A couple of weeks ago there was this story about a town in Alaska called Whittier. It was an interesting tale because almost all the residents in the town live in one 14-story building. The school, grocery store, church, hospital and a host of other things are contained in the same building. Here’s the link to the story.

GreenPark001JapanI found it more interesting than a lot of other people might have because when I was a kid I lived in a similar place. It was called Green Park, and it was in Tokyo, Japan. It was where families lived when their husbands (that’s how it was at the time) were stationed at Tachikawa Air Base. I lived there from June 1963 to June 1966.

The picture above is the only picture I can find from back then, and I found it online. It wasn’t actually legal at the time to take pictures of the outside of the main building at the time so I have no idea who got this one, but since it’s the front of the facility it might have been fine.

We were pretty much totally self contained. It consisted of at least six 3-story apartment units that were attached by a central facility so that we didn’t have to actually go outside if we didn’t want to. For the most part everything we wanted or needed was inside: commissary (grocery store), BX (base exchange), church, ice cream parlor, pool hall, both an officer’s club and NCO (non-commissioned officer) club, and lots of other things. While Dad was gone during the day Mom worked in Special Services; actually, I can’t remember the name but she wore a uniform.

In the 3 years I lived there, I spent most of my time in this building. Of course, unlike Alaska, we could go outside more often than they can there. The facility had an outdoor pool, which I only visited once ever, probably because some idiot decided to push a 4-year old me off a diving board into the water and call that “teaching” me how to swim; I never learned.

I went to kindergarten and first grade to a school that was just off the base so that Japanese kids could come. We walked to get there, following a gated path, walked out the back gate and pretty much walked into the school. I learned how to read at 3 and, because we had a Japanese housekeeper I’d learned Japanese, I was picked to be the translator for some of the Japanese kids, none of whom spoke any English; I never learned how that would eventually work out. If you ask me it partially went horribly wrong because instead of passing along lessons I talked and joked with the Japanese kids all day, and none of the teachers knew what we were saying to each other since all the teachers were American.

Dad_Me_July_63_TokyoBecause I spoke with the Japanese kids, they’d invite me to come play with them. This was somewhat problematic since we were supposedly contained within the base, including barbed wire. However, I was young and small and pretty self sufficient, so without anyone’s knowledge I used to climb the fence, slide under the barbed wire, and go visit my friends. It seems everyone was so certain that we were protected and contained that no one ever figured it out; I didn’t tell my parents until I was in my 30’s. lol

With kids on the base, we could play outside between the buildings. There was no big field for all of us to play on, but luckily there were strips of grass where, because we were small, we could play. I have no idea where older kids played; it was such a different life back then.

It was a self contained community where, for the most part, we kept to ourselves except for special excursions into Tokyo and surrounding areas. I got to visit Mount Fuji. I got to visit the Ueno Zoo. I got to see the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra 1 1/2 times (there’s a story there but I’ll save for later lol). And I got to ride the high speed trains a few times, which were like above ground subways.

In any case, it was a self contained living space where we all lived and hung out with each other, with the military trying to make sure the civilian population was safe; obviously someone needed to keep a better eye on me.

By the way, the reason it was called Green Park is because it was located in the city of Musashino, which stands for “green park”; fitting isn’t it? 😉
 

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