Fraternization in Japan
From “Gaijin Shogun,” by David J. Valley, 19th Infantry Regiment
Gen. MacArthur was always correct in his assessments of the common soldier’s basic attitudes and interests, and what could be more basic to the soldier than sex, especially after living in a deprived state?
About fraternization he said, “Sometimes my whole staff was lined up against me, but I knew what I was doing. After all, I had more experience. And most of the time I was right.”
His brief tour in occupied Germany after WWI had convinced him that banning social contacts with the defeated population was poor policy.
“Soldiers will be soldiers,” he said. He thought GIs were more interested in companionship than sex, anyhow, though he wasn’t against that either. During one of his drives through the capital he saw an American soldier embracing a Japanese girl in a doorway, fondling her breasts. And she was responding likewise.
“Look at that,” the General said to Major Faubion Bowers. “They keep trying to get me to stop all of this Madam Butterflying around. I won’t do it. My father told me never to give an order unless I was certain it would be carried out. I wouldn’t issue a non-fraternization order for all the tea in China.”
Much has been said about the sexual revolution of the 1960s; it wasn’t entirely original. However, a significant difference between the sixties phenomenon and the behavior of GIs in Japan was the generally monogamous nature of the later. The impetus for this came mostly from the Japanese girls themselves; they were very critical of “cho-cho” boys, referring to the butterfly that flits from flower to flower.
Of course, prostitution was also widespread, but these girls generally did not form lasting relationships.
When the General said GIs were more interested in companionship than sex, this may have been overstated, but it was also true.
After GIs experimented a bit with prostitutes, they often decided that sex alone was not all that satisfying, and they sought companionship. With patience they could find nice Japanese girls who were interested in relationships. They could be found in public places or where they worked in support of Occupation operations: PXs, clubs, dance halls, restaurants, and shops.
Usually, families of these girls depended on them for financial assistance, not only from their day jobs, but also if they elected to co-habit, or “shack-up,” a word popularized during the Occupation. A portion of the money or goods the girls received from their boyfriends often went to their families.
GIs by the thousands fell in love with the comely, sensitive, and satisfying Japanese girls. For many it was the first time they experienced a loving sexual relationship at all, or one of any duration.
Folks at home may have had difficulty understanding how this was possible with people of another race, but the GI saw the musime (girl) as a worthy object of his affection.
Over 25,000 GIs married Japanese during the Occupation, but unfortunately, like marriages of other young people, many were not to last. Ill-conceived marriages fell apart shortly after the servicemen returned to the States with their “war-brides.”
Many difficulties were encountered as the couples tried to assimilate in American society. Divorce seemed an easy answer. Some of the rejected Japanese girls returned to their homeland. Some found others of similar plight and, with mutual support, they made a home for themselves in America.
There are also thousands of happy stories, of couples who experienced the hardships of a mixed race marriage in a less tolerant society—along with the usual challenges of marriage, but their love was true and strong, carrying them through the adversities.
Bud and Masako
Here’s Bud’s story, and his trial of youthful romance. Bud was smitten by Masako, a beautiful girl with intelligence, poise and charm.
The club was quite large, with a low ceiling which later in the evening captured a cloud of blue tobacco smoke that would have downed the less hearty.
By the entry was a cashier’s booth where dance tickets were purchased. Dance tickets were about ten cents each, but it took ten for a dance set, and if the patron wasn’t alert his dance partner might cop extras from his string.
A large bottle of beer was 100 yen, or about thirty cents at the time.
The girls, standing along a side wall, were not all great lookers, but there was someone for everyone. To the discerning eye it didn’t take long to pick out the more exceptional girls; they didn’t wait long for a partner.
Something must be said about the music. The musicians were relatively young Japanese with just enough skill to read music or follow a popular tune with something recognizable, but for most not very well.
What was more akimbo was the singing, as few Japanese had the skill to pronounce the words they sang. Some may have had good voices, but if so, they were lost in the mangling of the language. As bad as it might have been however, it was great nonetheless to hear popular American music and have the opportunity to dance with pretty girls.
When Bud first spotted Masako at the Club Oasis he felt an immediate kah-thump in his chest and, as we say now, “he was history.”
But she didn’t go for him right away; in fact, after depleting most of his funds on dance tickets, Bud had the impression she didn’t think much of him at all.
Meanwhile his buddy Rod, was making headway with another girl who was a friend of Masako’s. With Rod’s help they arranged a daytime date for the foursome, during which Masako agreed to see Bud again, alone. He was soaring with excitement; oh young love, oh those carnal thoughts.
They met on the Ginza and walked from one end to the other, window shopping and stopping along the way for refreshments.
Masako looked beautiful and was very stylishly dressed, uncommonly so for a Japanese girl at that time.
He learned later that she modeled and designed her own clothes from American magazines. Her English was fair and she helped him with Japanese.
It was a great time, and he finally mustered the nerve to say, “I know a nice hotel near here (they were all over the place).” She laughed and said, “Is that all you want?” To salvage his ego, he laughed with her and didn’t press the matter.
On subsequent dates, during which Bud was experiencing ever intensifying hormonal attacks, Masako took him to her family’s residence, outside Tokyo in Denenchofu, where he met her sister and father. He later met her mother, a very friendly warm-hearted mama-san, who operated a small sake bar in Oimachi.
All this time Bud was romancing to his utmost with no success. Masako then told him she wouldn’t go to a hotel, only to a place of their own.
This was scary concept to a twenty year old with no thoughts of a committed relationship, but his intense affection and rising level of hormones convinced him.
Their “arrangement” meant renting a room and buying furnishings. It was big dough on a corporal’s pay, but he had some money in the States saved while in Korea.
Masako found a place in Oimachi, a room in a small Japanese home, with access to a kitchen and toilet. For bathing there was a public bath about two blocks away.
For about a year it was a grand romance as Bud spent most of his free time with Masako when she was not working.
Occasionally, he would sit at the sake bar while Masako helped her mother; the patrons seemed to accept the company of the American soldier.
They went to Japanese movies he didn’t understand, occasionally to American films at the Ernie Pyle Theater, to the beach at Atami with a mad time at a hot springs hotel there, shopping excursions for Masako to find fabric or trimmings for her dresses, to many restaurants, and much more.
It was great, but it went sour mostly due to Bud’s juvenile jealousy. Masako continued to work at the Club Oasis, where Bud frequently looked on as she plied her trade.
He thought she was too friendly with her customers. She told him that if he gave her enough money, she would quit her job, but that wasn’t possible on his pay and didn’t sit well with him. Although it was a practical matter for her, he believed she was only interested in his money.
They began fighting, especially when he had too much to drink, and within a couple months before Bud’s leaving for the States, they parted less than friendly.
But there is a sequel to the story—albeit mysterious.
After a four-year courtship with a local hometown girl, while completing college on the GI Bill, Bud married. He had shared stories and pictures of Japan, including those of his Japanese girlfriend Masako. She took it with good grace, not concerned about an old affair.
In the late 80s, Bud and his wife were living in Tokyo where he was involved in business. Frequently on weekends they would take the train into Tokyo, for shopping and sightseeing.
One Sunday afternoon when returning to their stop at Shinagawa Station, Bud noticed an attractive Japanese woman standing across from where they were seated.
She looked directly at him, which was most unusual in Japan. There was a resemblance he couldn’t quite place, but then it occurred to him.
He said to his wife, “Check out the woman by the door, she looks like my old girlfriend might look today.”
As they traveled Bud noticed she glanced at him and his curiosity began to rise.
Since Oimachi, where he had lived with Masako, was only a couple stops further on the same line, Bud suggested that they go there to the local department store. His wife gave him a reproving smile and agreed.
When they got off the train at Oimachi, so did the mystery woman! As she turned away, she looked at Bud again over her shoulder.
By this time, the coincidence upon coincidence was beginning to raise Bud’s hackles. But they lost her in the crowd as they proceeded to the department store.
Later as they walked back to the station, Bud took a route that would bring them past the former location of Masako’s mother’s sake shop. As they turned the corner, the mystery woman was standing about where the shop had been.
Bud went into shock! He exchanged a glance with the Japanese woman and walked by, hardly breathing.
He said to his wife, “That must be her.”
His wife asked him to stop and talk, but he couldn’t...he didn’t know why.
Years later he decided it was better to keep a memory alive than learn it was an illusion.
David J. Valley
PO Box 501005
San Diego CA 92150-1005
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(3) Summer 2010, pg. 10-12.