I Remember Shishi

by Pat Glesner

 

 

It is with heavy heart and tears in my eyes that I have to inform you of the passing of Shishihara Hiromichi. known to all of  us as Shishi. As many of you know Shishi served as the cook at LORAN “C” Station Hokkaido Japan.  Among his duties as cook he was also friend, brother and father to all of us who had the pleasure of his company for the year tour in Japan. I’m sure all have fond memories of Shishi, although some of you that mess cooked in his Galley may remember different times, but could never hold a grudge.

Shishi will be cremated, as is the custom here Saturday September 20th 2003.

Please e-mail me any message you wish to send and they will be added to his book of memories of the station and people that touched his life. --- Dr. Dennis Mellick-Noro  Urahoro, Japan  redwinejpn@hotmail.com


Those of us who had the privilege and pleasure of serving at Loran Station Hokkaido form a loose-knit fraternity. Our lives were shaped by a little corner of Japan, from which we returned with memories of our own particular times and crews. Our shared Japanese friends provide a greater bond, one spanning decades. There were Kenoshita and Mitsu, who over the years invited many of us into their homes and treated us like family. There was Dr. Hanashi, a local veterinarian and a Master in Wado-Ryn, who taught many of us the “Way of Peace and Harmony.”  Major Kaneko, who with other members of the Japanese Ground Self-defense Force, was also a frequent visitor at Loran C Hokkaido. Former crewmen will undoubtedly remember many others. 

Other Japanese were co-workers as well as friends. “Jack” Sato served as the station interpreter for twenty-five years. After all that time, however, he had not completely mastered English. Oba-san, who replaced Sato, was a good man and good friend, but his long sojourn in the United States made him more American than Japanese. By the time I left the locals had not yet forgiven him for abandoning his native land.  Only Shishi seemed to be able to comfortably travel between our two worlds. In our dealings with local businessmen, Shishi was usually our most effective intermediary. Shishi was also willing to help any one of us personally. If it was a special meal, a birthday cake, or arranging for a leased automobile, you could always count on Shishi.  

Although our First Class Subsistence Specialist headed up the Commissary Department, Shishi made it clear that he owned the galley. Still, the two occasionally disagreed on its operation. One time, our SS1 wanted to padlock the galley each evening. Shishi felt it should be left open, so the crew could fix themselves snacks. As usual, Shishi won the argument. He may have later wished that he had lost that battle.

It was about 5:30 PM Thursday evening, 15 June 1989. The duty engineer was conducting a training session on the messdeck. The subject was fire extinguishing agents, including Potassium bicarbonate, a dry chemical fire extinguisher also known as “PKP” or “Purple K”--an ironic subject, given what happened next.

After the training, the XO (yours truly), felt the need for a bowl of ice cream, and got up and walked through the galley, headed for the reefer. While doing so, I lightly touched the fire extinguishing switch. The clear plastic cover intended to prevent an accidental ignition, just setting in its frame, fell into the switch and the next thing I knew I was enveloped in a purple cloud. A loud string of expletives also issued from the billowing mass, almost drowning out the howling sirens. You would not believe the mess. Everything in the galley, the messdeck, the breeze-way and the motion projection room was covered with a fine, purple, talcum-like powder. The Skipper, Frank Young, was just returning from a visit with the mayor of Ikeda when the incident happened. Upon entering the messdeck he went almost hysterical with laughter.  “Boy, I’m sorry I missed this one,” he said between chuckles. “I would have loved to have seen the look on your face.”  At the time, I didn’t see the humor in it.

Turning out all hands, we managed to clean up most of the mess by 8:30, just about the time the Skipper had piped “Now movie on the messdeck, tonight’s feature, Purple Rain.”

Naturally all the tableware and cooking utensils needed washing, and to speed up the assembly, we spread absorbent paper on top of the counters and stoves and stacked the items on them as they came out of the dishwasher. Having completed that, I bought beer for the crew and relaxed over a game of cribbage with Young.

I was in bed at 11:30 when the next chapter in the story opened with the pipe “Now fire in the galley, this is no drill!”  We had secured power to the appliances during the clean-up, and when the duty engineer, Tim Maleport, reapplied it just before going to bed, it seems he forgot to check to see if the stoves were off. The absorbent paper was now ash and we faced another clean-up. Skipper was not as amused as he had been with the previous incident. “Cheer up,” I said. “Things could be worse. At least we’re on-air and in-tolerance. 

That put things in prospective for him, but not for Shishi, who arrived in poor humor the next morning. It’s probably a good thing I skipped breakfast (featuring “PKP Pancakes”). I understand Shishi was looking for the culprit with a broom handle in hand. When I saw him later I greeted him with a good morning. “Don’t say good,” he said, “just say morning.”  He also promised that our next steak day would feature liver instead, but by that time he was smiling again.

By 10:00 AM we had other things to worry about as Tim Maleport buried the station tractor in the antenna field up to its very high axles. And by the time quarters rolled around the previous night’s episodes had become no more than another “C”-story: on top of everything else, Maleport had come out dead last in both of the week’s pool and cribbage tournaments, so Skipper decided to give him all the glory, put the blame for the PKP incident on him, and at quarters presented him with a “Citation for Parking like a Beached Whale,” and a toilet seat collar stenciled with “This is not my week!”  The seat would later frame a mélange depicting that week’s disasters. I used the occasion to present the crew with a case of tall Sapporos, and to pass on the moral of the story: the galley is a work space, and a particularly hazardous one at that--keep your hands in your pockets--and the top of the stove is not a good place to put flammable material.

One could not have blamed Shishi if he had locked up the galley, but he was soon back to usual good natured self. A few days later a serviceman arrived to recharge the extinguisher. Although you rarely see a Japanese lose control, Shishi’s narrative had the man practically rolling with laughter.

I’ll miss you Shishi!

 

Pat Glesner's email address is GlesnerA@tacom.army.mil

 

Return To Coast Guard Stories