One of the first things we wanted to do in Japan was visit a site that Grandpa Howard did in 1945-1946 as part of the post-War occupying force.   He often tells of a visit he made one day with some shipmate into central Tokyo on a train from their ship in Yokosuka.  They rode the train past fields of burnt homes from US bombings, leaving only metal safes.

He said there was a Japanese girl on the train learning English through a vintage Reader’s Digest (interesting for the occupied country to embrace American culture so fast).  When they got to Tokyo the thing to do was visit the Imperial Palace, partly because it was not targeted by Allied bombing and was actually still intact.  All his sailor buddies got pictures taken in front a famous bridge on the palace grounds by a random Japanese photographer, who miraculously got the photos back to the correct ship.  Howard always finished this anecdote with his encounter with General MacArthur whose headquarters were nearby.  He watched as guards seemed to know precisely when to open the doors for the General to step out, wave at the Japanese well-wishers, and get into his famous black sedan.

Before we moved to Japan we spent an evening in Yorktown, and stumbled across Howard’s old photos.  We took a digital photo of his aging 1946 photograph from the Imperial Palace and used that as a reference to find the exact spot he stood over 65 years later.  On a nice late summer Saturday we took the train to the center of modern Tokyo to walk the outside of the palace grounds to find the photo spot.  The bridge was remarkably easy to find and is still THE place to get your photo taken.  Dozens of tourists, both international and Japanese, were lining up to take pictures with this bridge in the background.  In 1945 the Emperor officially renounced his deity status to a shocked country, but the place is still revered. And guarded.  Across the before mentioned bridge were stern looking uniformed guards that kind of reminded me of the Queen’s Guards in England.  I am pretty sure we were being watched the whole time.  But we got a photo of another Naval Gouger in the same spot as Petty Officer Howard did in the 1940s.

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