Many families take to the roads and trains and planes while others try to escape the crowds by flying to Hawaii and other overseas destinations.
We decided to drive up to the northeast corner of Ibaraki prefecture and have a look at several points of interest there as well as the picturesque coast. As it turned out, the day held some disappointments as well as pleasant surprises. I had never been to this area and it had been a long time since K had. The name of the town we were headed for is "Kita-Ibaraki City", population 51,412 (I counted).
The weather was excellent and we decided to get going by 9:00 am. As usual, after washing dishes, walking Momo the Wonder Dog, etc., etc., that turned into 9:40am , but at last, we were on our merry way up the coast. At least for the first fifteen minutes or so. We were not the only people heading north and soon found ourselves in a long line of slow traffic which lasted until the road widened next to the nuclear power institute in Ooarai. That respite was a brief one, and when we got onto the route which would take us most of the way to Kita-Ibaraki City, traffic once again slowed to a crawl. At this point we had spent two hours going a distance we are used to traveling in about 40 minutes. The rest of day would follow the same pattern - bumper to bumper through areas with lots of traffic lights, interspersed with more smoothly flowing traffic.
Fortunately, I had prepared a lunch and packed it in a small cooler. We picked up some
As we neared our destination, we stopped to enjoy a view of the coast. The wind was blowing the tops of the breaking waves into mist, something called "ehu kai" in Hawaiian. The air was warm and I was happy to be comfortable wearing my Fijian "Bula" shirt (same idea as a Hawaiian "Aloha" shirt). A weathered islet stood stubbornly against the sea. I liked the symbolism in that and claimed it for my nation - "Pandabonia". This is not a new idea for me. In college, a friend and I laid claim to an island (one truly unowned) to start a new nation and ended up involved in some international intrigue involving Princess Grace of Monaco, Abu Dhabi, Israel, France, the FBI, and Interpol. It was quite an education.
Japan already has island disputes with Russia, South Korea, and China. Now they have another. But Pandabonia is a reasonable and peaceful nation and is open to negotiation for a price. (I hope you know I'm pulling your leg - somewhat).
Refreshed by our stop at the beach, and territorial conquest, we rolled into Kita-Ibaraki City. K noticed a sign and pulled into a small parking area in front of a house. It was the best surprise of the day for us - the birth home of Ujo Noguchi (1882-1945) a famous poet, song lyricist, and author of many children's nursery rhymes.
The house, where Noguchi family members still reside, is 140 years old. It has been turned in part into a museum. Photos, personal items, his wife's wedding clothes, calendars, and explanations of his life and work are on display. Many phonograph records, cards, and copies of magazines containing his work are also there to see. Noguchi and other poets cooperated in a publication called "Golden Ship" and later "Golden Star" which were beautifully illustrated. Many of his poems and songs were put to music and are still popular today.
The wedding sashes or obi of Noguchi's wife are on display and in one room you can see what items were used and worn by a bride of those times.
In 1921, Noguchi wrote a poem called "Blue Eyed Doll". It became very popular with little girls all over Japan. An English translation follows:
A blue-eyed doll,
Made of celluloid,
Was born in America.
When she arrived at a harbor in Japan,
She had many tears in her eyes.
I do not understand the language.
If I get lost, what should I do?
Warm-hearted Japanese girls,
Please be my friends and play with me.
Please be my friends and play with me.
In 1926 it was set to music by Nagayo Motoori. To hear the tune, click below.
At this same time, unbeknownst to Noguchi, an American, Dr. Sidney Gulick was putting together a project involving dolls. Dr. Gulick had been a missionary, and taught Math, Science, and Religion at universities in Kyoto and had lived in Japan for twenty-five years before his health forced him to return to the United States in 1913. He loved Japan and was troubled by the worsening relations between the two countries.
Utilizing a Christian church group, he organized an international exchange of dolls between Japan and USA as a way to teach children the values of friendship, cooperation and peace between nations. In 1927, people around the USA donated 12,739 dolls which were sent from the USA to Japan in time for the Hina Matsuri (doll festival).
The dolls were distributed to kindergartens throughout the country and were received with great enthusiasm. In return, money was collected from Japanese children to pay for 58 elaborate handmade Japanese dolls that were sent to the USA in November of that year, and distributed to each state.
Because of the popularity of Noguchi's poem and song in Japan, the American dolls were referred to as "blue eyed dolls", even though many of them did not in fact have blue eyes.
In spite of such efforts, relations between the countries deteriorated to the point of war as we all know. Dr. Gulick was viewed as an enemy collaborator by his fellow Americans. In Japan, the government wanted the dolls to be destroyed as they represented their enemy, but many people, mostly teachers, risked severe punishment and hid them away. There are only about 300 of the dolls still in existence. Nearly forgotten after the war, a television special about them in the early 1970's brought them out of hiding. Most of the Japanese dolls in the USA have been recovered. Further exchanges have taken place with the dolls and people are learning of the story all over again. It is a poignant fact that both Ujo Noguchi and Dr. Gulick died in the year 1945, without seeing relations between Japan and America repaired.
We left the house and passed by the larger musuem dedicated to Ujo Noguchi. Our time was precious and having seen so much in the house of his youth, the bigger museum with mostly written exhibits would have to wait. There was much more to see and absorb in Kita-Ibaraki.
To see and hear more of Ujo Noguchi's songs, please visit this beautifully done web site: Children's Songs.
to be continued....