|Visit to Australia for the Premieres of the
The Railroad of Love, with Mr. Chiba, its Director
Written by Yoko Ishizuka
Translated into English by Yoshikazu Kondo
|On 7 October 1999, our plane, which was scheduled
to have left at 10:15 p.m., took off
Airport two hours behind schedule.
the seats, in the same row as ours,
to be broken, and it took a long time
repair it, which caused the delay.
Upon our arrival in Canberra the following day, Ms. Hiroko Fisher, Vice-President of the Australia-Japan Society ACT (Australian Capital Territory), seemed to be tired after a long wait for our arrival and urged us to hurry.
She had a good reason; we were already considerably late for the luncheon at the Japanese Embassy, to which we had been invited. Actually, to expedite matters, Hiroko asked airport officials to let us use a VIP room so that we could change our clothes.
We quickly got into a car, which eventually took us to the Japanese Embassy at a furious speed. I felt relieved when I met the Japanese Ambassador to Australia, Mr. Takahashi and his wife, who looked so relaxed and perfectly at their ease. We had come here, with some of the crew of a film called, The Railroad of Love. Mr. Ishiyama, (the Producer) and Mr. Chiba, (the Direcotr), together with Mr. and Mrs. Yoshida, officials of Nara-Canberra Sister City Society were among our party.
We met some twenty Australian guests, including people engaged in the film, business associates with Japan, and Ms. Carmel Ryan, the former President of Australia-Japan Society ACT. We participated in a lively conversation, while enjoying a banquet of Japanese and Western cuisine. The Ambassador said that he would look forward to the premiere, which was to be held that evening. My husband handed him some leaflets detailing the activities of our Society written in English and several bottles of Secchubai, a famous Niigata brand of Japanese sake.
Being called, "Ishizuka-san," I turned around and found Mr. Bill Paterson, smiling with his wife. I am sure he is known to some of our members. He had participated in the opening ceremony of the Peace Memorial Park, accompanying Mr. Calvert, who was the incumbent Australian Ambassador to Japan. He had visited Joetsu once before the event to make some preparatory enquiries. What was more, when Joestu's Mayor Miyakoshi visited Australia in 1998, he and his party were welcomed by Mr. Patterson, on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, so he has had much to do with Joetsu. Mr. Patterson said the most impressive event during his tenure in Japan was the opening ceremony of the Peace Memorial Park. According to Mr. Kondo, he had arranged well in advance for our Australian guests to enter Japan smoothly at Narita Airport.
After leaving the embassy, we went to a hotel, where we enjoyed the tree-lined avenues of Canberra en-route, still glistening with moisture from the recent rain.
The premiere of the film was planned to start at 6:30 in the evening at the Projection Room in Australia National Gallery. Mrs. Chiba, Mrs. Yoshida, and I put on kimonos for the cocktail party, which was to be held beforehand. And although I was not accustomed to kimono preparation, I did my best in helping them get dressed.
Upon our arrival at the National Gallery, I saw many well-dressed people, attired in formal clothing, entering the building. I saw someone recognized, so I walked up to her and said,
"Are you Susan?", to which she replied, "Yes." She held firmly the postcard which I had sent to her. I asked why the postcard I had sent to Jesse, her daughter, was returned to me. She said at that time she was in the United States. Susan was there with her son, Tim. I also saw Tony Mooney from Cowra and greeted him. I had once stayed at his home. Ambassador Takahashi introduced to me Major General R. Phillips AO (Order of Australia) MC (Militray Cross) (Retired) National President of the Returned & Services League of Australian Ltd. At the cocktail party, some people, such as, Ms. Kate Carnell, the ACT Chief Minister, and Mr. Tom Uren, made speeches. Mr. Uren was himself a POW in Japan and later Minister and also played a role for the film. Mr. Chiba, a director of the film, talked about Naoetsu in his speech. The 300 seats were taken quickly, and as a result found ourselves watching film standing behind the backmost row of seats.
The Australian audience reactions were more visible than Japanese ones: some wiped their tears with handkerchiefs, and others laughed at scenes. I could easily imagine how they felt toward the film. When I returned to our hotel, some members of Australia-Japan Society were preparing for the dinner party. We raised vin d'honneur to the success of the premiere.
On 9th October, we attended the opening ceremony of "Canberra-Nara Park," which was built on the foreshores of Canberra's aquatic centerpiece, Lake Burley Griffin. Although the original name for the park was "Canberra-Nara Peace Park," because of the campaign against the inclusion of the word "peace", it was entitled the "Canberra-Nara Park." Some of you may have read the newspaper article about that the opposition to the word "peace." There are only a few Australians who still have ill feeling toward Japanese advocating peace.
The park was in a carnival mood with a brass band piping out merry tunes. Again, the ACT Chief Minister, Ms. Kate Carnell, made a speech and struck open a barrel of Japanese sake in a happi coat. I asked some Japanese wives working at the War Memorial to keep an eye on our bags.
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Piper, a war writer, expressed their appreciation for our invitation. They said that they had seen me at the premiere but that I looked so busy that they couldn't talk to me.
I met Amelia Fielden, the other Vice-President of the Australia-Japan Society, at whose home I had stayed two years before.
After the ceremony, we had a shipboard luncheon, and sailed around Lake Griffin, enjoying our meal. That evening, we were guided to an observation tower and a botanical garden, afterwhich, we went to the airport to fly to Sydney
Rod, an apiarist, came to Sydney Airport to meet us, and took to the hotel near his home.
On 10th October, I went to Marist Mission Center in Hunters Hill with Mr. and Mrs. Chiba. There stood the church which Fr. Paul Glynn, a brother of the late Tony Glynn, was ministrant to and marked the 50th anniversary since it had been build in 1949, and attended the commemoration Mass there. At the invitation of Fr. Paul Glynn, Rod was also invited to a luncheon, which was attended by some 200 people. Mr. and Mrs. Chiba's two daughters, who were studying in Sydney, appeared so cheerful and amiable, which made me recall the exuberance and wonder of youth. I also met Mr. Kitamura, who worked for a trade company in Sydney and spoke fluent English, who was of great assistance to us.
We stayed two nights at a hotel. We spoke with Rod until late into the night and enjoyed ourselves so much that we didn't want to go back to our hotel, however, we felt sorry for Rod, who had to drive us back and forth to his home and our hotel. Finally we decided to stay at his place on the third day since I thought the commuting was only a waste of time.
On 11th October, we were invited to lunch at John's home. Beside John and Terry, we saw John Jr. for the first time in four years since his visit to the opening ceremony of the Peace Memorial Park. So eager was Shoichi's (my husband) desire to write down the details of the interiors and exteriors of POW buildings that he asked John a barrage of questions, even during lunch and teatime. After that, I acted as his "interpreter", but my constant reference to my dictionary must have made John much more tired. I asked Shoichi to resume his inquiry after our meal or tea, but he wouldn't listen and went on asking. I felt sorry for John, an 80-year-old veteran, who must have had a hard time remembering things which occurred more than 50 years ago.
Rod drove us to Universe Lodge, where Mr. and Mrs. Chiba stayed. I helped her put on a kimono for the premiere which was to start at 7 in the evening. I was glad I did a better job of it that I had done before.
We left the hotel early for Japanese Cultural Center in North Sydney. We went up to the 13th floor and found that no one had arrived yet. I heard the seating capacity of the hall was not more than 120. I helped carry chairs into it and set up a front reception desk.
The first person to arrive was Mr. Jack Mudie with his daughter, Jenny. He looked much better than I had expected, that is to say, although he looked his age, time had not been too unkind to him. He did not seem to be as full of spirit as he was four years ago. When I handed him a book of his poems which Mr. Yagi had compiled, translated, and published, he turned the pages, nodding again and again. Once more Shoichi started asking him many questions, so Mr. Kitamura helped him in this regard. Among many strangers, I found Mr. and Mrs. Bill Kerr, and Mrs. Hole, a wife of the late Frank Hole, with their two daughters. I also saw Mr. and Mrs. Cook with their son and his wife, along with Mr. Don Kibbler, who rendered remarkable services to the realization of Japanese Garden in Cowra. I was surprised to find the actor who played a role of a dignified general in the film showed up in a casual T-shirt and sandals. We didn't have enough chairs, even after we carried some from an adjoining office. There were a lot of people standing to see the film.
After the premiere, the Japanese Council held a cocktail party in a hall on the 14th floor. I asked our friends, including Jack and John, to attend it, and, to my delight, they obliged me.
During the premiere, I saw some people's eyes become moist with tears; the two daughters of Mrs. Hole were among them. They saw their late father in the film and were moved to tears. They again greeted me during the party.
Even whilst some beverages, sushi, sandwiches were served, Shoichi persevered by asking many questions, which made me anxious that his "journalistic" enthusiasm would spoil the party atmosphere.
Bill (Kerr) said he and his family lived in Mudgee, which was a village located near Moolong and famous for its winery. One of my homestay friends had once told me that she had gone there and that she assumed I would like the place. When I said to his wife I would like to visit it someday, she replied that she would be willing to offer me a homestay. It made me feel strange that I might stay at a home where lived the son of POW who had died in Naoetsu. What would I have said, when I was a schoolgirl, if I had had the same homestay offer from Bill? I thought I would have said, "Don't accept it." Nevertheless, I hope I will be able to accept their kind invitation for a homestay sometime in the future.
Consul Nakamura made a speech in excellent English. I was surprised to see well-dressed Don Kibbler being choked up with tears during his one. Mr. Chiba made his in Japanese, and Mr. Kitamura served as an interpreter. After a while, Shoichi had his turn to make his speech. Thanks to Mr. Kitamura, he made his in Japanese, without the worry of an interpreter. Toward the end, Jack and John moved forward and each said a few words.
Later I thought I should have asked Bill to make a speech, because his father had died in Naoetsu. It was too late when I thought about Rod, who drove us around all the time. I regretted not having more consideration for those people.
On 12th October, we were invited to a luncheon
held by Mr. Ito, Director of the Japanese
Cultural Center. It was a small, comfortable
occasion with only seven people in attendance--Mr.
and Mrs. Nakamura, Mr. and Mrs. Chiba, Mr.
Ito, and Shoichi and myself. Mr. Ito told
us that Mr. Inoue, Deputy Mayor of Joetsu,
was one of his companions and that he had
taken a four-year leave to apply for the
position. He promised us to send a fax message
to Mr. Inoue to ask for helping holding a
premiere to be held in Joetsu. Mr. Ito told
us an interesting story, saying it was a
perfect coincidence in meeting Mr. Chiba,
who had been in India when he shot a film
entitled, Mother Teresa and her World, although Mr. Chiba had forgotten about