Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day Six

I'm really feeling much better today. Had a good meeting at work. I'm pumped about the possibilities of really cool stuff happening with my job. I am tired but walked about 2 1/2 miles and that gave me a little bit of extra energy. So, now I'm embarking on talking about Miyake.

Miyake-Jima, as it's known in Japan, is a beautiful island off Tokyo Bay in the Pacific Ocean. As I mentioned previously, it is a live volcano. In the 70's, in order to get there you had to get on a boat, not a cruise ship, but a crowded boat that traveled over night to the island. Everyone on the boat bunked in the same place. So sleeping quarters were in a contained area of just floor. The floors may have been covered with some kind of carpet, but I don't remember. Basically, everyone layed down in this shared compartment and slept during the trip. My memories of the trips to the island are not very good, but I do remember one time getting dealthly ill. The seas were really rough and as we were traveling to the island, the boat hit a wave and we would roll with the wave. All of these bodies were rolling in one direction or another. I think that was the start of my sea-sickness.

If you read Day Four, you read the article about Miyake-Jima and why Jack was so welcomed there. I'm having a difficult time figuring out where to go from here. So I'll just jump in.

My first visit to Miyake was with my seventh grade class. I was with a group of classmates and teachers. We stayed half of the time at Jack's house and the other half at the Minshuku - (hostle). Nothing significant happened during this trip but the regular things all seventh graders experience.

Every summer, Jack picked a select group of kids to "study" marine biology at Miyake. They spent a good part of the summer at the farm on Miyake. Before the team of "biologists" showed up, he had a group of kids come out and get the farm ready for the team - a pre-camp of sorts. I was one of the kids he asked to come to the island for the pre-camp.

This is where my memories become hazzy. I know I went to Miyake several times. How many, I don't recall. But I do know that this first summer when I went several things occured. First, I was given a nick name by the team. It was TH&H. That stood for "Totally Helpless and Hopeless". In order to get that name, I must have been somewhat worthless. I don't really remember why I was named TH&H but the implications of what that meant have stayed with me throughout my lifetime.

Jack's house had three main rooms, a kitchen, a work room and a bathroom. The three main rooms and the work room were all tatami floors. The kitchen was more functional with linoleum or vinyl floors and the bathroom was a typical Japanese bathroom with an Ofuro. The front of the house sported a long foyer next to the three main rooms, where you could deposit your shoes before you entered into the tatami floor. The three main rooms were adjacent to each other. Jack designated the room to the left as the boys room, the room to the right as the girls room and the room in the middle as his room. All rooms were connected with only shoji (paper) doors separating them. Often the doors were left open to create one big room.

Like many Japanese homes, the bedding was housed in the large closets in each room. At night, we would pull out the futon mattresses, carefully stored in the closets, and set up our beds. The girls in the girls room and the boys in the boys room and Jack in the middle room. Because there was a large open space in each room, each room could accommodate quite a few people sleeping on futon mattresses.

My first summer at Miyake was incredible. Jack picked me to be one of the people who set up his marine biology camp. I didn't care if I was "Totally Helpless and Hopeless", I wanted to be there. I was cool. I was one of the chosen. What I didn't realize was what being one of the chosen meant. The first night, as we were setting up our mattresses, Jack told me to put my mattress in the middle room next to his. Innocently, I did, not realizing what was to come in the night. Like the title of the book, "Things That Go Bump in the Night", I truly experienced "things that go bump in the night". Every night after that, I was told to put my mattress in the middle room.

I was now twelve years old.

I know now that I wasn't the only one, but at the time I didn't.

© Janet Calcote Simmons


  1. Wow....having been to Miyaki-jima and knowing Mr. J..... wow. I remember going there in 7th grade, but for some reason have blocked a lot of it out....can't remember who shared the middle room that year....
    I do understand how hard it is to go back in your life and write about it. I ended up pregnant at 14 (another story) and have been writing about it myself. It is only a personal recording at present - I commend you for being able to be so "public" about your story. You bring up a lot of issues I think some of us MK kids share - I look forward to knowing that there is someone out there that maybe I can feel comfortable talking about it all with......lafm

  2. lafm - my husband asked me this morning why I needed to do this now. I told him that I have been privately writing about it for a while - which I guess he just forgot - or it's just an uncomfortable subject and it's easier to hide. He said, "I kind of thought you were beyond this." And then quickly said, "I guess this will last your life time."

    I would encourage you to keep on writing. Whether you publish it or not really doesn't matter. For me, I think the fact that I am actually putting it out in the public, forces me to keep on writing. I need that. Janet

  3. wow...I thought you were really confident and cool looking in your glasses, sitting in front in band class. I thought you were a kakkoii Tokyo lifetimer, unlike us MK country hicks who came to ASIJ later on, like from 10th grade. Didn't realize you would ever feel inadequate. Two comments: (1) about your husband's comments, that it will be a life long thing, it reminds me of a line from a movie where an American is saying to another, "You never get over high school...ever." and (2) Your comments about tension, messed up dysfunctional family, the non-trouble-maker child getting less attention, etc. is very insightful for me now as I raise three teenagers, and a daughter who will soon be 11. Hokkaido MK