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Bob Murphy’s Visit to Japan in 1945

June 17, 2010
Bob Murphy in Ginza, Tokyo 1945

Bob Murphy (left) and Joe W. Darnell in the Ginza district of Tokyo, 1945.

My grandfather, Bob Murphy, was in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was stationed in Japan during the first few months of American occupation.  I asked him if he could write a few words about his experience, here’s what he wrote.

I was aboard the USS Purdy (DD734), a Navy destroyer, when we entered Tokyo Bay on October 17, 1945, where we moored off Yokosuka Navy base. We were given shore leave to visit Tokyo. We took the train to Tokyo station. It was packed and we had to stand nose to nose with mostly Japanese passengers.

We didn’t encounter any hostilities even though the war had only ended about 2 months before.  A shipmate and I went to a small park near Ginza where a photographer took our picture. The  building in background is a movie theatre, it was “off limits” to us.  However, we just happened to find our way inside to see what it was like.

We were surprised to see a very unusual movie theatre. There were no chairs in the lower level and the floors were dirt. The audience could lean on waist high wooden railings. I guess these were the cheap tickets. There were seats on the upper levels which curved around the building, as I can remember.  Guess what movie was on the screen, “Tarzan of the Apes” in English with Japanese subtitles.

We didn’t stay  very long.  Afterwards, we went to a restaurant atop a building about 10 stories tall where we had some Japanese beer, which came in quart bottles and was very potent, as I remember. The city had been fire bombed by US Air Forces and there were not many buildings undamaged.  As we traveled on the train From Yokosuka to Tokyo, we could see all the destruction. Most of the homes in those days were built with wood and bamboo, I’m sure it might be different there today.

Our ship made trips to Wakayama in the Inland Sea where we picked up mail for delivery to Kure & Hirowan; this duty continued thru December 1945. We then received orders to return to Tokyo Bay; Yokosuka base.

About the food in Japan,  we were advised not to eat the food as they used human excrement for fertilizer!   This is true because one day a buddy and I were walking past a farm in the countryside & the wind was blowing in our direction and the smell was unbelievably bad. I don’t know if this is still the practice there. We preferred the navy chow as I recall. A Japanese family invited us into their home in Kamakura area somewhere outside Tokyo and gave us our first taste of Sake, a rice liquor, I believe. It’s been too long for me to remember if it was served warm or not, but I think warm in small cups.

I still have a cup I brought home with a picture of Mount Fuji on it. I was glad to have visited there and I would liked to have gone back to see the changes, I’m sure it is nothing like when I was there. You are seeing a country which has changed considerably in the 65 years since World War II ended.

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3 Comments
  1. Don Murphy permalink
    June 19, 2010 9:42 am

    Jon If you go there to were Grandpa was you should try to get a picture of it in the same spot, if it is still there.Then you can put it on here of a then and now picture.

  2. Teri Murphy Barone permalink
    June 19, 2010 12:48 pm

    Hey that’s my Dad (Bob Murphy) and look how handsome he looks. Thanks Dad for sharing this with us. Some stories I had never heard before. By the way, I still use the Japanese dishes bought for your mother.

    Jon, How nice of you to ask Poppa to write of his experiences in Japan. What a great idea!! I love the way you did the links too. That would be so cool if you could take a picture as Don says. I will certainly save this for my future generations.

  3. July 3, 2010 8:40 pm

    That’s the 日本劇場 (“Nihon-gekijyou”) theater in Ginza, Tokyo.
    (It was nicknamed 「日劇」 (“Nichi-geki”)).

    It’s no longer standing. It was torn down in the early ’80s.

    But, in Ginza right now is a “Asahi Beer Extra Cold Bar” ( http://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/extra-cold-bar/ )…to give you an idea how times have changed.

    >human excrement for fertilizer!…I don’t know if this is still the practice there.

    If that was the case, it was certainly due to Japan being poor after WW2.
    It’s definitely not the case nowadays.

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