Winter – 1965, at Japan…
After days of being tossed around by the ocean, we’re all glad to finally be in Japan. And the day we arrived, I found a movie camera (8mm) up on the main deck just sitting there. I put it away and expected to hear from whoever lost it. The next morning we were under the slopes of Mt. Fuji.
Fuji is a large cinder cone, black as midnight, with a frost-covered peak, standing next to the ocean and brooding over the people. I remember we were very near, perhaps 20 miles away and it was spectacular. I even ran down and grabbed the movie camera to get a shot. The Marine that owned it spotted it and asks me if I wanted it. He couldn’t figure out how to use it right, and kept loosing it anyway…didn’t have the ‘camera’ gene or something. So I gave him $25 for a $300 camera. He was happy. During our talk, I discovered his other reason. He was heading for Viet Nam, and wasn’t sure he’d make it back.
Soon we docked at Yokosuka Naval Shipyard and off loaded a bunch of Marines and their equipment. I have no idea why, that’s what we did. We knew that this was a long stay so we soon slipped into a routine that maximized our time off. That was pretty easy since we were all old hands at shipboard work now, and with the large wartime compliment of sailors aboard, there was lots of time off.
I’d been saving money for months and felt I had around half of what I’d like to have had. There were so many wonderful electronic devices available at the PX and ashore that I was like a moose in a muddy pond. I spent hours looking at all the wonderful amplifiers, turntables, speakers, tape players and other devices trying to decide what to get. Took me days to decide. The store was huge and had lots of experience sending stuff back to the states so when I finally settled on my equipment, it was shipped off to my parents house the next day. I got a great stereo amplifier, a record changer, assorted cables, mics, headphones and such, and two Sony TC-250 reel-to-reel tape decks (they were really cheap!). Meanwhile, I found some Japanese dish sets I liked so I sent off 3 big sets to mom to hang onto for me. Eventually, one set I gave to mom, one set to my sister for her wedding, and I kept the last set for myself. I also found an engagement & wedding ring set I liked at the PX and with the military discount that was available to me; the $300 ring cost all of $90. I also got it in an average size. I sent that back for mom to hang onto for me as well. I didn’t have anyone in mind at the time, I just expected to. It was the ’60’s and getting married was the normal thing to do then. Now that all my shopping was done, I wanted to explore Yokosuka and there were more then enough places to go and see that would keep me busy for weeks. (At least I think I was in Yokosuka, it’s so long ago I can’t remember for sure. But we were in a big city with a big Naval Base.)
One of the things going on was that I was still a virgin and wasn’t all that ashamed to admit it to anyone. I’d been called gay a few times, but wasn’t bothered by that, since I knew I wasn’t, and went over and partied with my friends just like everyone else. I just refused to pay for sex. But I was the butt of some joking or good-natured ribbing and my sexual status bothered my friends, much more then it bothered me. I kept saying, “Why should I pay for it when I can get it free in the states?” I was now 19 years old and felt pretty grown up, even if I was a virgin. What did that matter? I knew I’d make up for it eventually, so big deal.
Just a little back track here to a story I just remembered. Back when I was stationed in San Diego, a group of us went over to Tijuana, in civvies. We crossed the boarder using our military ID and headed straight for the bars. Even though we were all 17-18, there were no problems getting into bars. We had been to several bars and had a great time trying to speak Spanish to the locals. One bar offered a mariachi band that was just great. They were the band that taught me to remember that if you don’t tip them, they only play one song as a sample, then nothing you ask for is played, unless you hand them a $5 or so. After wandering from bar to bar for several hours, it had gotten near dark and we still hadn’t left the street we’d entered early in the day. But we are heading back to the boarder when a little boy, probably 8-9 years old, sees us, and runs out of an alley. Swear to whatever god you hold dear, this little kid grabs me by the sleeve and yells, “meester, meester, my sister, she’s a virgin, come quick, twenty dollars”! I burst out laughing since I’d heard that expression used as a joke directed at Mexican’s for years. (I had no idea it was based on actual events. I don’t want to get a lot of nasty letters, I’m just telling you what happened). Anyway, the kid stood there looking at me like I was crazy for laughing and finally just ran off while I laughed after him.
Since it was still early, almost 7ish, we all went to one of the bars that we’d passed on the way into town. It had a dance floor around 12″ off the floor where several skimpily dressed girls gyrated their hips towards all the guys who sat at tables surrounding them. So while we’re there, one of the guys starts talking to one of the women sitting next to our table. Soon, much to my disbelief, they are kissing and fondling each other. The rest of us are just talking and watching the dancing girls. About this time an old to me women, probably 40 something, comes by and forces herself into the empty chair beside me. I’m trying to resist but to no avail. She starts talking to me in halting English asking me if I liked any of the girls or her, etc. I try my best to ignore her while trying to enjoy my beer. By now, all the other guys have girls sitting in their laps. I’m nursing my beer, and the old women stands up and plops her ass in my lap. I’m stunned by her cheek, but all the guys have laughed about this so I can’t act stupid. Anyway, the whole time she’s trying to get me to select one of the girls or herself for sex. I’m resisting and trying to be pleasant to her. Meanwhile, my friend’s girl has gotten out of his lap after I’d seen him give her a wad of bills. I ask him, “What the hell are you doing? You don’t pay for it first man”! He goes off on this story of how they are in love and he’s going to be following her up to her room and they’re going to make love and I’m telling him he’s an idiot. Around that time, I see her walking up this staircase in the back of the club. I see dusky daylight when she opens the door, he doesn’t. The old lady sitting on my lap knows enough English to know I’m trying to queer the deal so she gets all pretend huffy over nothing, takes her red, very long fingernails and scrapes them across my cheek. Draws blood. I’m pissed but she disappears quickly. It’s soon time for my friend to go meet his new love so he gets up while I tell him he’s a fool. He insists that it’s true love and heads on over to the stairway. Right then, one of the dancers comes over and gyrates in front of me while I’m trying to watch my friend. I’m not paying her any attention until she grabs my ears with both hands and holds my head while she whacks her crotch into my face. Boy, isn’t that romantic. My glasses are bouncing all over and I lose them under the table. Damn, I’m pissed but she has obviously distracted others with this method and knows how to shimmy off the stage quickly. Whew. I’m still angry as I write this story.
Anyway, we had decided that the guy was a fool, but an adult and about a half hour later, we were still sitting nursing our beers when our friend wandered back in, looking sheepish. His story was that he walked up the stairway, opened the door, which was suppose to be her room, and found it opened onto another platform with a stairway down to the street behind the club. He saw her off in the distance and gave chase. When he got close to her, some guy tackled him, drew a knife and told him that he was the gal’s husband and would cut him up bad if he wanted to pursue the matter. My friend then had spent a half hour trying to get up the nerve to come back in and face us.
Well, we were a bunch of softies so we took him to another bar and got him soundly drunk. We staggered across the boarder at around 3 AM, wiser.