In order to cope with the language in Japan a guide was provided who arrange all the family's sightseeing and accompanied them everywhere, becoming quite a friend of the family, so that at the time of the departure, he brought his wife and children to say farewell; presents were exchanged and tears shed! Then a great amount of bowing and waving concluded the parting!
Many years later, when I was tracing the family tree my brother John informed me that the Japanese guide was in fact an agent of the Anti-Espionage Department, as all foreign visitors to Japan at that time were under strict surveillance for the duration of their visit.
When we arrived in Japan it was at the height of 'Cherry-blossom time' and these beautiful trees were all festooned with great clusters of pale pink, sweet smelling blossom. We visited several temples and parks, in one of which small deer wandered among the crowds of passers-by and there we saw the people dipping wooden cups on the end of long stick into the fountain in order to have a drink. We looked over a factory producing finely carved and lacquered articles, such as bowls and spoons and my parents bought an exquisitely fine coffee set in black and gold. All of these were demonstrated to us as unbreakable by being thrown upon the floor! Then we watched artists painting fine chinaware, bowls and other delicate china pieces, the painters using the thinnest of brushes, just a few hairs; a painstaking task, but exceedingly accomplished. For very many years the beautiful bowl wonderfully patterned with a design of chrysanthemums, which had been purchased at that time, was kept on one of the teak windowsills of my parent's lounge at 'Graystones'. They also bought sets of clothing for us, a Japanese Kimono, socks and shoes for me and Chinese silk suits, socks and wooden shoes for each of the twins, plus an oiled, paper parasol as I remember. It was here that my Mother bought the lovely Japanese doll for me and I attended a theatre for the first time. I was most intrigued by the small mincing steps of the Japanese ladies on the stage and as they tripped down a slope on each side towards the audience.
Another memory of Japan was travelling on the excellent train, passing Mount Fiji and into Kobe. The train was always exactly on time, to the minute, quite a contrast to the train services in Africa! We were even informed to the exact minute when to expect Mount Fiji to come into sight.
Everywhere in Japan the neatness and orderly way of life was most impressive, but when the family reached their following ports of call, Shanghai and Hong Kong, things were somewhat different. On sailing from Kobe, Japan, they first called at Shanghai where they spent a few days at the Cathay Hotel and found the city to be incredibly filthy especially after the sterile cleanliness of Japan. Hong Kong too was very cluttered and dirty, made worse by the incessant rain, so that they soon understood the need for the wooden shoes, lifted on platforms of small cross-blocks, worn by the Chinese, which raised them above the worst of the water and filth floating down the streets.
On the ship leaving from Kobe, Japan, the twins and I would rise early and go out on deck to watch the crew perform their morning exercises, which was a daily routine. We were most impressed by their efforts and joined in as they all shouted in unison what sounded to our young ears as "Yoi! Sah!" repeated over and over again. I have often wondered what these words really were and what they meant. Was it "up, down", "in, out" or simply "one, two".