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My Adventures (Part I): Starting in Tokyo, Japan

mtkomori and her family have lived in both Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and Yokohama, Japan.

Me at age 6.  Culver City, California. May 1973

Me at age 6. Culver City, California. May 1973

The Beginning

My parents, both Japanese citizens, got married in March 1965. At the time, my father had just completed his doctorate in economics from a university in Tokyo and was about to take up a teaching position in the business department at the same university. My mother had already left her job at a foreign firm. After their honeymoon, they started living in a house in Mitaka, a suburb in western Tokyo. Actually, my father and his younger brother who was still a college student, had been living in the same house since 1963 when my father was a graduate student. My mother joined them when she married my father.

The house had two stories, but had only two rooms upstairs. They were both bedrooms, one was for the newlywed, and the other was occupied by my uncle. My mother told me on numerous occasions how she resented having to live with an unmarried man while still a newly wed. She was 27 years old at the time and my uncle was about 20. The two bedrooms were adjacent to each other and this offered very little privacy. My father would sometimes go on conferences within the country which lasted a few days and my mother would be left to live with my uncle during that time. She also had to cook and do all of the laundry, even my uncle`s.

I arrived on August 10 of the following year after 24 hours of labor at a small clinic about 15 minute walk from the house in Mitaka. My uncle finally started to do his own laundry, since he realized a new addition to the family was indeed a lot of work!

I was a difficult child. I would not sleep, and on one occasion, my mother who didn`t know any pediatricians in the neighborhood, called the clinic where I was born. The doctor responded, "babies won`t sleep for a while because they were inside their mothers' wombs, just leave her alone and she`ll eventually sleep!"

I also came down with a very high fever after receiving vaccination for small pox.

It was soon decided that a pediatrician nearby would be convenient. The doctor who delivered me introduced my mother to one of his former colleagues, Dr. Nakamura, who was actually a general practitioner, not a pediatrician. He had a clinic a short walk from our house. However, I hated visiting his clinic and would try to escape from the stroller whenever my mother turned onto the street where the clinic was located. I would stand up in the stroller and put my leg right over the edge of the stroller! Strollers back in the day were large and a toddler can easily stand up in it, since there was no safety belt.

Stroller from the 1960s

Stroller from the 1960s

Number of Births and Total Fertility Rate in Japan, 1947-2012

BLUE: Number of Births  RED: Total Fertility Rate    Notice the sharp drop in both the number of births and total fertility rate in 1966.

BLUE: Number of Births RED: Total Fertility Rate Notice the sharp drop in both the number of births and total fertility rate in 1966.

1968~1970: My Siblings Arrive

Apparently, there were no children around my age in my neighborhood. Indeed, I was born in the year of the horse and superstition says that girls born that year will eventually grow up to kill their husbands. As silly as this may sound, people actually believed this superstition and couples avoided having children for fear of giving birth to a girl in 1966. As a result, 25% fewer babies were born in 1966 than the previous year and the following year, more babies were born than in 1966. Because I had no interaction with kids my age, I apparently became desperate for human connection. I was less than two years old when I escaped from home and found myself into the playground of a preschool, a short walk from home. My mother panicked when she found that I was gone and discovered me on one of the swings in the deserted preschool playground. Pretty soon, however, I had a younger brother and a sister, both of them born in quick succession.

By the time I was 16 months old, my mother became pregnant with my brother. All throughout this period, my uncle continued to reside with us, and my paternal grandparents who lived out in Nagano, about 200 km away, frequently visited their son`s (my father`s) family. Since the house in which my family lived was built using the financial resources of my grandparents, they saw it as a "subdivision" of their own home. They would often stay for three whole weeks, but contributed very little in helping out with the household chores. They tried to make the most of their stay by shopping in Ginza (equivalent to 5th Avenue in New York City). My grandfather however, was receptive to the needs of a toddler and would often change my diapers. My mother found their stay stressful but had little opportunity to voice her discontent, since the house was built by her in-laws and her side of the family did not contribute to it financially.

My brother arrived in July 1968. He was about fifteen days early, and for a reason. Apparently, the day before my brother's arrival, I ate too many bananas and developed a tummy upset. I was throwing up and needed immediate medical attention. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and there were no doctors available! Dr. Nakamura was also unavailable. My mother heard through a neighbor that there was a clinic a short walk away where the doctor might be available. My mother was carrying me in a state of panic, and she accidentally fell and landed on her knee. After taking me to the clinic (the doctor was a kind woman and I didn`t resist at all in letting her examine me. From that time on, Mrs. Suzuki became our home doctor), her waters broke. She was admitted to the hospital the following morning and my brother arrived around 10 am. Apparently, he was red and wrinkled, resembling a monkey. Indeed, he was born in the year of the monkey!

Shortly after my brother arrived, my uncle found a job in his hometown in Nagano and moved out.

Preschool: Rebel Without a Cause

My sister was an accidental creation. My brother was less than a year old when my mom became pregnant yet again. When she told my dad about this, he said that he wasn`t "planning" on a third child since they already had a daughter and a son. It sounded like he didn`t welcome another child!

Nevertheless, my sister arrived in January 1970. I was 3 years and 5 months old and my brother was 18 months old. She was born in the same clinic as I was, but this time, it was a very quick delivery.

When my sister was about 3 months old, I started preschool, and boy, did I create a lot of problems!

The preschool was affiliated with the Christian church and the minister`s wife ran the school. There were only nine children in my class so we must have received a lot of attention from the minister`s wife. I could not follow orders. Orders in this preschool had a rather military influence. Whenever the teacher played a certain tune on the piano, the kids who were in the playground had to immediately come into the room. I was the only kid who disobeyed this order. I was out in the sandbox, obsessing over something and I probably didn`t even hear the piano!

School trips were a nightmare for my teacher. I was always at the front of the line during the trip so my teacher can "watch" me.

There was very little tolerance for kids who misbehaved, although there were a small number of children who were developmentally delayed or had Down`s Syndrome. There were no such terms as ADHD or HSP back in the day. I must have fallen into either or both of these categories but any sort of behavior that was seen as abnormal was a problem that was not to be tolerated.

At one point, the minister`s wife said to my mother that I was "autistic" and needed to go for some exams at the hospital. I was taken to the hospital and they ran some tests on me, but they found nothing out of the ordinary.

The minister`s wife`s attitude upset my parents, especially my mother. I remember her saying that the way things were done in the school were hypocritical. They were only pretending to accept and give assistance to children who were actually autistic or had Down`s Syndrome, but it was only done to make the school look good.

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