Ken Ikebe and Toshi Muto (both later joined Japan’s foreign service, and Toshi was ambassador to Moscow and London among many other postings – but became the first one of our group to die. Ken was consul general in Seattle at one point, ambassador to New Zealand, and a member of Japan’s UN mission in Paris when Roland, Jane, Don and I visited there in l951.) One day, Kay, Barbara, Carol, Roland and I decided to go on a bicycle trip over  the Thanksgiving holiday. The American girls suggested that we include their two Japanese students, and Roland and I decided to ask Keiko Hiratsuka and our friend Horst Schneewind to join us.

Everything was quickly arranged – everybody had a bicycle, and the date was set. We decided to meet at Yurakucho station. We never inquired how to get our bicycles on the train: we just took them onto the platform and into the coach. Americans were still able to get away with many things other people couldn’t get away with. Nobody knew that Roland and I were not Americans, and the Japanese students were part of our group. We had decided to bicycle along the coast of the Izu Peninsula. We took the train to Mishima at the base of the peninsula, at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Our first stop was a small inn which we found by chance on the south-eastern coast of the peninsula. It was on a slope and we had to carry our bikes down an incline (were there steps?) and up again the next day. We had army K rations for dinner, augmented by some tangerines given to us by a Japanese gentleman who had the room next to ours. (We gave him some K rations in exchange.) Back on the road the next day we ran into a man who had just shot a pheasant. We offered to buy it from him and Roland carried it slung by a string over his shoulder. That day we made it to Shimoda, a harbor town at the tip of the peninsula. There we had the cook prepare our pheasant which we ate along with our Japanese meal for our Thanksgiving dinner. One of our two rooms at the hotel, I think it was the one for us girls, had the name “Inubashi” above the door. At the inn there was also a room with ping pong tables. Above the door to that room was a sign that read  “Ping Ponog Room.”  After dinner we decided to play ping pong, and held the “Inubashi International Ping Ponog Tournament.” At Christmas, one of the Japanese young men, Toshi Muto, sent us a card addressed “To the members of the Inubashi International Ping Ponog Tournament.”  Thus was born the future name of our group “the Inubashi.”  Father soon became the “Oya-Inubashi”  (Elder Inubashi), and joined us on many future trips, including a bicycle trip on which someone in our group always had our father on his bike (my father’s eyesight was too poor for him to be able to ride a bike). At one point one of our group, Hans Crome I think, stopped a truck and got a ride for father and his bike.

It was on this, our first trip, that we started singing. Barbara  Vestal (who was one of the girls who shared a room at the Osaka Hotel) was a music teacher and taught us many songs, and directed us. Toshi Muto taught us, of all things, a German round. From Shimoda we took a ferry back to the mainland, and everyone on this boat had to perform something (doing this is quite popular among Japanese). Most people sang something. So this was the first time we sang with an audience, and with that started a tradition. A friend of Carol’s from San Diego, who was working as a civilian for the army, was also very musical and was allowed to play the organ in the Tokyo Mitsukoshi Department Store after hours. The “Inubashi” went to hear him and he soon became a member. Wherever we went, we sang. We sang together, several times for our friends, and once on stage at some Japanese concert or competition. We practiced every week, and when I came back to Japan after marrying Don, they (the remnants of the Inubashi) were still singing together, and I often joined them.

I could write endlessly about this period, so much went on all the time, always new and old faces, always new experiences. I have just been reading in my diary again. I had forgotten a great deal; for instance that father had been teaching German to Kay Russell and Doty. Once a week they came to our place for their German lessons and stayed for several hours, having dinner with us. It was at that time that I was teaching both at the Waseda English Speaking Society and at Kawamura Girls’ Middle School.  Someone got me a VIP ticket to the trials (where I had worked) and I saw and heard Konoe being interrogated. I also describe a completely new experience for me: watching an American football game. I even went to the horse races for the first time in my life. Another new experience was watching a boxing match and seeing one of the fighters at the end of the match take out of his mouth what I thought were his teeth, but it was his tooth guard. I often spent the night with the girls in the Osaka Hotel when I had been out in downtown Tokyo.

When many of the Germans in Japan were sent back to Germany by the U.S government, because they had been in the Nazi party , I took over a  baby-sitting job from Mrs. Fellmer. She was the wife of a German conductor and musician who had worked and taught in Japan for a number of years. Mrs. Fellmer had babysat for Col. and Mrs. Hammerle’s two children for one year. When the Fellmers left for Germany I took over her job and babysat for about a year until the Hammerles returned to the United States. They lived in Washington Heights, and sometimes I took the children on walks in the grounds of the Meiji Shrine nearby. I liked the whole family and enjoyed very much looking after the children. I learned a great deal about small children.  Corky must have been about 3 or 4, and Holly was a toddler, still in diapers. After they left I stayed in touch with them for several years. I wonder where and how they all are now.  The parents were quite strict. Once, when I was having lunch alone with the children, Corky said “Let’s play house.”  I said OK , and Corky banged his fist on the table and said: “God damnit!” I had never thought that Col. Hammerle would use such language, and I had to laugh. I enjoyed my time there. I often had dinner with them and ate so much that I got into the habit of drinking my after-dinner coffee black. I got to take home the bacon drippings which came in very handy for our cooking.

As I mentioned, the American authorities decided to send back to Germany all Germans who had been Nazi Party members. Our family friend, Dr. Seckel, a teacher of German at the Kotogakko in Urawa, who had joined the party for practical reasons, was also repatriated. All the possessions of these unfortunate people were confiscated and they were allowed only 350lbs of baggage. Mr. Seckel was an art historian and had an extensive library of lovely art books. All the things confiscated by the Americans were then auctioned off. Mr. Seckel had a brother who was a professor at the University of Chicago who wired money to buy back these books. Mechtild, being married to an American major by then, was able to take part in the auction, so she got back Mr. Seckel’s books for him. Since he was sent back with very little baggage, I assume that my father sent his books to Germany for him.

Father wanted very much for Roland and me to go to college, but our Japanese was not good enough to study at a Japanese University, and it would be impossible for us to find a place to live and study in Germany. We discussed these problems with our Inubashi friends, and one of the original four members from the Osaka Hotel, Kay Russell, offered to sponsor Roland. We were happy and grateful to accept her generous offer. The money for the fare came from a Canadian life insurance policy that father had taken out years ago. The insurance company (Sunlife Insurance) had very thoughtfully continued to make the payments throughout the war from the money that would be due him. Kay Russel’s roommate, Carol Chambers, suggested Roland stay with her family in San Diego, when he first arrived. Roland’s trip and first months in the States are described by Roland elsewhere, I think. What impressed me greatly, however, and what made me certain that Roland could take care of himself, was the following occurrence: Roland’s ship was to go straight to San Francisco, but soon out of Japanese waters he was told that the ship was to stop in Tsingtao, and that he was to pay an additional fare. But Roland argued that he had boarded the ship expecting to go directly to San Francisco and that he had no intention of paying more, and the agency finally agreed not to charge him. I was so proud of Roland when I heard this; now I knew that my little brother could take care of himself. We all missed Roli, but we knew that it was good for him to be in the United States.

Now Father and I were alone with Tsunesan. I know my father missed Roland very much. But since he had become a member of the Inubashi, he was never lonely for long, and I was with him till I, too, left about one year later.

Since I remember very little of that period I will review what I wrote in my review of the Year 1949. It was a year full of a variety of happenings, interesting, I learned a great deal, and it also brought a lot of fun and many sociable times. A year of enjoyable activities with young people.  Group activities of the Inubashi included ski-trips in winter, weekends in Karuizawa at Mrs. Schneewind’s (mother of a schoolmate of ours), folk dancing, Inubashi parties, swimming, hiking, trips by car in the spring and summer, bicycle tours in the spring and summer, our singing and the creation of the “International Singers.” There were the monthly meetings in which we discussed politics, started by several of us who had taken part in the Quaker International Students’ Conference, and the American Students’ Conference. The latter included the young people who had come from the States as missionaries called the J-3s because of their commitment to stay in Japan for three years. Exciting for me was an invitation to speak in Hibiya Hall for a UNESCO meeting. I spoke briefly in three languages, German, Japanese and English. I went out with many different interesting and not so interesting people, fell madly in love with a young Dane just a few months before my departure from Japan and had to leave with a broken heart.

A friend of mine, a Scandinavian diplomat, got me a free ticket on a freighter of the Danish Maersk Line. The only other passenger was a youngish, rather stodgy man, but he was with the shipping agency and knew the charming, bearded old captain of the ship and introduced me to him. At lunch every day we had a wonderful smorgasbord. I read a great deal and put the photos of the past years into an album. It was a most pleasant trip. When we approached the California coast the radio brought American broadcasts. I heard my first American commercial: “Halo, Shampoo, Halo.” (They made it sound like “Hello, shampoo, hello”). As we approached S.F.  I saw the white houses on my right – a lovely sight after the small Japanese houses with their black roofs. When we passed below the Golden Gate Bridge before we landed, a customs official came on board, and looked at my immigration papers. As he looked at my chest X Ray, he said: “A typical X Ray from Japan.” (I had spots on my lungs from exposure to tuberculosis.)  Here I have to tell the story of a young Swiss woman journalist, friend of my parents’, who went to see her Japanese doctor. When he looked at her lungs through the fluoroscope he called all the nurses near him to come and look. The lady was horrified – she thought she must have some terrible disease – but what happened was that the doctor wanted the nurses to see a completely healthy lung! Japan had so many cases of tuberculosis that the nurses hardly ever got to see a healthy lung. My father lost many students to this disease, especially in the early years.

As we passed underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, I was almost afraid that the tip of the mast would hit the bridge, but of course it didn’t. Roland and Dirk Bornhorst – who had a car – met me at the pier.  First we walked through the town – I was amazed at all the old newspapers messing up the streets. Then we crossed the SF-Oakland Bay bridge and ended up in Roland’s tiny, two room apartment. (“Here one has to polish one’s own shoes “ was the remark one young German friend from Japan made when he first saw Roland’s place.) Roland was already enrolled at UC Berkeley, and was working in a COOP dining room for pocket money. The Maxons had offered to put me up for a while, and I spent a few nice days with them. Then I took the train down to Los Angeles to visit Hella Janson,

(now Berg),  an old friend from Japan days, who was studying fashion design. She was staying at the Evangeline Residence where I spent a few nights with her. I called friends from Japan days and started looking for a job. I went with the brother of a friend in Japan to see “Finnian’s Rainbow “ – a delightful musical – at Hollywood  Bowl. Two young GIs whom I had met in Japan and I went sightseeing together. Then I found in the paper an ad that asked for people to sell magazine subscriptions. I answered the ad, got the job, and found it very uninteresting, but it was a job. We had to ring doorbells and try to sell the owners a cook book. We had to stick a cookbook in the owner’s face and ask “would you like a free cookbook?” and then try to sell them a magazine subscription. I don’t think I made any money – that was paid only when people had actually paid for a subscription. But on this job I was working with two young women who were also trying to do the same thing. We got to talking, and one of them, Nan, suggested I live with them and work for them in exchange for room and board. It turned out that the two – Nan and Shirley – lived together in a house that belonged to Nancy’s father.  Nan told me that her father played golf with Eisenhower, and her uncle was a wild-game hunter! One day the rich aunt called when the girls were out, and I answered the phone. I answered politely; it was Nan’s aunt, and the next day she asked Nan: “Who answered the phone? She’s better than Cy.” Cy was the aunt’s butler!

The house was located in a beautiful, wooded spot in Laurel Canyon in Hollywood. The two girls offered me the guest cabin and food, in exchange for my cooking for them. The guest cabin had two rooms and a bathroom with shower. One of the rooms was for Nan’s dogs, two beautiful Belgian Shepherds, the other one was for me. I had a reading light, an overhead light and a radio and I was very comfortable. The lot was hilly, and I had to sign a statement that I would not sue Nan if I fell and hurt myself.

We got along well. In the mornings we had breakfast together and took sandwiches with us for lunch. I was asked to cook in the evenings, set the table with fancy mirrored placemats and silver, and then serve the food with a napkin over my arm with which to brush the breadcrumbs from the table. Then I had my dinner in the kitchen and cleaned up.

For some reason the job selling the subscriptions ended at one point, and I truly can’t remember if I earned anything at all, but it was an interesting experience. One after-effect was that for a long time I could not look at a California ranch-style house without feeling slightly nauseous.

Then I tried selling water-softeners, briefly, with even less success.

Finally I returned to La Jolla and to the Chambers. I stayed with Carol and her family while I looked for a job. I found one as a cook housekeeper; but while I was a good cook and good at cleaning, I hadn’t learned to serve food when my employers had guests. I had a lovely room with a view over the bay. But this job didn’t last long, either. My employers were leaving on vacation and knew I would be leaving soon myself to go to college, so they took that opportunity to let me go.

Carol had decided to go to Sweden to study, and was planning to take a ship out of Seattle. So Carol and I, and two young male friends of Carol’s drove to Seattle, visiting Carol’s brother, who was a forester in Oregon, on the way. In Seattle I contacted Woodie Mcpheaters from Japan days (we had actually talked about marriage at one point), and he introduced me to a very nice young couple with a small child. They were willing to let me stay with them, and I had very good times with them. Two stand out in my memory. One: a trip to the Olympic peninsula where we drove as close as we could to Hurricane Ridge and walked to the top where we spent the night in sleeping bags under the stars. During the night an elk came and inspected us. Above Canada, to the north, we saw the northern lights. Again a completely new experience. Another time they took me into the mountains North-East of Seattle, where we stayed in a small cabin overnight. I also went with them to pick beans for spending money. One day Woody took me to the Olympic Peninsula again, to show me a piece of land he and a friend had bought. It was a small, old  farm in the middle of the forest: an old farmhouse, a large meadow in which elk appeared during the night –  or so I was told. I loved the place at first sight and almost decided to marry Woody after all, just so that I could live in this beautiful spot! (It is a good thing I didn’t marry him: he later joined the Scientologists!)  I am so grateful to the young couple who took me in without knowing me, but I can’t remember their name – I did remember it when I first came back to Seattle to live, but I could not find it in the telephone book.

After Seattle I returned to Berkeley and probably stayed with the Maxons again. I visited Roland in his tiny room and then went to the University and looked around. I found out that it was possible to earn one’s room and board by working 10 hours a week. And if the work included cooking one could earn $10.- a month extra. I went to the Bureau of Occupations to see what kind of positions were available. I loved children, but I figured that living in a home with children would probably involve extra work without pay, and anyway, I wanted to have enough time to study. So when I saw that there was a place open at the home of a retired professor and his wife, and heard that the previous student had been there for several years, I decided to get an interview with them. I am not sure, but I think my first interview was with professor Etcheverry in his office on campus. He turned out to be a charming man. I then met his wife and it was decided that I should move in. I got a large room upstairs, sharing the bathroom with professor Etcheverry. Mrs. Etcheverry had her bedroom on the first floor. She was a sweet lady, and I knew I would be comfortable there. It was not too long since their younger son had died quite tragically, and Mrs. Etcheverry had only recently gone through a period of severe depression. Prof. Etcheverry was a delightful person with a great sense of humor. One day, during the first week, he asked me who my favorite professor was. I answered: “Professor Scalapino”. The next day, at breakfast, he said “I’m sorry, Barbara, but Prof. Scalapino is already married.”!

They wanted me to  fix breakfast in the mornings and cook dinner in the evenings. I cooked and then ate my meals with them. When they had company I also cooked. They usually had a lamb roast and caramel custard pudding for desert. I ate with them even when they had company and they called me “our college girl.” They asked me to clean house once a week and they payed me extra for that. I think I was supposed to get $10.- a month for the extra work, but they gave me $20. Since that was not enough pocket money, I took other part-time jobs. One was cooking lunch for a very nice elderly couple – he was a retired Unitarian minister. I cooked lunch for them and ate it with them. I don’t remember if I got paid money besides getting the lunch. I also don’t remember how long I did that, but I think it was for one semester. I also did several house cleaning jobs and odd jobs of serving at dinners during that first year.

Shortly after the semester began, I joined the Treble Clef Society, an on campus choral group, because I had always been so fond of singing. We sang at several concerts and at one point, after I had married Don, we put on Gershwin’s   “Of Thee I Sing”. So I started my new life with a very full schedule. The rehearsals for the musical took much time, and one evening when I was walking home with a group of friends, a campus cop stopped us and asked whether one of us was Barbara Helm. Don had called because I was later than usual and he had gotten worried.

I had hoped to get into “Recreation”, because I knew I would be interested in working with children or youths in a variety of activities, but unfortunately to do that I had to have American citizenship, and as an immigrant it would take me 5 years to get my citizenship. In Recreation my experiences at the International Quaker Seminar and the American Students Conference would have been very useful, but now I had to give up that idea. In my last years in Japan I had gotten interested in what I considered politics so that I chose Political Science not realizing that what I would really have enjoyed was International Relations. But by the time I realized that, it was really too late to switch. Since I had gotten the German Abitur  – I guess you would call it the “final exams” – I was given two years’ college credit. At my age – I was now 25 – that was a great advantage.

Things went well. In one of my first courses “The Political Society of Japan” I met Hans Baerwald again. I remembered him vaguely from early Japan days, and my parents had been friends of the Baerwalds. Father had suggested that I visit Mrs. Baerwald. I did, and there I also met her daughter Anne, who lived nearby with her family, and was visiting her mother. On the street I had seen Hans with a young girl who was holding a rose in her hand, and Mrs. Baerwald and Anne were talking about Hans’ new girlfriend. It was Diane Aamoth who later got married to Hans. At that time she had graduated in Pol. Sci. and was working in the Poli Sci. department office. In this class were also Don Helm, Leo Rose and George Moore who all became close friends. (They were all graduate students at that time.)

I enjoyed the singing very much, but after we put on George Gershwin’s “Of Thee I Sing” I quit. The production had been great fun but had taken so much of my time. I couldn’t do everything: do housework and cook, take classes and write papers, and sing! So, after a year – I think – I gave up the singing. George Moore, Don, and I became a threesome and spent time going to lectures, drinking coffee at the Students’ Union or eating Japanese food in local restaurants. A whole group of us went on picnics together and at one point inaugurated the “Society for The Preservation of Parlor Games.” The latter included the aforementioned, and Hans and Diane, Connie Freydig, John Hattori, and Larry Schraeder and Betty Nakagawa who later got married.

Two people who became particularly good friends of mine were Don’s friends Maryanne and Paul Takagi. I think they had just gotten married when I met them, and MaryAnn was working in the office of Prof Brown.

Roland was involved in his studies of engineering and quite busy, but he occasionally joined our group, especially on picnics and skiing (which we did at the Sierra Club Lodge at Norden in the Sierras). He was still doing odd jobs to cover his expenses and at one point got a scholarship for poor foreign students. I got that scholarship, too, but by then I was married to Don and was no longer so poor and therefore could not accept it.

One day Don and George took me on a trip to the mountains where a friend of theirs, Jane, who had graduated the year before, was teaching in an elementary school. I took an immediate liking to her. I had been looking out for a girlfriend for Roland, but since we were up in the mountains it just didn’t occur to me that Jane would be great for Roland. Later someone else introduced Jane to Roland and they got married in June of 1952. After this trip George got mononucleosis, and was absent for several weeks. One day Prof Scalapino invited the whole class for a show of slides he had taken in Japan. Don picked me up in his car and we drove there together. On the way there Don took my hand very shyly and gently and I was touched by his action. He took me out several times and we spent much time together. I found that we had many interests in common, art, music, our love for and knowledge of Japan (during the war he had been drafted into the army and had been sent to language school to learn Japanese. After the war he spent at least one year as an officer in Japan – I think he had something to do with interviewing former prisoners of war.) One evening I was invited to his home for dinner with his parents and two brothers. After dinner the boys went into the kitchen to do the dishes and worked while singing in harmony. All three had nice voices. I was charmed. Another time when I was there, Don took out some classical records and played them for me. (Once we got married and moved to Japan, he forgot all his old interests and instead got involved with a group of men who   got together after work to drink.) I fell in love, and in February of 1952 we got married. Mother and Father Helm payed for the wedding, and Mrs. Etcheverry arranged for us to be able to have the wedding reception at the College Women’s Club. My friend Barbara Vestal came from San Diego to be the maid of honor, and George Moor was the best man; Roland gave me away. After the ceremony I got out of my “wedding dress” (Which was a pretty evening dress, pale blue) to change into my “going away suit” (the suit mother had received after the flood). But I found that I had forgotten to bring a blouse, so dear Mrs. Etcheverry took off her blouse to lend it to me because we were leaving right away on our honeymoon. The Etcheverrys had recommended a hotel in Carmel (where they usually spent New Year’ Eve.)  Anne Lenway and her husband were in Carmel, too, and surprised us with a visit.

The Etcheverrys had suggested that Don move in with me and pay $60 a month for his food. With the money he got from the government for his studies, and with me continuing with my housework at the Etcheverries and other places, we managed. I graduated with a BA and Don got his MA in June of 1952.

Roland and Jane, Don and I were planning a trip to Europe together. The National Students’ Association advertised a cheap student flight on a chartered plane from New York to London and a cheap ocean voyage on an old troop ship from Le Havre back to New York. I had received my citizenship two years after immigrating and one year after having married Don. Roland and Jane got married shortly before we left. We decided to drive our car across the USA and leave it with friends on the East Coast. The first problem arose before our departure, when we went to the German consulate for visas. We found that because Roland was eligible for the draft and could be excused only if he were enrolled in school and that his visa therefore depended on his being enrolled.

I was so disappointed and couldn’t hold back my tears. The consul saw my tears, then said we could get the visa if we promised to be back in time for Roland to enroll at the University upon his return. Roland and Jane got married in the Brazilian Room in Tilden Park and we had an old-fashioned German “Bowle” (fresh fruit punch) to celebrate. The next day we left by car for New York. Not wanting to waste the precious German wedding punch, we took the leftover with us on the trip. When we stopped at June Goldman’s in Iowa for a night, we had Max and June try the wonderful punch the next morning. — Max took a mouthful and made a face and said: “How many miles do you get on this?” –  it had turned into alcohol!

The trip by car to the East Coast was wonderful. We took the northern route via Yellowstone National Park (where we saw Old Faithful), past Salt Lake and Salt Lake City. We had our sleeping bags with us and slept by the side of the road. Once, when we had gone to sleep in the dark, we found that we had slept on broken glass! Another time we had to stop driving to let two skunks slowly cross the road. We visited friends in Maryland and left our car with them. In New York we boarded our flight and flew into London. Once we arrived in London we wanted to eat and found some workmen sitting outside the airport and asked them where we could find something to eat. They answered that where they would eat wouldn’t be suitable for people in “your station of life”.

Luckily Don remembered that, when he had visited London as a student, he had stayed in a hostel for women of the Armed Forces, and we found it again. It was very clean, smelled of Lysol, and we had bread and marmalade and tea for a satisfying breakfast. We had a Chinese dinner the next day and then set out to find some bicycles. Don suggested we go somewhere – I don’t remember where and what it was, but it was a place where foreign travelers could find or leave messages etc. There we found an ad from people wanting to sell their two bikes. We got the other two bikes through some relatives of ours in Heidelberg. While still in London we visited the widow of our great-uncle Edmund Van der Straaten: – she is an old lady now and has trouble placing  Roland and me; suddenly she says: “Oh, you are the Japs!” She remembered us from a photo my parents had sent her of me as a toddler in a kimono. – She gives us tea to take to our grandmother, her sister-in-law in Germany. Later, in Germany, on the border, we have to pay duty on it! – Don showed us a little of London, and then it was off on the boat through the canal to Dunkerque and then to Paris. Don found us a place again, the little hotel where he had stayed that same trip about a year before, and we spent a few days looking around Paris.  While there, we visited Fontainebleau, where Roland’s and my Inubashi friends Kay Russel, Barbara Vestal and Carol Chambers were teaching in a school for children of American military personnel. Jack Heckelman was there, too, but I don’t remember where he was working. We spent a few wonderful days in Fontainebleau and Paris and then took the train to Marseilles, where we started our bicycle trip.

The weather was beautiful as we set off bicycling along the Mediterranean Sea. We had no specific goal, we just enjoyed the scenery, the setting, the fishermen singing as they hauled in their nets, taking occasional dips in the sea – that was like being in a bathtub, nothing like the invigorating freshness of the oceans on the coasts of Japan, but the beaches were beautiful. We bicycled through Monte Carlo, where we saw beautiful yachts anchored in the harbor, and then on to Rapallo. I remember little about where we stayed or camped. I do remember that we stayed in a youth hostel in Venice. The Italian fishermen reminded us of Japan. One of the things I enjoyed particularly was that everywhere we went in Italy people were singing.

The first time I went into a restroom in Italy, I couldn’t figure out which was for the women: signori or signore. From having learned Latin I was able to figure it out: not “signori” for me! I also remember that in some stations we were able to take baths – but I can’t remember where (it could have been Germany). In Florence and in Venice we stayed in youth hostels – when we didn’t camp out, we stayed in hostels. In one olive orchard where people were sleeping under the trees, I had my camera stolen from next to me as I slept in my sleeping bag. Once, in Germany, we camped next to a potato field where, we were told later, we were lucky not to have run into – was it raccoons, or foxes? Jane was happy she didn’t know about that till the day after. As we were told later, since the Germans were forbidden to own weapons, there was quite some wildlife to be found in the country-side.

We saw the leaning tower of Pisa, and then the beautiful doors to the dome and the gorgeous statue of David in Florence. When we reached Venice, we spent a few wonderful days, including a ride in gondolas and then took ourselves and our bikes by train across the Brenner Pass, and then bicycled down into Innsbruck in Germany; a spectacular, breathtaking ride and wonderful experience. On this trip we saw many of the crosses that often stand by the side of the road; this was catholic country. Unfortunately Don, Roland, and I tended to bicycle a little faster than Jane, and then would have to stop to let her catch up. We didn’t mind, but I’m sure poor Jane wasn’t all too happy about it, especially since we set off again pretty soon after she had caught up with us.

The same day we left Italy we arrived in Kreuzlingen on the Bodensee (Lake Constance.) There we showed up at the doorstep of our great-uncle Joy (Dr. Ludwig Binswanger). I don’t remember, but I hope that we had announced our coming. The evening of our arrival the Binswangers had a concert in their home: Edwin Fischer would be playing. My cousin Dieter, about two years older than I, was worried whether we would be appropriately dressed, since we arrived in our bicycling clothes, but when Jane and I in our navy blue nylon dresses and Roland and Don in clean shirts, jackets and pressed pants arrived, we were graciously received. Uncle Joy was very fond of his sister Anni, our grandmother, and had always taken an interest in our family. He was very fond of Mother, and shared an interest in philosophy with my father. Whenever we came to Europe we would spend a few days in Bellevue with his family. This time, too, he invited first Roland, and then me to a private talk with him in his study. He lay on his couch and we got to sit in an easy chair facing him; he asked us questions about our lives and let us talk.

I can’t remember where we slept – in the Gartenhaus (Onkel Joy’s Residence) or in the main building, the “Bellevue”. The next day Dieter took us to the  Brunneg to see Tante Dolly, Werner’s English wife (Onkel Joy’s sister-in-law). Werner had died not long ago of pneumonia. Then he showed us around Brunneg, an elegant old estate, and I told him how embarrassed I was that I had asked him to carry me down the big wide stairs there, when I was 11 and had a crush on him, and he confessed that he had had a crush on me, too. (Dieter later became a doctor specializing in stomach problems, but became quite obsessed with music and left his wife and 5 children to live with a young Chinese pianist. This relationship didn’t last either, I think, and I think he died rather a lonely death. His wife Esther later became a good friend of mine.)

From Kreuzlingen we went to Lake Lucerne and took a look at Mt. Pilatus. I think we took a suspension car up – how far we went I cannot remember. But the view was impressive. We also visited Wolfgang (Dieter’s brother) and Trudi Binswanger, and met little Markus, their first child. They were spending their holidays in a small hotel on a mountain lake at the foot of the Alps. Wolfgang is also a psychiatrist and is working in Zurich. (When I was in Europe a number of years ago I went with Trudi to hear Markus give a talk. Markus is also a psychiatrist and has established a village where people who need psychiatric help live with their families in separate small houses.)

After Switzerland we bicycled along the Rhine and later the Neckar to get to the home of our Tante Annemarie, mother’s younger sister, in Heidelberg. She is married to a lawyer, Adolf Schuele. Tante Annemarie is not well. She suffers terribly from migraines, and her daughter Franziska tells me that she has to find morphine for her. Tante Annemarie dies not long after our visit. Also living in the house is Ilse, the wife of our Uncle Gero who was killed in the war. She has a little boy also called Gero, who has never seen his father. Here we give away our bicycles, because from here on we will travel by train, bus, or hitchhiking. In Heidelberg we also visit our mother’s first home. The next stop is Karlsruhe, where we visit my father’s mother “Grossmutter” and Aunt Eva and deliver the tea from England. They live in the attic of an old house which was not bombed out. They have a cleaning woman, an elderly one who comes once a week, and Grossmutter helps her carry the bucket of water for the mop up the stairs!

From Karlsruhe we now take the train to Bad Homburg where Tante Jetta lives with two elderly aunts. One is Tante Jenny, the wife of Dr.Baumstark who had owned the Sanatorium Baumstark where Aunt Jetta had worked till his death. Living with them is another old lady, Tante Jenny’s sister, Tante Marianne. It is a lovely old house and they manage to find some rooms for us to use. Tante Jetta takes us up to a mountain where there is an old castle ruin. We also eat in a very nice old restaurant in the forest.

From Bad Homburg we bicycle along the Rhine till we come to Eltville, where our Onkel Wolfgang, father’s youngest brother, lives on an Island, the “Eltviller Aue” (Aue=meadow) which belongs to Onkel Alberts divorced wife Irma. Wolfgang is in charge of the farm which is on the island. On this island is a small “castle” which belongs to Irma, but at that time it was rented to an American family in Germany with the occupation. These kind people think we should stay in this house, since we belong to the family, and make two rooms available for us; it is an enormous place. Francesca is staying with her mother in a lovely small house – part of the island property. They all, including the American tenants, join us at a fire which we have in the evening by the river. Later Wolfgang takes us to the pigsty where the pig is which he had bought and which had just arrived that day. Francesca decides we have to christen the pig and we have a fun christening. Later Onkel Wolfgang decides we should all have a dip in the river and he goes in with his underpants on. Later he lies down in bed next to Lucia, and she is furious because he has kept on his wet underpants.

Now I will have to start looking at photos to help me remember what came next: I don’t remember from where to where we bicycled, but we covered a long stretch along the Rhine, visited castle ruins, saw the rock from where the Lorelei lured boats – and fishermen – to their deaths in the river with her bewitching songs. We enjoyed food in small inns and coffee shops. It seems we were very lucky with the weather. One more quick visit to Freiburg from where we went to Strasburg with its gorgeous cathedral from the top of which we looked over the roofs of the beautiful old houses.-  Then back to our grand-parents’ former home in Heidelberg – where we leave our bikes for their children. I believe from there we took the train to Paris where we had to get Roland’s papers, but they have not arrived yet. Frantic calls to Washington DC, and we hear again that Roland has to stay on to get an extension for his visa, and to get that he has to be enrolled in college, since he is not yet a citizen. We decide that Roland should stay in Paris, until he gets the necessary papers after Jane has enrolled him in college in Berkeley. Most complicated! Luckily our friend Kay Russell from Japan days is still in Paris and Roland can stay with her until the necessary papers arrive. We spend a few fun days in Paris, then the rest of us go by train to Le Havre, where we will board the old troop ship that has been chartered by the National Students Association for the trip which had started with our flight on the airplane, also chartered by this group.

The ship has hit an iceberg before reaching LeHavre, and the dent in the bow of the ship is covered by a big tarp. We sleep in bunks three or four  high.

The weather continues rough and one girl on the ship gets so seasick that she wants to jump overboard, and she is taken to the infirmary and has to be strapped to her bed there.

On board we meet a young couple who have found a cozy spot in the bow of the ship. We get along well and it turns out that we will run into them again and again, first in Boston, and also in California when they visit their daughter who lives on the way to the wine country.

After we reach New York Harbor and get off the ship we have to go through customs. The customs officer is not at all interested in what we have to declare, although Jane is expecting to show her piece of silk and pay duty. It turns out he doesn’t care what we have with us, but finally asks whether we have some wine. We show him our recently bought wine and explain that it is already open. That’s fine with him; all he wants is a good taste of it. He drinks, gives back the bottle and waves us on.

We don’t linger in New York. We have to get to California as soon as possible to enroll Roland in College. This time we take the southern route. I don’t remember much of this trip except that we drove through some lovely countryside. As usual we spread out our sleeping bags for the night. In Texas we stopped to visit Mary-Jane’s family. This is the first time Don and I have met them. We had a great time with them, but couldn’t stay but for a few days. Roland had to get back to make sure he was registered at UC.

As we were nearing home, we heard a radio message warning listeners that an escaped convict was thought to be on the highway where we were traveling. We continued as we had travelled before, though we were a bit worried. Pretty soon we felt safe again and concentrated on the road and the scenery. I don’t remember which route we took home, but we drove in a north-West direction.

I assume that Roland and Jane, before they left, had already moved into the small house in the student village that was to be their home. All I remember is that they had painted their interior walls and had chosen a yellow which turned out different once the paint had dried. Roland called it a “pee pee yellow.”

Upon our return, it did not take us long to settle back into our old routines. The three of us started our new courses; Jane kept on teaching and became a “Hausfrau”.  We saw each other off and on, on campus, sometimes had lunch together. Jane was teaching; but then she got pregnant and they had a baby boy whom they named Stefan; I should mention here that I had Christopher just a few months before Stefan was born. I had graduated from Library School, just before leaving on the trip to Europe, and upon our return we moved into an empty apartment in housing intended for veterans, Don having been in the US Army during the occupation. Our entrance led up some outside steps that led to the front door of our neighbors’ apartment and to our front door. Next to us, if I remember correctly, lived a black family with the cutest little boy, who soon became a friend of ours. From here I went to my classes at the Library School, while Don worked in a canning factory so we could have some spending money. The Dean of the Library School was not happy with my having a baby, because he wanted every graduate to start work immediately after graduation. I’m sorry I had to disappoint him, but I wanted to become a mother first, and then work as a librarian. Later, in Japan, when the International School in Yokohama wanted me as a librarian, Don did not want me to work – (except in the house, of course!)

Mary-Anna Takagi was also pregnant, and they had their first child, Tani, just a few months before I had Chris, and MA and I together attended special exercise classes for pregnant women. Diane Baerwald was also pregnant, and their child, Andrea, was the first to be born in our group.

Don found a job in a canning factory.

The new apartment was very small, and when Chris was born we had to put our beds one on top of the other to make room for the crib. Well, Chris’ arrival put a bit of a cramp into our lifestyle, but later, it was nice for us young mothers to be able to get together and chat while we were nursing our babies.

From here it gets difficult to remember; so much kept going on and we were kept so busy; but if we took our babies along, we could go on picnics in the forest or on the beach with the others and had a great time. Mr. Yatsushiro, my friend Sachiko’s father came from Japan on business and came to see us in our tiny home.

Don’s father had made a trip to Japan, to perk up the business a bit. The German Helm had not been a very effective manager, so Father Helm thought it best to send us to Japan so Don could manage the company. Of course Don was not prepared to run a business – all he had ever taken was an accounting course – but he needed a job and decided to accept the job of manager of Helm Brothers. It was a very difficult time for him. For me, life was quite easy. Don’s father had built a very nice house for us and we settled in with baby Chris. I was happy to be back in Japan, although I knew little of Yokohama, having lived in the Kansai Area (Osaka and Kobe) and then Tokyo. We soon renewed old friendships (Don had been away much longer than I had been) and made new friends.

Tsurusan, who had worked for the Helms during  their Japan days, had kept in touch with the family and was willing to come and work for us. She was a real blessing. She was capable, learned quickly, and having watched me cooking, she was able to surprise us with a cooked meal when we were late coming home one day. But we also needed a younger and sturdy young woman to help with Chris. We hired Nori-chan, the daughter of the carpenter at Helm Brothers. She learned quickly, and came to love Chris and the kids who followed. Unfortunately she also was a thief, which we found out later, when one day I missed something of mine and found she had taken it. Earlier, my father had mentioned that something had been taken from his overcoat pocket, and since we could not prove anything, we felt there must have been a misunderstanding. I also lost some small items of jewelry. So I decided to leave some money lying around and had marked one of the coins. When I asked her for some change, I found my marked coin. With that proof we found out about all she had taken. I think I got back most of the things she had taken. We hated  to let her go, but luckily she had met a young man whom she married, and after their wedding we saw them occasionally.

Now – it is July 30 2010 – I am finding that I am not remembering well anymore. Too bad!!!

But Leslie, our second boy, was born in Yokohama – he was always the one among our children who got hurt. He fell off the back of the couch into a window, broke it, and hurt himself. We had told our children to be careful with fireworks, but when some of his friends were playing on the street with firecrackers, he came to watch just as they had put some in a bottle and put fire to them. The bottle exploded and a piece of glass got into Leslie’s eye. I had to grab him and rush him to the doctor at the Bluff Hospital nearby. There I was told to take him to a Japanese hospital which had an excellent eye specialist. There he was well taken care of and I found this Japanese hospital very efficient, but not as modern as the Bluff Hospital. While I was waiting for Les to be treated, I watched a cat jump onto a table to eat the left-over food on the plates. Another time he played at the fire station nearby and climbed up a wall where the fire hoses were hung out to dry, and he fell again and hurt himself. When we were at Lake Chuzenji, where we always stayed in the summers, this time at the home of the caretaker of the waterfall food stand, he ran from the waterfall to the house and crashed into the glass door to the house. And once, when he was at the YCAC (Yokohama Country And Athletic Club) playing in the pool with a friend, this friend came swimming under water and surfaced just as Leslie’s head was above him and knocked out one of his incisors. I was called to the Club and had to rush him to the dentist.

Chris was, and always will be a solid, thinking being. He was a good, intelligent child, quick to learn, and interested in many things. He is a Lawyer. Leslie, our joker, our clown, in spite of all his bad luck, became a journalist, worked for Business Week in Japan and is now editing a news magazine in Seattle. Julie, who always loved animals, became a veterinarian and now lives in the mountains of Colorado with husband, 2 boys and many animals. Andrea went through college in Portland Oregon and lives there now with her husband, a son and a daughter, and is happy in her job at her children’s school.

Now I am living in Seattle Washington, and will try to continue the story of my Life.  How much longer?


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