Japan: Oct, 1980...We Flew to Tokyo to present a paper at the Congress of the International Astronautical Federation. The conference was held in the Prince Takayama Hotel and attended by engineers and scientists from all major nations.
Following the week of the conference, we were provided an itinerary for a self-guided trip through the "Southern Alps", a mountainous region south of Tokyo; the location of many traditional villages. Our itinerary was prepared for us by the Japanese Travel Bureau and written in English and Japanese languages (and characters); in addition, we carried a two-way dictionary. In terms of "traditional Japan", our most delightful visits were Magome, Takayama, and Kanazawa. We also enjoyed our ryokan in Kyoto and a visit to "pearl-diving" Toba.
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Our hosts, the Japanese, arranged a most elegant and well-organized week of sessions and entertainments. My paper was on "On Construction of Large Space Structures" Many of the attendees were men I had known from earlier conferences...these are two.

The Prince Takayama is an elegant hotel a few miles out from the city center. As noted here, the grounds were beautiful. During the conferences, arrangements were made for the visiting wives to attend interesting events. Here, Marj is at a pottery-painting session; in another she was outfitted in a traditional wedding gown. Our hosts arranged a very elegant entertainment and dinner dance. Here we are seated with a number of American delegates, several of whom I knew from NASA.

This photo does not do justice to an incredibly exciting drum dance The Soviets were there. It must be noted that, at this time, 1980, only the Russians were active in manned space; the U.S. Apollo program had ended several years earlier. Here at the Soviet table, Marj is collecting autographs of several of the cosmonauts. As noted, it didn't take long for one of the cosmonauts to ask Marjorie to dance; I followed up by dancing with one of their lady scientists

In the Ginza for a "night on the town". This nice gentleman insisted that we try their tradional "rice cake". We did our best to hide our grimaces as we downed what seemed like a mouthful of paste. We board the bullet train to Nagoya. Although we were speeding along at nearly 300 mph, the countryside appeared to be moving by us at a surprisingly slow clip...that was because the ride was so quiet and comfortable.

From Nagoya we boarded a bus to Magome, a small traditional village in the heart of the "Southern Alps". Here is our "ryokan"(a tradional Japanese inn), the only inn in the village. Our host and hostess were most gracious. On our walk to the center of the village we saw scenes as pictured here...the harvesting of rice. The center of the village: We saw no television antennas but we did see, through the open portals of the homes, many "air pots" (containers for hot tea).

As is said, "When in Rome...." ...and here is Marjorie preparing our bed (futon) for the night. The next morning after breakfast (our hosts prepared an "American breakfast" of eggs and soup for us) we were awaiting the arrival of our bus for Takayama. Our host, noting that I was concerned about the lateness of the bus, pointed to a phrase in our dictionary which said, "Not to Worry".

On the bus to Takayama Entering the village Our host welcomes us at our very comfortable inn.

We were amused to meet this mother and daughter dressed in the contrasting styles of the traditional and the "sixties" Our delectable dinner was served in our room by our "momasan" ...and, at nigh, our "momasan" made up our futons for a good night's rest.

Night view of Takayama from our room. In the morning, we visited a famous Shinto shrine. As we approached the shrine, we encountered many Japanese "pilgrims" who appeared very friendly to us. I couldn't help but wonder how we might be greeted, considering that we were the only Caucasions (and of WWII vintage) in the area. At the shrine we saw an elderly Japanease performing a ritual prayer while walking three circuits around the center of the shrine.

Takaysma is an ancient center of wood craftsmen who have built for the Shoguns. As we walked the village, we came upon this scene: a young craftsman carving a figure. We asked that we might see his work and were led into the shop were we met his father: noted in the next photo. One of the pieces on display was of a stylized shogun. We purchased the figure (inset at upper left) and have displayed it on the wall of our den ever since. It remains a delight to us to this day. The process of the purchase must be explained. When we agreed to buy, the whole family came into the father's workshop (the momma, the son, his wife and baby) and we were served tea and ricecakes. Momma, as shown here, packaged the figure most carefully and, as we left, the whole family came out to wave goodbye.

Next, we caught a local bus to take us to the train station from which we would travel to Kanazawa, a large town on the Japanese Sea. But following is an incredible example of Japanese courtesy. As noted in the this photo, we lunched in a small tea house while waiting for our train...but the bus driver also waited until we had finished our lunch to return a package we had left on his bus. He had not wanted to disturb us until we had finished our repast! Train to Kanazawa; had sumptious supper aboard the dining car

Our Welcome Committee at our Kanazawa Ryokan... Our "room" Our adjoining "patio"

Kanazawa Mommasan As we walked a nearby street, we noticed these well-dressed ladies cleaning the sidewalks and street curbs of litter. We learned that they were part of a citizen's program dedicated to keeping their town clean. Then we came across these girls who were out collecting donations for their charity. As we neared them, they bowed in the traditional Japanese manner.
Later, in the evening, we became aware of much "going-ons". We heard gongs and sounds of celebration. So we dressed, went out, and found that a Shinto prayer observance was in progress at the nearby shrine. On the way, we came across this family on their way to the shrine. At the shrine, each person took their turn in offering their prayer As each person completed their prayer, they inserted a small paper prayer into this array strung beside the shrine
Then...by train to Kyoto, a beautiful city of traditional Japan. We checked into this elegant ryokan where we were treated with the greatest courtesy. Our room...actually, we had two rooms: a sitting room and our sleeping room. In the evning, we dined at this world-famous Kobe beef restaurant. As elegant (and expensive) as it was, all seating was at a "horsehoe" counter. The hostess took great pleasure in playing a "trick" on me: she had me sit on a "squak" pillow...she laughed and laughed!. It was altogether a pleasure but the steaks were no better than those I cook on our home grill.
One day, we traveled to Toba, a pearl-diving village on an island off the Shima Peninsula. This region was one of the first in Japan for the culturing of pearls in the early 1900s. This little boat "commutes" the divers out to the ovyster beds. These Japanese women who mine the seabed for pearl-bearing oysters are the last of their kind. Making repeated dives, they give themselves only seconds to catch their breath before disappearing again beneath the waves. The regime is so punishing that many divers shed up to ten pounds in the space of a few months. Women are considered better suited to diving because they have an extra layer of fat to insulate them against lengthy periods in the water and they are able to hold their breath longer than men..

It was a great trip ! We saw the "real" Japan...the traditional villages and the customs of the people. We came away greatly admiring of the Japanese. Even today, more than two decades later, we continue to feel a warmth and regard for the people of that island nation.