TokyoFive

Life in Tokyo, Japan with my wife and our three teenagers...


Japan-related Email interviews I've conducted....
Click on a name to read the interview:
  1. Ivano Spiga -- (musician) -- 2011 December 6
  2. Alan Merrill -- (musician) -- 2011 July 19
  3. Lydia Criss -- (author (and ex-wife of KISS drummer)) -- 2010 May 23
  4. Jason McMaster -- (musician) -- 2010 April 21
  5. Earnest Mercer -- (author (Japan-related)) -- 2010 April 10
  6. Bruce Kulick -- (musician (second interview)) -- 2010 February 20
  7. Bob Gruen -- (photographer (KISS-related)) -- 2009 December 10
  8. Victor Stabin -- (artist (KISS album cover)) -- 2009 November 12
  9. Michael Doret -- (artist (second interview)) -- 2009 August 18
  10. Michael Doret -- (artist (KISS album cover)) -- 2009 April 22
  11. Jerry Yellin -- (WW2 veteran (Japan-related) -- 2008 September 9
  12. Ken Alley -- (author (Japan-related) -- 2008 September 7
  13. Bruce Kulick -- (musician (former member of KISS) -- 2008 September 1
  14. Fred Bensi -- (musician (KISS-related)) -- 2008 July 20


  • JERRY YELLIN


    Jerry Yellin fought against Japan during World War 2. From the war until the mid-1980's, he had a deep hatred for Japan.
    A business trip to Japan and then his son's emigration to Japan and marriage to a Japanese woman changed his attitude towards Japan, the Japanese people and war in general.

    Jerry Yellin, 1940s
    (Here's a picture of Jerry Yellin during WW2).


    Here's an excellent interview Jerry Yellin did with me (via email) on September 9, 2008:

    1. Could you give a self-introduction?
      My name is Jerry Yellin, I am nearly 85 years old, married for 59 years, father of 4 sons and have 6 grandchildren.
      I was in the real estate/banking/consulting world until I was 70 at which time I helped found an Internet provider and telephone company in rural Iowa. I live in Vero Beach Florida with my wife Helene.

    2. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, where were you and what was your reaction when you heard the news?
      I was walking into a corner store to purchase the Sunday paper in Hillside, New Jersey. Everyone was crowded around a small radio listening to the description of the bombing of Peal Harbor by the Japanese. I was only 2 months from my 18th birthday and was aware of the negotiations between Japan and America and never had any thoughts about going to war.

      This was a complete surprise and was viewed as an outrage by everyone I knew.

      How could any civilized people attack another country without provocation?

    3. When you joined the Army Air Corps, did you ask to fight in the Pacific War against Japan?
      I enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet in waiting on my 18th birthday (Feb. 15, 1942) only wanting to fight the Japanese.
      They had attacked my country.

      Even though Hitler declared war against America eight days after Pearl Harbor, I saw Japan as my enemy.

      Being in the military does not give you any options about where you will serve, you go where ordered.
      I got my wish though and was sent to the Pacific theater.

    4. What was your feelings about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
      I watched hundreds of B-29’s drop hundreds of thousands of pounds of bombs on Japanese cities killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese people.
      It never bothered me.

      I was over Tokyo on August 6, 1945 and heard about the atomic bomb when I returned to Iwo Jima. It was nearing the end of the war and we all wanted to go home, alive. So the dropping of one bomb from one bomber and doing the same amount of damage as thousands of bombs from hundreds of bombers was just a better way of fighting the war and was then and still is now, OK.
      It saved my life, the lives of many of my fellow flyers, stopped us from invading Japan in October at a tremendous cost of American lives.
      It also created a tremendous feeling of anti-war sentiments in my life. The pure purpose of war, in my opinion, is to kill. The Pure Purpose of Life is, also in my opinion, to connect to all Humanity.

    5. What caused you to stop feeling hatred toward Japan?
      I went to Japan in 1983, reluctantly, on business. While there I discovered that the Japanese that I saw were not the Japanese I fought against or was told about. I liked the people, the customs, the food and I realized that we are all the same.

      Read my book, "Of War and Weddings", available at Amazon.com. (Available here: in English or 日本語.)

    6. Why did your son, Robert, move to Japan? And what was your initial reaction?
      My wife thought Robert would like Japan so we gave him a trip for his college graduation present in the spring of 1984.

      We were visiting him in 1987 and met his future wife. When he said he was going to get married I was shocked, it had never occurred to me. I saw the faces of the sixteen young fighter pilots I flew with who were killed and wondered what they died for, how they would feel.

      But I also realized that it was my war, not Robert’s and that he had a life to live on his own so I accepted his decision with difficulty but in totality.

    7. Your son has a Japanese wife and three children (just as I do). Do you visit them in Japan often? Do they visit America?
      We have been to Japan more than 20 times since Robert and Takako got married. They have been to America with their three children once, on our 50th wedding anniversary in 1999.

    8. Your son's Japanese father-in-law was also a soldier in WW2, and had a hatred for America. Was it difficult for you and him to reconcile?
      We met just a day or two before the wedding after exchanging a few letters. He and his wife had accepted his daughter's marriage, very reluctantly at first and so did my wife and I.

      The meetings have been meaningful but frustrating ever since because of the language restraints. But the feeling of kinship, respect and family are there deeply and from the heart in both directions.

    9. What are your impression of today's Japan versus the Japan of sixty years ago?
      I have seen incredible negative changes in Japan since I went there for the first time in 1983, 25 years ago. I see a change in the respect younger people seem to have for customs and authority. It seems the worst influence comes from the adaptation of American fast food chains and leaning towards our culture. I think America is out of control and Japan is not far behind.

    10. Could you tell us about your books and any other projects that you have going on?
      I wrote a book "Of War and Weddings" in 1988 about my life changes brought about by Robert’s wedding.
      It led me to a deeper understanding of myself, my country and our place in the world. Because I was a “writer” I have been invited to speak to schools across America and in several cities in Japan including Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Mishima and Numazu. Those experiences have broadened my life tremendously.

      In 2006, I participated in a Japanese Memorial ceremony for 23 American B-29 crewmen who were killed over Shizuoka on June 20, 1945.

      The ceremony was first conducted by the Japanese man, Fukumatsu Itoh who buried the Americans and has been carried on since 1972 by Dr. Hiroya Sugano. I was overwhelmed by the significance of this event and saddened that it is a ceremony that is not well known.
      I have just completed a book written as fiction but based on fact called "The Blackened Canteen". It will be available at the end of September from Amazon.com.

      Facts and a three-minute video can be seen on my website jerryyellin.com on or about September 15 (2008).

      Hopefully the book ("The Blackened Canteen") will be translated and published in Japan just as my first book ("Of War and Weddings") was.

      Jerry Yellin, 2006
      (Here's a picture of Jerry Yellin in 2006 at the memorial ceremony in Japan honoring the American pilots killed over Japan during WW2).



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  • KEN ALLEY


    Ken Alley recently acquired over 1000 pages of letters written by Elizabeth Ryan to her family in America while she was in post-WW2 Japan.
    She was an American who worked for the Inspector General of the U.S. Occupation in 神戸 (Kobe, Japan) for just over a year in the late 1940's.

    letter from 'Betts
    (Here's a picture of one of Elizabeth Ryan's handwritten letters).


    Here's a short interview he did with me (via email) on September 7, 2008:

    1. Could you give a short self-introduction?
      I am a 57-yr-old semi retired chiropractor/writer/bookseller.

    2. How did you come upon the letters by Elizabeth Ryan?
      I advertise in regional newspapers for old books and a woman who lives about 60 miles (96 km) from here called and said her brother-in-law (Lt Col Judson Smith of Lincoln, Nebraska) had died and they wanted to clean out his house and sell it.

      She wanted to "donate" his books to me and anything else I wanted of his military years.

      Lt Smith's wife (Mary) and Elizabeth were the best of friends in Chicago and in 1946 applied for jobs with the U.S. Army in Occupied Japan and got them.
      They were "roomies" in Kobe and befriended Lt Smith while there. He could get them in anywhere they wanted to go and he liked having two American ladies on his arm.

      When Elizabeth died in 1975 her family gave the letters (and photo album and scrapbook) to Mary.
      Then everybody else died and they ended up with me when all of Lt Smith's things were being dispersed of.

    3. From what year until what year was she in Japan?
      Jan 1947 - July 1948.

    4. Will these letters be published in book form? (If so, what will the title and release date be?)
      I am presently looking for a publisher but that is the hard part.

      (CALL ME IF YOU'RE INTERESTED! ((US country code - 1) 402-362-1244).

      Elizabeth went by "Betty", and signed all her letters, "Love, Betts". And that's the title. (Sub title: "Letters Home From Occupied Japan."

    5. To whom were her letters addressed?
      To family back home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA).

    6. From her letters, what would you say her impression of post-WW2 Japan was?
      Devastation mixed with eagerness to please people.

    7. Do you know whether or not Elizabeth Ryan had ever returned to Japan to see it after it was rebuilt from the war damage?
      Elizabeth did not return. Lt & Mrs. Smith did another tour in Japan.

    8. Could you share an interesting quote from one of her letters?
      "It's really windy in Kobe today, and not from anything I eat, either!"

    9. Have you ever been to Japan?
      No, I have not. But, if I ever get the chance, by golly, I'm going.

    10. Any comments for the visitors to my site?
      I have high hopes of publishing these letters. They're a whole new look at Occupied Japan from a young, female civilian from the States.

      By the way, there should be a total of five articles regarding these letters in the Japan Times (newspaper). Three are already on-line (as of 2008/9/7). (here, here and here.)


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  • BRUCE KULICK


    Bruce Kulick was the guitarist for the American rock band KISS from 1984 - 1996. He was with the band for most of their no make-up period, so he's one of the two people who have been in the KISS line-up but never wore the signature KISS kabuki-style make-up.
    Since 1996, after getting out of KISS, he has played in Union the Eric Singer Project (ESP) (with KISS drummer, Eric Singer), and Grand Funk Railroad.

    At KISS Expo, Tokyo
    (Here's a picture that I took of Bruce Kulick with Union at the KISS Expo in Tokyo a couple years ago. Pictured (left to right) are James Hunting, John Corabi, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer (filling in for Brent Fitz)).

    KISS circa 1990
    (Here's KISS circa 1990. Pictured (left to right) Paul Stanley, the late Eric Carr, Bruce Kulick, Gene Simmons).


    Here's a short interview he did with me (via email) on September 1, 2008:

    1. When was the first time you came to Japan? When was the most recent? How many times have you been here?
      First time would of been with KISS. I can't remember what year. But I went a few times with KISS, went with for work with ESP guitars a few times without KISS, and I went with UNION, and ESP (Eric Singer Project) a few times most recently early this year.

    2. What are your impressions of Tokyo? What are your favorite places to visit / things to do in this city?
      I really love Japan and Tokyo is very fascinating. The lights, the energy, the people, the food, and how much electricity is in the air. I love shopping and eating the food and meeting the people of Japan.

    3. Anything you weren't impressed with in Tokyo?
      Traffic...but we have that in LA of course.. and the Narita Airport is too far from the city!

    4. Are there's any particular Japanese food and / or restaurants that you like?
      I love the Udon places, the ¥140 Sushi shops, and even the shops that sell American style food. The restaurants are all perfection.

    5. I have seen you and Eric Singer at "KISS Expos" in Tokyo. It was a pleasure to speak with you. Are these types of events much different in Japan compared with other countries?
      Well, they are very well organized. I really enjoy doing those events.

    6. I have the "ESP: Live In Japan (来日記念)" CD (as well as other ESP, Union, and KISS CDs). Is that CD a Japan-only release?
      No, it is not. It can be ordered from Kissshop.com

    7. What is the "Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp"? Are you still involved with that?
      I have done quite a few of them, but this summer I was busy with Grand Funk so I couldn't do the one day camp tour. I have done some corporate events for them as well. They are great ways to meet people who love music and to jam and network with other counselors and celebrities.

    8. Any plans to bring the "Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp" to Japan?
      Not at this time.

    9. Do you know when you'll be in Tokyo again next?
      No real plans yet.

    10. Any comments for the visitors to my site?
      I hope they can read my website.. even though it is in English. I don't think I have it translated... or properly. But I want to thank all my fans in Japan, they are very good to me! I hope they can check out the merch on site. I only get a few orders to Japan, but it is not difficult to send products there.
      www.kulick.net


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  • FRED BENSI


    Fred Bensi plays Gene Simmons in the KISS tribute band, "Dynasty" that used to be based in Japan.
    Fred Bensi as Gene Simmons


    Here's a short interview he did with me (via email) on July 20, 2008:

    1. Could you give a short self-introduction?
      Fred 45 YO,Pro bassist since '83 .

    2. When did you come to Japan? Why?
      1991, I was performing in a band in Hokkaido for a 1 year contract .

    3. Where's are you currently residing?
      Tahiti in French Polynesia.

    4. I saw on your website that you've worked with many Japanese musicans? Who was you favorite?
      Hide from (the Japanese band) "X Japan".

    5. Is your KISS copy band, DYNASTY, still together touring?
      few times a year,we're less active than back in the 90's but still around.

    6. How did you become the "only official Mercury Records Kiss tribute band in Japan"?
      I asked them and they said yes.

    7. How well can you speak / read Japanese? How did you learn?
      I speak fluently and read most of it but I'm limited still with Kanjis.
      My wife taught me everything,she's from Osaka.

    8. What do you like most about Japan?
      The peacefull atmosphere's and the clean public areas.

    9. Least?
      The old fashion Japanese salary-man spirit.

    10. Any comments for the visitors to my site?
      Japan is the coolest place on earth if you use your differences accordingly, don't try to enter the system,if you do you'll miss all the fun.Be the obvious,your gaijinness* is your best asset.

      (* Gaijin, written 「外人」, (short for 外国人 (gaikokujin)) means "foreigner").


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