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Memorabilia From Yokohama, Japan 1954
by Marc Curtis

The only overseas assignment I experienced during my young life as a Military Brat was Yokohama, Japan in 1954-55....I was only 4 years old. The Army provided printed materials to make our transition to a foreign country a little easier. The following is from the Information pamphlet "Information for Dependents coming to Japan."

Leaving Japan

"Information for Dependents coming to Japan"

Headquarters, Far East Command Revised 1 January 1953

The purpose of this booklet is to furnish preliminary information to assist dependents of military and civilian personnel who are coming to Japan. All references to military personnel herein include personnel of the United States Army and of the United States Air Force. All references to Department of the Army civilian employees apply also to Department of the Air Force civilian employees. Information contained herein is equally applicable to Navy personnel insofar as it does not conflict with pertinent Navy regulations.

When you enter Japan, you enter the Orient and a country inhabited by a people whose cultural background, religion and way of life are different from your own. It is a country with an ancient historical background founded upon a feudal system, which only in the last century has been subjected to advanced Western civilization. However, the Japanese have been quick to adapt themselves to the age of industrial development, and have, in the more urban communities, adopted Western dress and mannerisms.

The arable land available in Japan is meager, when balanced against the number of people it must support, and therefore it is necessary for the Japanese to cultivate every usable piece of soil. The shortage of chemical fertilizers has resulted in the universal use of "night soil" as a substitute, thereby explaining why the use of domestic food products must be regulated. No food should be procured or consumed in Japan except from approved sources.

"Housing Areas in Japan - Climate"

Generally speaking, the housing areas in which dependents of U.S. Forces personnel will be located are as follows:

  • Sendai, Misawa (Northern Honshu). This area is characterized by warm, cloudy, rainy summers and mild sunny winters. Some snow falls during the winter but seldom exceeds two inches in depth, and remains on the ground only a day or so.
  • Tokyo, Yokohama, Zama, Tachikawa (Central Honshu). This locality is similar in climate to Washington, D.C.. Snow may be expected during the period December to March, but not too frequently and does not remain on the ground more than a day or two. Generally, sunny conditions will prevail. The summers are warm, cloudy and rainy.
  • Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya (Southern Honshu). The climate here is quite similar to that of Tokyo, but is slightly warmer.

  • Sapporo (Island of Hokkaido). This area has short, warm summers and long, cold winters. Freezing temperatures and deep snow generally last from November to April. An adequate supply of winter clothing should be brought.
  • Fukuoka, Itazuki (Island of Kyushu). Summers are oppressively hot and humid at sea level, and winters are mild and usually clear.

The size of your quarters will depend on three factors: availability of housing, seniority or rank of your sponsor, and size of your family. Housing is generally divided into the following types:

a. Community housing - two, three and four bedroom houses of American type.

b. Apartments - one, two and three bedrooms.

c. Quonset huts - full or half quonsets.


Domestics are available on a direct hire basis at a mutually agreeable salary. Present salaries vary from $18.00 to $16.00 per month, depending upon the job classification and capability of employee.

Your servants are given regular health checks, including the Kahn blood test and chest X-rays. You are responsible in part for insuring their compliance with health regulations as a matter of your own protection.

Generally, Japanese servants speak some English and are anxious to learn more. Ordinarily they require supervision in their normal tasks.

Whether your servants are housed in your home or elsewhere is a matter of your own choice, depending upon the availability of suitable servant quarters in your house. Dependent quarters normally include a maid's room, in addition to the bedrooms required for the dependent family.

Commissary And Post Exchange Facilities

The Army maintains commissary facilities throughout Japan where food staples, meats and supplies may be purchased by dependents. Fresh milk is not readily obtainable, but in lieu thereof condensed milk, powdered milk and reconstituted milk are available. All normal food necessities may be purchased in commissaries or other outlets in sufficient quantity to insure a normal healthful diet. Food items may be purchased, if desired, on the local Japanese market, but consumers must observe certain precautions concerning preparation, purification, and disinfection.

The Post Exchange has outlets in all population centers of Japan, and in addition to the usual items found in Post Exchanges, normally stocks a wide variety of merchandise primarily for use of dependents, including infants clothing, layettes, children's and adult wear. Toys, hardware, drugs, linens, cosmetics, yard goods and accessories are also available and a substantial line of Japanese lacquer-ware, vases, pearls, silk goods and souvenir items may be found.

Common household remedies such as aspirin, bandaids, and antiseptics are stocked, but proprietary medicines such as laxatives are not carried by the Post Exchange.

Although most of your needs may be satisfied in Post Exchanges, commissaries, and local retail outlets in Japan, you may wish to make arrangements with a local outlet or store in the States to ship you certain special items. In most of the populated districts beauty shops are operated by the Post Exchange and offer the usual services.

Schools and Education

A uniform curriculum and standardized text books are in use throughout the Far East Command. The curriculum was written to fit the needs of the Far East and to prepare pupils to meet the requirements of schools and colleges on their return to the United States. Students coming from the United States to the Far East Command or transferring from one part of the command to another, do so without undue interference with their studies or loss of credit.

Schools ranging from kindergarten through the twelfth grade are in operation, and are located in areas where families of United States military and civilian personnel are concentrated. High schools are keyed to the United States college preparatory curriculum, and are accredited by educational associations in the United States.

In isolated areas where the number of children is insufficient to establish a school, the Calvert System of Home Instruction for elementary pupils and correspondence courses for high school pupils are used.

Teachers on leave of absence from schools in America meet fully the standards of Accrediting Associations in the United States and those set by the Department of the Army.

Before leaving the United States, it is important that you procure and bring to Japan transcripts of credits for the schooling already accomplished by your children, plus available information regarding their particular aptitudes and educational levels. Should you not be able to obtain transcripts, be sure to bring report cards. This will materially aid in placing the child in the proper grade. After arrival in the Far East Command, you should contact the American School Officer in your area for further information and instruction. In most areas school buses are provided to transport children to and from school.

Numerous programs are in effect for adult education if desired, and specific information as to this program may be had upon arrival.

The Return to San Francisco

We left Yokohama on January 15, 1955 and arrived back in the United States aboard the General Simon B. Buckner on February 2. The "San Francisco News" printed a full page spread on our arrival!

Did you travel aboard the Buckner? Here's something special you'll enjoy!

Also, be sure to see the "Dragon's Roar" if you attended school in Japan.

1998 Marc Curtis. All rights reserved. No part of this webpage may be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of the author.


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