In 1965 Charlene Farnsworth and her parents embarked on an adventure that is not uncommon today, but rather unique at that time – a world tour, including the Orient. Moreover, the ladies did their traveling in dresses and high heels, and the Japanese bullet train, Shinkansen, was only a year old. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
While reminiscing about the wonderful 28-day “Around the World” tour that my parents and I took in 1965, I located our trip journals and a photo of our departure. In the photo, one can see how formally we dressed when we traveled back then.
Mom and I are wearing two-piece outfits, complemented by high heels and gloves, and Dad is wearing a nice suit and tie. During our sightseeing, we wore wash-and-wear clothing and more casual walking shoes.
The necessary passports, visas and shots were obtained and we began our adventurous trip to 12 countries in the Orient, Middle East and Europe. After a brief stay in Hawaii and a stop on Wake Island to refuel, we arrived in Tokyo, Japan. Our German guide, who would be with us throughout our trip, met us at the airport.
Our immediate impression of Japan was that of friendly people and immaculate streets. The women walked on the outside of the street and dressed in both western and Japanese attire. Some wore an “obi” to conceal their waistline and give a more straight up-and-down effect.
The automobiles were right-hand drive and motorists drove on the left side of the street. The exchange rate was 360 yen to $1.00 American compared to today’s rate of approximately 106 yen.
The following day, we took the train to Nikko. A cute incident occurred in the train station. A young Japanese girl got my attention, but could not speak English. After struggling to make me understand her concern, she raised her skirt slightly and I quickly realized that my slip was showing.
The Japanese people take great pride in maintaining well-manicured homes and surrounding land. The rooftops were of colorful clay tiles: blue, green, brown, chartreuse,
etc. Bamboo poles served as clotheslines and no clothespins were used. The bamboo was fed through the sleeves and legs of the garments.
We saw many children strapped to their mothers’ backs. Likewise, some of the Japanese children carried their dolls in the same manner.
After our train ride, we traveled by bus around 30 hairpin curves. Mirrors were placed on each numbered curve to warn of oncoming traffic. From the bus, we could see many women digging ditches.
At Nikko, wish makers had tied thin paper strips on the trees. Our first experience of removing our shoes was at the Shinto Shrine where the original carving of the three monkeys—”see no evil,” “hear no evil” and “speak no evil”—is located.
Numerous Japanese students were touring in groups. We learned this was mandated by their school system. In their last year of school, they were sent on a trip for about seven days at approximately $4.00/day. If the parents could not afford this trip, it was supplemented by the government.
The following morning, we saw the Olympic Stadium, built for the 1964 Olympics, and Ginza Street, the main thoroughfare of Tokyo. We stopped at the Asakusa Amusement Center where we shopped and visited a shrine. A pot of burning incense was at the entrance to the shrine. The Japanese wave their palms over the incense and then rub their stomachs to cure them of their ills.
In the afternoon we boarded the 130-MPH super-express train for a 3-1/2 hour trip to Kyoto, Japan. What gorgeous countryside—tea plants and rice fields galore. Every now and then we saw small cemeteries with extremely large, elaborate headstones. These cemeteries can accommodate quite a few as cremation is usually practiced. As we sped along, we could also see many eel ponds.
In Kyoto we enjoyed a performance by graceful apprentice Geisha girls during our dinner. The dining area was divided into two sections: Japanese low tables (mostly occupied by Americans) and regular tables (with many westernized Japanese eating here). They have certainly modernized the Japanese low tables. They now have a hole below the table where you may put your legs and stretch out comfortably.
We toured Kyoto by bus on our third day in Japan. We first visited Nijō Castle with its “nightingale floors” that squeak loudly when walking on them. The boards were placed loosely to warn of any unwelcome intruders. Next was the Sanjusangendo Hall of 1,001 Buddhas, which houses varied life-size images of Buddha.
At the beautiful Golden Pavilion and Heian Shrine a wedding party was in attendance. The bride was dressed in bright red. Weddings often last three days and are arranged by the parents and a “go-between”— usually an aunt or uncle. We learned that every married couple must be a go-between to properly complete their own marriage.
Last on our tour were the Tatsumura Silk Mansion and a cloisonné factory. The process of cloisonné is the minute hand-wiring on flat copper pieces which are then filled in with clay, painted and baked. When one of the lovely china cups was held up to the light, a Geisha girl’s face appeared on the bottom.
Our final day in Japan included a wild taxi ride to an arcade in Kyoto to do some last-minute shopping. Outside the snack shops were displays of the meals that could be purchased—eggs, meat, sundaes, etc.—all made of artificial materials. Upon returning to our hotel via another roller coaster taxi ride, we packed for our morning departure.
The following morning, we bid farewell to our friendly Japanese guide and boarded the plane for a 2½-hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan, to continue our memorable “Around the World” journey.
Published: Oct. 23, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 28