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Returning to Tokyo after 60 years revives old childhood memories

Grant Heights sign circa 1974By Andy Yemma

TOYKO (August 2015) – August, the hot month. Seventy years ago this month the world’s worst war ended, 66 years ago I was born and 60 years ago my father, a U.S. Air Force officer, moved his growing family to Japan for four years. So when we had the opportunity to visit Tokyo this month, I naturally thought of my childhood and wondered if we could try to find some of my old haunts.

In 1955, my family sailed from San Francisco to Tokyo on a WWII military transport. The voyage took two weeks and everybody except me got seasick, I remembered. At six, I was the oldest of four kids, the youngest, my only sister, a baby. For the first year in Japan we lived at a small USAF facility outside of Tokyo – my father never told us what he did there although we always suspected it had something to do with electronic eavesdropping on the Soviets. The U.S. military had bases all over Japan during years after the occupation and by the time we came the presence of so many military families in the Tokyo area had resulted in the construction of several family housing areas. In our second year, we moved to a place named “Grant Heights” in northwest Tokyo. Hundreds of American service member families lived there – thousands of kids like me. I remember it much like a small town in America with its own elementary, middle and high school, a commissary, base exchange, movie theater, swimming pool, gymnasium and four little league baseball diamonds where I played ball every summer.

After Grant Heights closed in the 70s - view of the Runway
After Grant Heights closed in the 70s – view of the Runway

Grant Heights had lots of open fields where I would play with my brothers and school friends. We often played “Army” and when my sister was old enough, at 3, to join us she would be designated the cook. We made snowmen on rare occasion. We had a black-and-white TV, one channel, and watched three shows in English once a week – Superman, I Love Lucy and Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford.

Our exposure to the Japanese and their culture was limited although on occasion we would visit places like the nearby Toshimaen Amusement Park, where we kids loved the old barge that plunged into a pool or water not unlike Disneyland’s Splash Mountain today. We visited the Ginza in downtown Tokyo and ate sukiyaki at local restaurants now and then. Once we rode a train to a hot springs resort in the mountains northwest of Tokyo; another time we spent a day at the beach. But mostly we lived and I went to school at Grant Heights. I traded “Mighty Mouse” comic books with other kids in front of the BX; watched “Buck Rogers” serials every Saturday before a movie (“Davy Crockett” being my favorite), and rode my new Schwinn bicycle everywhere. Grant Heights was a safe and secure environment, and — because President Truman had integrated the military more than a decade before the Civil Rights movement – I attended school with kids of all races and nationalities. When, at the age of nine, we returned to the States and spent the summer with my grandparents in a small Texas town, I remember being stunned by the “whites only” signs.

Grant Heights and Japan soon became a faded memory, revived only through old home movies and photos. When I was in my late 30s and early 40s I traveled to Tokyo on business several times but it was a much different world around 1990 and Grant Heights was long gone, the land returned to Japan and the post-war military housing replaced in the mid-1970s by a high-rise residential area named Hikariagoka Park (the name means “Light Heights” in Japanese). On one trip I had a weekend layover in Tokyo and tried to explore the area on my own – I found four empty baseball diamonds (it was early spring so play had not yet begun) that gave me a sense of déjà vu.

Children playing in water at Hikariagaoka Park
Children playing in water at Hikariagaoka Park

On this trip, my wife (Eileen Ogintz) arranged a guide through Go Tokyo to take us back to Grant Heights and Hikariagoka Park. I was impressed how our guide, Nobuko Iwanami, who once lived in the area, visited the Hikariagoka Library, where they have a small area with materials and photos related to Grant Heights. She had a map showing the layout of Grant Heights, complete with the “Runway” – from a WWII Japanese airfield – that was the main street on which we lived. I quickly recognized the landmarks – the chapel at the north end of the Runway, the officers club at the south end, and the rows and rows of wooden duplexes that made up the military housing. I pointed to a spot on the map – “that’s where we lived, right about there.”

When we arrived at the end of the subway line – Hikariagoka Station – it was literally steps away from where the Yemma family lived in Grant Heights. Nobuko laughed out loud when I reckoned that our house was probably now a Baskin & Robbins. The Runway – it’s now a wide pedestrian promenade, flanked by a large shopping mall and retail shops and restaurants serving the residential high-rise buildings. And while it is a Japanese neighborhood with families on bikes, playing in the park, shopping at the market, American culture is everywhere—from the Disney toys in the shops to ice cream, coffee, pizza and fried chicken.

At the north end of the Runway is a pretty, shaded park with a children’s water playground – and on the hot, humid August day that we visited kids were running and splashing everywhere, just as I remember we did as kids here back in the 1950s. Then, off to the right of the Runway – the baseball fields – still there 60 years later, Japanese boys in uniform and taking batting practice. Nostalgia!

Rediscovering Toshimaen Amusement Park in Tokyo
Rediscovering Toshimaen Amusement Park in Tokyo

Two subway stops from Hikariagoka we got off at Toshimaen Station and visited the old park – a small but modern theme park with roller-coasters, water-slides and a quaint old carousel (Japan’s oldest) that once was at Coney Island in New York. As we returned to Tokyo, Eileen asked me what I thought about the visit. Did I find any ghosts?

Some things never change, I said, the kids riding bikes, splashing around in the hot weather, the baseball fields. You can go home again.

This Post Has 123 Comments

  1. Sall

    Hi Andy, I enjoyed this page. My father was stationed at Tachi and we lived in Grant Heights, PCS’d to Kadena in Okinawa in 1972.

    We have a Facebook page. Feel free to take a peek…and join if you wish!

  2. Hunter

    my family lived in the Army equivalent at Washington Heights, which is now Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo. I could identify with everything you wrote. We also came over in 1955 on a troop transport from San Fran. I am now back here and have been a Tokyo resident for 32 years. Umm, yes, it has changed!

  3. Lynn Ellis Miller

    I, too, lived at Grant a Heights, from Sept, 1961 til Nov, 1963, when we moved to Fuchu. And, I,too, have been back multiple times. I enjoyed your article and would invite you to join the Narimasu Facebook page and our web page. We have gatherings around the country and often reconnect with those we haven’t seen in years. And, it’s always very much fun!

    1. Patti

      Lynn..where did you live on GH? What grade? I was in 2nd grade (2x due to illness)and we lived at 246A next to the theater

      1. Gary Nowak

        Also got to Grant Heights 1955, 2nd Grade, Mom and I on USS Gaffey. Lived right behind the chapel. Played Little League 2 years. About 4 years later I was on the Gaffey again this time going to Taiwan. After my Dad passed away going through his papers found he went to Korea 1943 on the Gaffey.

  4. Mike Skidmore

    I enjoyed reading your japan memories, sounds like many others I have come across over the years searching the internet. My family was at Tachikawa Air Base 2 times and I often think about my days growing up in Japan. Your welcome to come and join my Tachi group and if you search on youtube for tachikawa air base you will find lots of my photo slide shows I have posted. https://www.facebook.com/groups/377719578936686/

  5. Chris Hoppin

    Thanks for the memories. We lived in Grant Heights from ’54-’57 while our Dad worked at Fuchu, then FEAF HQ before they moved to Hickam as PACAF. I played Little League on those fields and my first team was the Dodgers. Then I learned about Jackie Robinson, and they became my lifelong team. On a business trip in 1979, my wife and I were able to visit briefly. Although we could not get into the main place, we were able to walk around the ballfields once again….

    1. Bonnie Boutin Hereth

      Chris Hoppin, did you receive a message from me? I hit the wrong key and my message disappeared. I think we know each other. Please respond to Bonniebotuhe@gmail.com

  6. Emmet Hawkins

    Thank you for the memory story! We left Grant Heights Dec of 69…I’m Narimasu Class of 70′. I love the fact that the 4 Baseball Diamonds are still there! I played on them once upon a time…3 of the best years of my life! I like to call it “Grand” Heights!

    1. Steven Murphy

      I was at Grant Heights also 67-69 I was 12 when we left, I used to hang out with Terry Smith, Eddie Connors, Donna Connors, John Sloan, OC Owings, Tersas Green

  7. Gwenyth Jett

    Our family lived in Grant Heights, twice. 55-57 and August 1970 until it closed. Loved your article. There are a couple of groups on Facebook where we share our memories.

  8. Roxanne Parsons

    I graduated from high school at Narimasu in 1961. What great memories! Met my sweetheart there, who was an air policeman. We’ve been married for 52 years. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

    1. Susan Carol Eve

      My name is Susan Eve, I too lived on GH. We came to Japan 01/68. I have some very fond memories. Thank you for the memories

  9. Karen (Budney) DeMarsche

    Thank you Andy. My family was at G.H. ’66-’69. Reading your description and seeing your photos brought back many wonderful memories.
    Thanks again.

    1. Cindy Hanson Phillips

      Hi Karen, My family was at Grant Heights 1966-1969 as well. I went to the elementary school at Grant Heights and to Drake middle school. I would love to connect with others who were there. I remember there was a bad typhoon sometime when we were there.

      1. Ron

        Hi Cindy, we were there for 3 1/2 years in the same time frame that you were there. Our house backed up to the 4 baseball diamonds. We also went to Drake for school and I have the class pictures of those years!!! Very GREAT memories of Grant heights. We were in Green Park housing prior to getting into Grany Heights. I could go on for a long time about GH. If you have the same class pics let me know which one was you.

      2. Steven Murphy

        I was there the same time Cindy

    2. Beth Shaver

      We were also there from 66-69, I was 7 when we left, my brother Doug was 12 and my sister Becki was 16. I attended Narimasu Elementary. I have a class picture from 1st grade.. I wish I could post it!

  10. Joan Walter Dutill

    Your story brought back so many memories for me. My father was in the Air Force and we lived on Grant Heights from 1960 to 1962. We live right across the street from the BX and the movie theaters and remember how fun it was to go to the movies for quarter and see previews,cartoons and the main feature. I was in fifth and sixth grade while going to school there and remember the preteen parties we had at the youth center every Friday night. We played ping pong, watched “Highway Patrol” and afterwards how hordes of us pre-teens would head back home on Fri nights running through the neighborhood back ringing door bells as we went. What a fun time!

    1. Patti

      great memories sis. You should check out Japan Brats and the FB page of Grant Heights/Narimasu. You may see someone you knew there-if you remember! Lots of photos of us and others posted there.

  11. Thank you for the memories….I really enjoyed your story. We lived in Grant Hts from 1947 – 1952 +/-. My sister was born in Tokyo. I was there earlier than many, I remember when the swimming pool was built….before that we were bussed to Ueno park for swimming lessons. When they brought ice cream to GH they only had vanilla and strawberry. When chocolate came it was heavenly! I’ve gone back once about 10 yrs ago, traveled around for 4 was thought I was near GH once but not sure. I want to go back and see it again soon so your guide is a great idea. You’ve opened the floodgates so will spend some time with things that remain from our life there and all the old photos…thanks again what a joy to read!

    1. Andy Yemma

      Wow, you were there during the occupation. As noted in posts above, there are a few facebook accounts of us old Japap-brats-now-approaching geezdom. One pointed to this post about Washington Height, which I remember too. It was one of the earliest returned to Japan and served as the Olympic Village for the 1964 Olympics. The 2020 Olympics are going to be in Tokyo and the locals seem very up with that. Although it will be in a different location, near the waterfront.

        1. Joe Beyer

          I arrived at Atsugi, Tokyo by air in late ‘63 form Honolulu and went to Drake Jr. High in class 7-A. We lived in Matsumi Dai right next Grant Heights. The summers were hot and humid, the movies at the theater were great. One summer there was an earthquake while I was at the swimming pool. Just like at the beach, waves and all. Next year I was in 8-E at Drake. (8th grade) My main hobby at the time was model airplanes. Life for me at that time was not easy, but I survived in spite of it. Back to Oregon in early 1965.

    2. Heidi Pauer Cavagnolo

      My family lived in Grant Heights from 1948 to 1950. My father was there from 1947 working as a civilian setting up the Japanese Post Ministry. I attended Naramasu Preschool and my brother attended the elementary school. I love reading the memories of others who lived there.

  12. Dick Elam

    Good copy. Enjoyed
    Back in Texas. In condo at Lake Ray Hubbard
    Suburb of Rockwall named Heath
    Putting travels on Carolina Waterway into a thriller
    Plan to take cruise ship there next year to revisit where I sailed
    In Knox, IN researching for historical novel. Best,Dick

  13. Judith Walter

    My fondest memory was the helicopter with the Santa Clause face painted on the front. Anyone else remember that?
    My sister also replied to this posting. We were there 1960- 1962, I was 5-7 years old
    I remember being on TV with the Japanese flower exchange program.
    And watching the first Flintstones episodes in Japanese

    1. admin

      LOL. I remember that as well because when I saw that Santa helicopter at about age 7 I experienced that transcendental kid moment when he realizes finally that Santa Claus is a myth. — Andy Yemma

    2. Patti

      wow Judith, I had forgotten about Santa. I vaguely remember you on TV now that you mentioned it. Being in Japan is the highlight of our travels.

  14. Whitney Broussard

    Great article. We lived there 1967-1971. My father was base commander. We had such a wonderful time and many great memories. Our housekeeper had visited us many times untill she passed. And I brought my children several times so they would love Japan like we all do. We are Japanese in our soul because of Grant Heights!

  15. Grace Evans

    I didn’t attend the high school but I did attend Narimasu Elementary School which if I recall correctly was adjacent to the high school from the second grade to the fourth, 1959-1962. Our house number was 35-B. It was 2 story. We moved there from Hawaii, being that my dad was in the army.

  16. Nancy Sally

    I really enjoyed your comments and pictures. We lived in Grant Heights from 1953-1955. I attended Narimasu Elementary School. My dad was stationed at Tokyo Ordnance Depot. There are many, many photos of our time in Japan and I will always remember it with pleasure.

    1. Bruce McMillan

      In 1957, my father was assigned to close down Tokyo Ordnance Depot. We lived in Grant Heights one street east of the run way close to the old steam plant. I too attended Camp Drake!



    1. Heidi Pauer Cavagnolo

      Hello Jack…Good to see you here…I live in Los Gatos,CA. I know Kurt has talked with you and I may have sent an email to you. Heidi Pauer (Grant Heights 1947-1950)

    2. Jay Fischer

      heidi, i guess we never crossed paths in Los Gatos. I was at Grant Heights from 61 – 65 and lived in Los Gatos from 92 – 97. I went back and lived in Japan from 87 – 92, then to LG.

      Jay Fischer

    3. Jay Fischer

      oops, think i sent message to the wrong person

  18. Patti

    Great article and great memories!

  19. Judy (Coleman) O'Betts

    We lived in Grant Heights from 1952-55. We were Army and our neighbor’s were Navy and Air Force. We lived in #287. We also traded comic books and swan in the pool. Sunday’s were dinner at the NCO club. We took a vacation at the base of Mt Fuji once, and also toured the Ginza. I remember parks, zoos etc on the roofs of high rise buildings. My brother was in a drum and bugle Corp for kids, and I learned Japanese dance. We met and played with the Japanese kids across the street from the base. Great memories. Oh, we had no TV, so listened to the radio. We had 3 different maids…young girls who lived in dormitories. It sure was an adventure full of wonderful and beautiful memories.

    1. Lorrie Guthrie

      My Dad was Army and we were at Grant Heights too. My brother was born in 1953 at Tokyo Army Hospital. I was only 3 when we went to Japan in May 1952. Turned four in June. Thanks for sharing your memories, it helped to put things in order for me.

  20. Dan Tvarozna

    Lived in Grant heights from 1960-1964. We lived right next to the NCO club; the back door to the stage was literally right out our back door. I was the oldest of 4 children and I was only 5 when we arrived. My youngest sister was born there. Attended elementary school and recall the high school football games with a dragon mounted over a car frame that would come out at half time and blow smoke!My brother and I had great adventures there and as we got a little older I recall going off base and bartering at the neighboorhood stores.

    1. Jay Fischer

      Dan,I was at Grant Heights from 61 – 65 and was also 5 when we moved there. I went back and lived in Japan from 87 – 92.

      Jay Fischer

  21. Mark

    This article was so enjoyable. My mother and grandparents were at GH 53-55. I am in Tokyo now on vacation for the first time, having visited the park today. I have overlaid old aerials with present day maps to try to find where their house was and I believe it was a success! I’ve done all this for my mother who is not on this trip with me. My grandparents were special people and always spoke fondly of their time in Japan, as does my mom. I will share these resources with her and hope she may reconnect!

  22. Roberta Taylor -Murdock

    I attended Narimausu High School from 1956 to 1959 when I graduated. My father was in the Air Force and we were stationed at Yokota Air Force base. so we were bussed to Grand Heights, what fun we had on the bus. I loved Japan and my high school days. I did attend a reunion in Las Vegas in the nineties. I am African American so anyone who attended during that period may remember me. I used to sing in school programs. Good memories.

    1. Larry Petrash

      Roberta: Do you remember a guy named Ernie Petrash? He attended Narimasu the same time you did. He graduated in 1960 after moving back to the states. He is my older brother Just wondered if you, by chance, knew him??

  23. Bob Rhea

    A great read bringing back many memories. Our family was at Grant Heights from 62-65 during the Cuban Missile crisis and the assasination of President Kennedy but other than those sad times most of it was great memories. We arrived at the end of my fifth grade year and left at the end of my seventh grade year while at Drake Jr. Hi.

  24. Jeannie Hoffman

    We lived in Grant Heights from about 1956 to 1960 and I attended Grant Heights Nursery School. I was too young to remember much but one of the memories that I do have is when I was about 4, I got on the wrong bus and ended up at an elementary school with our dog in tow. My dad was with the Military Police, one of the other MPs was at the school picking up his child and knew my dad, called him to pick me up since our dog would not let any one near me. I also have pictures from a birthday party with lot of the other kids that lived near us in Grant Heights. It is such a small world that after leaving Grant Heights, my dad was stationed at McChord Airforce Base in Tacoma, Washington and one of the girls in the pictures was a neighbor in Tacoma as well. Such memories.

    1. Albert Balingit

      May I see the pictures. I was born in 1948, and lived in Grand Heights from 1955-57

      1. admin

        There is a Facebook group mentioned earlier in these comments with lots of pictures from Grand Heights in those days.

    2. Larry Petrash

      Jeannie: My family and I lived in Grant Heights for almost the same period you lived there although you were a bit younger (about 4 years younger). We lived there from 1956 to 1959. Have very vivid memories of that whole area. We lived there during the transition from Grant Heights being an Army Post and then became an Air Force Base. On weekends, my family would venture out. We visited all the surrounding airbases. We visited Washington Heights many times, Fuchu, Camp Zama, Camp Drake. Dad served for a time at Owada Receiving Station in Tokyo. Went to Narimasu Elementary from 2 thr 5th grade. Played baseball leagues every summer, but we always played year round in the nearby fields. Would love to hear from you and share memories.

  25. Albert Balingit

    My wife and I are on a five week journey through Japan, and are now in Tokyo. We lived in Grand Heights from 1955-57, when I was 7 years old. Thank you for your article, I will visit the former Grand Heights

  26. Tom Majors

    My Mom once asked me where I felt my “home” was. I told her it was Grant Heights. I tear up a little when I see the old pics and read all the comments from all of you who also hold Grant Heights so dear. I lived at 469B from ’62-’64, and loved every minute of it.

  27. Bob Pergler

    Moved to Grant Heights in 56 after living on the economy in 55, attended Wash Heights school for 7th grade, went to Camp Drake for the 8th grade, played little league at GH (won’t the All Japan Allstars tournament), then moved to Washington Heights and went to ASIJ for 9th grade. Loved every minute of it. Haven’t had a chance to go back but hope to next year!

    1. Larry Petrash

      Bob: I lived in Grant Heights 56-59. I was 8 when we arrived and almost twelve when we left. Many fond memories and have often dreamed of going back to Japan and visit. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a group together and go. I have vivid memories of all three years, grade school at Narimasu, Japanese culture classes, marble games, so many things to say but can’t in so little space. Great memories of the field trips we took while I was at Narimasu Elementary.

      1. admin

        I recall field trips to the new Tokyo Tower and to a movie studio not far from GH where they made Godzilla like flicks.

  28. Frank Harris

    I was single, stationed at Tachikawa 1958. Worked on airborne nav aids equipment, 30151 AFSC. Can’t remember too many of the details but had a great time. From there went to Otis AFB on Cape Cod, then to Misawa in 1962. 1965 to Eglin AFB Fla. and then Danang. After Danang assigned to George AFB 1970. Still here in the High Desert. Would love to hear from anyone at any of those stations.

  29. John Mullins

    We just rebuilt a house on land my wife’s (American) uncle bought near Grant Heights in the mid-50’s. My daughter bikes to school through Hikarigaoka park and down the “runway” everyday. Its still a very pleasant place to live.

  30. Norm Estabrook

    Nostalgia! We lived at Yokota AFB from ’53-55 and I spent my 9th grade at Narimasu. Took an hour by bus to get to and from school, but those of us who played athletics after school, had to ride in the back of a weapons carrier, even in winter!

  31. Ron Anglin

    My wife and I bought a home In Grant Heights (nice) and sold it for $75 to another G.I. (the base was being returned to the Japanese in 2 years) upon our leaving. GREAT memories!

    1. Andree Kauchick

      We were there from 1956 until 1958. We,too, bought a house at Grant Heights until we could get housing. We paid $2300 for it and it depreciated at $40 per month. My husband was with the 583rd Field Artillery and we went there from Ft. Bragg as a unit.

  32. Duane Dias

    I was a military brat, 1963-1965. Went to Narumasu high, Olympics in 1964. Fond memories

  33. John Warren

    I was an Air Force brat living on Grant Heights from 1967-1970. I was at the end of first grade finishing part of the third grade at West School before moving back to the states. My family lived beside the church at 838S. I mainly stayed to myself riding my bicycle on every sidewalk…of what I remember the sidewalks connected to everywhere! What fantastic memories my siblings and myself had.

    1. Steven Murphy

      That is awesome, the Chaplin was Sloan, his son was my best friend there, the church was at the end of Narimasu school

      1. Mark Guest

        Didn’t Bob Sloan’s dad die from a heart attack in 68 or 69? I was there 67-70, grades 8,9,10.

  34. Laura Maravillas

    I lived on Grant Heights in 72 and moved to Yokata until 74, find memories if riding my bike all over the base! Taking the Red Line and Blue Line bus to Yokota and Tachikawa or my Dad driving telephone alley! Yikes!

  35. Sharyn Downey - Witzel

    I found this site today and enjoyed reading all the messages. I started to cry, have such great memories. My family lived in Grant Heights from 1957 to 1961. Went to 5 th garde at Grant Heights and 6 th, 7th and 8 th grade Camp Drake. So happy I found this site.

  36. Barbara campbell

    Barbara Jean Campbell lived in Japan – tachikawa, grant heights, Camp drake jr high – left in 1964 –

  37. Barbara campbell

    Would love to hear from the slawskys and Kennedys

  38. Kary Elaine Ronk

    I’d like to hear from the Allen’s who lived next door in our two story duplex. We lived right in front of a Japanese village. Also Caroline Crawford. She was my best friend at GH. She played with a stuffed bunny instead of a doll. And her mom taught us how to dance to Sakura.

  39. Ronald Johnson

    Ronald Johnson
    My father was stationed at Toyko General
    Depot. We lived at Grant Heights the 1st
    time from 1947 TO 1949 and returned for a
    second tour in 1951 to 1953. In 1953 dad
    went to Korea and we came home. I attened
    Narimasu grade school and we lived on main street near the O Club.

  40. Barbara Daugherty

    I was a girl scout and we camped at Lake Motosu for two weeks. The marines set up our camp with showers, latrines etc. They also cooked for us. I lived at Grant Heights House #169.

    1. Jay Fischer

      when were you at grant heights. i was there 61 – 65 and lived in lot house #156

  41. Barbara Daugherty

    PS I loved living in Japan and found it so educational. Being stationed on Grant Heights for almost three years was wonderful and life was good.

  42. Gail Snovelle

    I lived in Grant Heights 1955-1958. Went to Narimasu Elementary 2nd Grade to 5th Grade. We took the SS Edwin D. Patrick from San Francisco and I really got sick. We lived right by the Chapel, there was a row of trees between our unit and the Chapel.

    1. admin

      Andy Yemma (Eileen’s husband) was in grades 2-4 at Narimasu El from 56-59. He rembers teachers names were Ms Champion (2), ms Wise (3) and he thinks ms Schafer (4). Maybe you were classmates. The Yemmas lived near the officers club.

  43. Gail Snovelle

    My Father was in the Air Force at Haneda/TIA. We would take the bus to and from North and South Camp Drake.

    1. Masako Yoshida

      Do you have a younger brother? Did he live in Machida city about 40 years ago? He was my good friend.He told me in Japanese,”Japan is my the second home country, Becouse I lived in Japan my childhood for 3 years”.

  44. Carl w roth

    To all you dependant brats af and army. my dad was in korea (seoul) as a military policeman from 1949 to 1954. We joined him at grant heights late 1949 and stayed until 1953. As you all did Ienjoyed my stay. My dad got reposted to fort dix nj. And after a month or so we also joined him there.

  45. Dave

    Boy, this was sure a “blast from the past”! Your childhood sounds almost exactly like mine! My mother, brother and I said from SF to Tokyo in 1956 and stayed until 1960. Same two week trip.

    We stayed in Shiroi, Tachikawa, Grant Heights and again in Shiroi. I remember going to the same park watching the boats fly down the mountain into the water. Amazing!

    Some of my fondest memories include all the colors of the packages in shops, three wheel trucks, Boys Day kites, cherry blossoms and, of course, Mt Fuji always somewhere in sight.

    I’m actually going to be cooking Sukiyaki tomorrow night!!!!!

    Thanks for the memories.

  46. Ed Ewert

    Just happened across this site & the article on Grant Heights. Made me SO nostalgic. My family lived there from about ’62 to 11/’65. I was there in grades 3,4,5 & part way into 6th grade. Had Ms. Wieland in 3rd, Malaforis (sp?) for 4th and Mr. Johnson in 5th. So many of my best childhood memories including my 1st ever girlfriend (Mary Ann). Mr. Johnson turned our 5th grade class into a choir and we performed songs from Sound of Music for various audiences. AND, our 5th grade class represented the U.S. on Children’s Day (May 5, I believe) and performed a square dance on national TV in Japan. We lived in a Lot house directly across the street from a large playground on the edge of the base. Great times. Still have photos of the base pool and some from around the house. Thanks for the article!

  47. Jim Allen

    We are on Facebook. There are over 800 of us who were stationed there, a spouse or a dependent of Grant Heights, Momote Village, Camp Drake or Mutsumi Dai

  48. Mark Jessop

    Went to kindergarten at Yakota 1952-1953. Remember the area fondly, even though I was so young.

  49. Mike Donnelly

    Great recollections! I lived on Grant Heights, and attended 4th and 5th grades in 1954 and 1955. Dad worked at Tokyo Army Hospital. I played Little League both years. and played with my Japanese friends in nearby fields. Still remember the honey-buckets on the fields next to our house, but overall it was a wonderful experience.

  50. Not sure if this us useful information or not. I live in Tachikawa near Showa park. The front gate at the park is the same as the main entrance from Tachikawa Air Base. There are a few retirees living in the area with Japanese spouses and kids. Interesting to explore preset day Tachikawa and try to imagine what life was like back in those days. I sometimes find old buildings in the Sunagawa area and wonder if they were part ifcthe base or not. I need someone who can look at the photos and let me know if they can recognize anything. I would be happy to send present day photos via I-phone.
    Thank you,

  51. Clara Parnell McLaughlin

    My dad was stationed at Johnson AFB 1958-1961, Air Resue Sqd. We never moved onto base housing but I can’t remember the name but it was close to the base and was in a compound of homes all around a former Japanese palace which was broken up into apartments. My next door neighbor was Billy Baldwin and the Tyler’s, Mary and Ginger Tyler. We had the best childhood. I went to Tyre Elementary. If anyone knows the name of this town where I lived, I appreciate it.

  52. David Martindale

    My dad was stationed at north camp drake from May 65 to May 68.We lived at green park for 6 mo. Then at grant heights the rest of the time.. when to north camp drake jr high for 2 years and the Narismusa high school on base the rest.. Go Dragons. Played football and baseball on base..Go Crusaders. It was some of my best times as a kid.

  53. Sunny Symroski

    What memories! I lived in Matsumi Dai next to Grant heights from ’59 to ’61 with my sister and brother. Anyone else remember the shop right outside the gate that sold every kind of marble imaginable?

    1. Larry Petrash

      Sunny: We lived in Grant Heights from 56-59. We had a “live-in” maid by the name of Yoshiko Watanabe. She was born in Hokkaido. She lived with us almost the entire time we were in Japan. I’m wondering if you ever heard of her?? I would love to locate her.

      1. Alison Weir

        I don’t know if I ever met her. I’d love to locate Kazue-san, who taught me much about Japan. I doubt any of us knew what difficult times these women had experienced before we were born.

    2. Karen Dixon

      Sunny I just googled Matsumi Dai and came across your reply. I lived there from “59-62. My name is Karen, maiden name, Dixon, and my father was an Army Colonel stationed there. A friend of mine, whom I still see twice a year, Patty Jones, also lived there at the same time. Would love to hear from you!

  54. West Miller

    Wow this is absolutely crazy. I just stumbled upon this typing in Grant Heights to see what would happen! I lived there as a kid between the ages of 9 and 14 from 1960 a 1964 right next door to the library as a matter of fact. I can still remember my address was 155-A!! I’ll have to check out the Facebook page that was mentioned. My head is flooding with memories right now from my girlfriend, my playmates playing army from one into the base to the other, to my college-age Japanese friend that used to visit on the weekends, I could go on and on. My best childhood memories come from there, especially playing baseball and football and a myriad School memories. That was a very impactful age and time and I share those memories still often with people. What a trip!

    1. admin

      Andy wrote this almost three years ago now and the comments keep pouring in. It is the most commented upon article on Taking the Kids in the past 10 years!

    2. Larry Petrash

      West: We lived in Grant Heights from 56-59. We had a “live-in” maid by the name of Yoshiko Watanabe. She was born in Hokkaido. She lived with us almost the entire time we were in Japan. I’m wondering if you ever heard of her?? I would love to locate her.

  55. Paul Henderson

    Interesting article. I lived in Grant Heights for two months in 1950 but remember nothing. Lived in Qtrs. 154-A during July and August, then moved to Fuchu (Area “B”) Qtrs.84-A. Born at Tokyo General June 24. All this comes from my hardcover baby book. No Tweakaboo or Blinkbuggy.com back then.

  56. Masako Yoshida

    Sorry for my rudeness,Dou you have a younger brother? We first made each other’s acquaintance in summer 42 years ago.
    I love and respect him from the bottom my heart.But my dream has not come true.I will never our thouse sweet days.There is a lot I would like to say,Though it is impossibile.

  57. Bill Carroll

    Eileen: This may take a while. I came to Grant Heights in 1955. My Dad, Patrick Carroll, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, was the editor of the Pacific Stars and Stripes. Was not Grant Heights shaped liked a “L”? I have written a long detailed memoir of my time growing up in Tokyo.(not sure where to publish it…) I left in late ’59. One of the crazy characters who worked with my Dad at the Stripes was my ‘Uncle’ Shelby, Shel Sivlerstein, who later became famous as the author of ‘The giving tree’, and other childrens books. He did military themed cartoons for the Stripes then.
    I went to 1st and 2nd grade at Grant Heights. Wasn’t the second grade in a Quonset Hut? Then we moved out to a
    private rental, as it was called, and lived in the Denon Cho-fu area of Tokyo for a year. Then we moved back to Washington Heights.
    Mom and Dad put my brother and I into St. Mary’s International Academy when we moved out of Grant Heights. Does anyone have that experience?
    Eileen, I enjoyed your recollections immensely.

    1. Sheila Garcia

      My family moved to Tokyo in early 1957. My Dad was in the Army. Lived in private rental for 1-1/2 years, then lived in Washington Heights. I was in part of the 1st grade and 2nd grade at Narimasu, then Yoyogi for 3rd and 4th grade. Your memoir brought back a lot of memories for me. My Dad, Lou Garcia, was a sports and news broadcaster for Far East Network, and a sports writer for Stars and Stripes. He also was a sports columnist. Who knows, we may have crossed paths. Sailed from Yokohama in August 1960 for San Francisco. Two weeks of fun!
      Sheila, an Army Brat long ago

  58. Bill Carroll

    Eileen: I think I should have addressed this to Andy. Sorry.

    1. admin

      Bill that must have been a great experience knowing Shel Silverstein. And yes I believe my 2nd grade class (56-57) was in a Quonset hur. We might have been classmares. Andy
      Ps i’m not a publisher but would be happy to read your memoir.

  59. Bill Carroll

    Andy: to what email would I send this memoir. It would come as an attachment.
    Wow, we could have been classmates at the Quonset Hut! I’m pretty sure that was the year. Do you remember that just outside of the fence of Grant Heights there was a small farming village?

  60. Melanie

    I lived in Japan for 3 1/2 years. We arrived in January 1955. We had a wonderful experience. I was 6 when we arrived. We lived in Green Park, the Japanes town of Koganei, and Tachikawa Air Base. Do you know the name of the ocean liner you took to get there? I think I remember my dad saying it was the Queen Elizabeth. It took 2 weeks. They had swings on the upper deck. Thanks for sharing!

    1. admin

      We arrived in Tokyo-Yokohama in Sept 1955. The ship was a WWII troop transport, retrofitted to be a civilian transport.

      1. Melanie

        We were on a beautiful ocean liner. It had beautiful separate rooms with bathtubs. It had a beautiful dining room. We had fun trying to hide in them until someone needed to use them. It was white. I know the Queen Elizabeth was used in the Atlantic after the war to transport war brides. I just can’t get it out of my head that my dad said it was the Queen Elizabeth!

  61. My mother, older brother and I arrived in February 1947 to join my father who was a captain at the Tokyo headquarters of the Kanto Military Government Region. We lived at the Gora Hotel
    In the mountains for six and then moved to Washington Heights, moving back to the states and Fort Sam Houston in mid-1949.

    My dad went to Korea in 1950 and my mother and I (my brother was in college) rejoined him in 1952 at Camp Drake where he was a major and Provost Marshall. We lived in Momote Village at Camp Drake and I bussed to Grant Heights for the eighth grade. We returned to the states in 1953.

    I think I was the first kid in 1947 Washington Heights to sell my comic books on a box outside the PX. Many other memories.

  62. Tom

    As a dependent I went to Narimasu, Grant Heights, Camp Drake, and then my 8th grade to Green Park in Mitaka. Anybody else go to Green Park? Then on to Kubasaki in Oki! Had a great childhood! Many memories!

  63. Frank Boynton

    I was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1954. On my Army birth certificate it lists my mother’s and father’s place of residence as 663-C Grant Heights, Tokyo, Japan. I tried looking it up in a locator. Guess it doesn’t exist anymore. Both my parents are deceased and I was just remembering old times. My two younger sisters were also born there.

    1. admin

      No Grant Heights hasn’t existed since the early 1970s. But judging by the comments I continue to get to this post, it lives in a lot of memories!

  64. Vince Brown

    My Mother and I joined my Father(who had been in Tokyo for a year already). We left Seattle on the US General Mann, a converted hospital ship, for a two week voyage to Tokyo arriving 1955 I was 10 and lived in a private rental in Tokyo for about six months. I remember catching a bus to Grant Heights where
    I would transfer and go to Camp Drake to school. We then moved to Shiroi AFB, living in a tiny off base housing in the countryside. Shiroi was an intelligence gathering base. My class was 7th and 8th grade combined total of 15 kids taught by the principle(Mr. Wink). My friends were all from Japanese farm families speaking broken English and I picked up Japanese pretty quickly. The Japanese families treated me like on of their own. Shiroi was a tiny
    town back then. My time outside of class on the base was spent with the local farmer’s families. We left in 1957 when my Dad was transferred to Hickam
    AFB. This time by a Super Constellation prop plane. Never spent much time at Grant Heights but my memories of farm life in Japan with the kids there
    were pleasant. My Japanese name was pronounced Binsusan since the Japanese language had difficulty with pronouncing V’s. Anybody remember Shiroi?

    1. admin

      Andy Yemma here. I too lived at Shiroi my first year in Japan, 1955-56. I was in first grade. My dad (USAF officer) was undoubtedly involved in some kind of electronic surveillance, no doubt on the USSR, maybe Chinese, N Korea, whatever … he never told us exactly what because it was classified. Went to his grave with whatever it was. We moved to Grant Heights in mid-1956 and lived there until return to states in mid-59.

  65. deborah mielnik

    Had a crush on Bobby Fisher. I lived at Showa in 1963 and 1964,65. went to tachi jr.high and then yamato high.Was friends with patty Talbot and Joe(twins).they lived on Showa, too.

  66. don callahan

    I lived in Grant Heights from 64-66
    Great memories

  67. Michael Newtson

    Our family lived in Grant Heights twice, first from 1958-59 and again from 1963-66. Attended Narimasu Elementary, Drake Junior High, and freshman year 1965-66 at Narimasu HS. Played Little League and Pony League at the baseball diamonds at Spiro Field. Although Grant Heights was located in a foreign country, walking through the front gates was like walking into any small town in Nebraska, Kansas, or Iowa. A small town with a small high school where just about all the youth activities revolved around the high school. Whether it was football games, dances at the teen club, or bake sales participation was always high. It was a special time in a special place, and all that attended this unique venue are much richer for it.

  68. Hal Jackson

    Hi Everyone, what a delight finding your post Andy and thank you! My father was Army and we sailed on a reconditioned troop transport out of Seattle after a three day train trip from Atlanta. We lived our first year (1955) in private rental and 2 years at Grant Heights. I attended Narimasu first through third grades and remember Ms. Muldoon as my first grade teacher and played Little League for the Padres. What a treat traveling down memory lane reading through everyone’s comments!

  69. Nancy

    I enjoyed reading your post. My family lived in Grant Heights, also, from probably 1949-51 or so. I was born in Tokyo General. I know my sister said Mother and my siblings lived in a hotel in Tokyo when they first arrived. My dad was in the army and was already there. We have some sweet photos from Grant Heights.

  70. Kurt Pauer

    My sister has already commented. Jack Allen lived in the same court as us. We lived at 421B and backed up to the farms. I have picked out our place on the aerial map of Grant Heights. My mother, sister, and I were passengers on the Edmund B Alexander out of Seattle to Yokohama. We left April 24, 1948 and arrived on May 5th. I attended second and third grade at Narimasu Elementary. My second grade teacher was Miss Asselin and my third grade teacher was Mrs Aultman. I didn’t like her because she made me do homework. We sold comic books outside the PX and traded marbles. The Saturday morning movies were serial as I remember. We had Japanese house maids named Minako-san and Kuwako-san. They taught me origami which I can still do to this day. As kids we had tremendous freedom and traded with the Japanese farm kids. I remember a horrible typhoon called the Kitty. It was very scary for a 7 year old. When the Korean War started, there were thoughts that it might spill over into Japan. We flew back to the states in June 1950. We were on a Pan Am DC-4 (civilian C-54). It took 12 hours to fly to Wake Island and then another 12 hours to John Rodgers Field in Honolulu (now Hickam). We ended up back in Travis to end our Japan adventure.

  71. Keith Hopkins

    I stumbled upon this post looking up what the name of the elementary school was. Thank you, Andy, for taking me down on a memory lane trip. My dad was in the USAF as well, we came around the summer of 1959 and lived there until 1962. Didn’t have the ship transport experience, we flew from California. I was 4 years old, and did Kindergarten through 2nd grade there. When we first moved there we lived in the rice patties until housing opened up in Grant Heights. My dad worked @ Johnson AFB. We too took a trip to the hot springs once, at some hotel that had these huge round hot pools and we were the only ones in bathing suits! My older brother and I both learned Japanese in school, it was one of our classes. Interestingly, when we returned to Japan when I was in Middle School, this time in the southern part of Japan, my younger siblings weren’t taught any Japanese. I cherish both Japan memory experiences and still have it on my bucket list to travel back as an adult. My older brother went back to the Tokyo area last year….what a difference from 1962 when we were last in the area. To this day, I’ve always loved the Japanese culture and customs.

    1. Keith Hopkins

      I forgot to mention that my sister was born there at the end of 1959. She has a very special connection to Japan!

  72. Pat Courreges

    Patrick Courreges.
    I graduated from Narimasu in 1964. I live in New Braunfels, Texas now

  73. H. D. Smith (Smitty)

    I was in the Air Force OSI and assigned to the their office in Washington Heights. Arrived in 1963 after a long ride in a Super Constellation and a taxi ride from Tachikawa only to discover that Wash Heights was being remodeled for the 64 Olympics and the OSI office had been moved to Fuchu. My wife and two kids joined me a little later and we rented off base for awhile then moved onto Grant Heights. When my third child was born, the Obstetrics dept at Tachikawa Hosp. was being remodeled and birthing was being handled at Johnson Air Station which had been returned to the Japanese. My son was delivered by a Japanese doctor. With the additional family member we needed a larger apartment and moved to Momote Village where we lived until returning to the States. I enjoyed my stay in Japan and am enjoying reading the posts on this site. Lots of memories and most are good.

  74. Bonnie Boutin Hereth

    What a thrill it was to relive with you my wonderful years at Grant Heights. My dad was in the army, and we lived there from 1955-1958. We lived onbase, and I managed to get to all three schools in three years — Narimasu Elementary, Camp Drake Junior High, and Narimasu High School. It was a fantastic life for a young teenager!

  75. Billy Conduff

    Worked at FEAF HQ in Tokyo in 1956 and part of 1957 when they moved us out to Fuchu. I lived in what they called the New Kijo building about five blocks from the Meji building. I was single and in the Air Force.

  76. Nan

    My father went to Japan in 1947, and my mother and siblings joined him the next year. I was born at Tokyo General in 1949. We lived at Grant Heights, and we have several pictures from there. I am enjoying reading all of the memories. I know my parents loved being there and the Japanese people.

  77. Karen Dixon

    I lived at Matsumi Dai from 8/59-6/62 when my father was with MAAG-Japan and spent a lot of time at Grant Heights. Although I was stateside for college I made many friends there when I was home for Christmas and summer. Many many fond memories!

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