Our Great Adventure in Kure

By Derek Trayler 31 CP0 1951/1952


It is generally supposed that troops only think of beer and women, which may be true in some cases, but I can honestly say that l did not drink beer while l was in Japan.  I had little opportunity to meet women except on a professional basis which l declined. The lack of beer was partly on religious grounds and partly due to my sporting aspirations. However in the short time l was in Kure, I found plenty to do.


Coming from Essex which is very flat, the mountains at the back of Kure were a constant fascination. High enough to make them worth climbing and not too difficult for our novice status. The army had supplied us with the basic needs of Hiking boots, Haversack and Water Bottle. On request they would also supply us a packed lunch which in many ways was preferable to the meal served up in the mess. This may have been due to the fact that after a few hours in the clean mountains air we had ravenous appetites.


On one journey we left early and walked through the town. They were building some new houses near the camp. The builders were using Bamboo for scaffold poles and we thought this ideal compared to the heavy solid wood used in England. The houses were simple wood and paper constructions and were finished in a few days unlike English houses which takes months. However, I do not think the Japanese houses would have been very popular in Britain and would not have passed fire regulations. As we traveled on, we went through the ‘Red Light’ district. At this time of day the working girls were having a lay in after their late night activities. However we had not come to visit them and carried on.


As we started to climb, the houses were more spread out and most had small plots of land on which they were growing rice. The ‘fields’ were narrow terraces carved out of the side of the mountains. As they got higher the terraces got narrower until they were only 30 or 40 cm wide. Each terrace had been given a surround which retained the water. The farmer or his family carried the water to the top and the excess overflowed to the one below so that they were all flooded. We could only guess at the amount of work required to keep them irrigated all season.


 Eventually the path became so steep that the land could not be used viably and we came to plantations of Bamboo. ln Britain we were used to seeing Bamboo used for many purposes but had never seen it actually growing. As far as we were concerned, Bamboo was something you bought in shops.


As we continued to climb, we came out of the Bamboo belt and the trees changed. At one point we met a woodsman coming down towards us carrying a huge bundle of wood that he had collected. His back was bent over and with the arrogance of youth we thought he must be very, very old. We were amazed that he could lift the load let alone carry it.


We met at a small piece of relatively flat ground where there was a large rock. We were having a rest by the rock and we realized that he used this rock to support his load while he had a short rest. My friend, Len Boyer, was a keen rugby player and built like one. He gestured to the man that he would like to try and lift the load to Judge its weight. The man agreed and helped Len get it onto his back, whereupon Len’s legs started to buckle and he was very glad to give it back. We thanked the man and gave him some of our free issue cigarettes thus probably destroying his lungs so he could no longer climb the mountains.


We soldiered on getting higher and higher until we decided that we deserved a rest, As we ate our food we smugly congratulated ourselves on climbing this high without oxygen. Then we heard voices. Shrill, high voices coming up from below, but on another path. We could not see or imagine who could be this far up the mountain destroying our solitude and sense of accomplishment.


The voices came nearer and eventually the source started to emerge. A party of young school children passed by. Each one went by and some gave us a friendly ’Hallo’ usually followed by muffled laughter. I estimate that their ages were between 8yrs and 10 yrs and they were obviously on a casual outing from a school below. They were climbing in the Japanese wooden sandals which seemed to grip the rough path and protect their feet. They had those unique socks which had a separate sleeve for the big toe and enabled them to grip the thong between their toes. Judging by the chatter they were not out of breath or in the slightest way tired from their exertion. 


We continued our journey and reached the top. We could see the land beyond the mountains and the view was spectacular. It was well worth the effort but the encounter with the children and the woodsman put it into perspective. Our great adventure was something the Japanese people did on a regular basis and thought nothing of it.


Vol.17 No.3 July-September 2003









登り始めると、次第に家はまばらになり、家の敷地を米用の小さな土地が囲むようになりました。 「田んぼ」は、山の側面を削って作られたテラスのようになっていました。上に登るにつれて、そのテラスの幅は30cmまたは40cmと狭くなっていきます。それぞれのテラスには水をためるための畔がありました。農家の人たちが水を上まで運び、余った水はあふれて下に流れ、すべての田に水が満たされていくのです。季節を通じて、灌漑するためにどれだけの労力が必要か考えも及びませんでした。