LIVING IN THE IMPERIAL HOTEL (Teikoku Hoteru)

My Dad came home with his orders. We were being transferred to Tokyo, Japan in 1960. I was ten years old and could not wait to begin this new adventure. I read so many books about Japanese life and culture and I had seen the pictures of the girls on Girl’s Day wearing their kimonos with the obi and zori shoes. I could not wait to go shopping in the Ginza district. I was fascinated by the Japanese language. I already knew how to count from one to ten: ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyuu, juu. My new life at yet another Air Force base was about to begin.

My Mom, younger sister Carla, and I descended the steps of the MATS (Military Air Transport Service) plane with the seats with nets and the boxed meals that they gave us and there was Dad. He had preceded us to get things in order. “Girls, I have some news. They have no housing for us at this time so we will be staying at the Imperial Hotel until quarters have been approved.” The only word I heard was “hotel”. 

What an adventure this would be and I was, to my astonishment, given the run of the hotel. I first met the staff in the kitchen who were gracious enough to ask what kinds of food I liked, as well as introducing me to new and wonderful Japanese fare, never failing to offer me some Mochi (ice cream). They taught me Japanese phrases each day: Moshi, moshi, anone (when answering the telephone), Chotto matte kudasai (Just a moment, please) and Ah, so desuku (Oh, I see). My new friends would help me continue to learn more Japanese numbers and they would quiz me every day. We saw Kabuki dancers each night after dinner.  I was entirely enthralled with this life, this language, the new food adventures, and the very kind people.

My sister and I would play games in the spacious front lobby. I would learn how to use an abacus in order to be ready for maths class. In school, I found myself in a Japanese Culture class where we learned the art of writing in Kanji. My Mom signed us up for a Judo class and because I was taller than the other students, for the first time, I excelled at a sport.

Then the day came. We were moving to a Japanese house in the “paddies” near a rice field. I walked to the school for American military dependents every day and never failed to stop on the way home for some street “Yakitori” (grilled chicken on a stick).

After three years my Dad got his orders. We were moving to Frankfurt, Germany. Another chapter in the book of my life was about to begin.  World, here I come!

Donna Peacher-Hall (Air Force BRAT)



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