The Bluff Today – with a Touch of Yesterday

By George Koyama (1969)

A promise I made to Mr. George deCouto during his visit towards the end of last year prompts me to write a series of articles about places, mainly around our Alma Mater, which may have slipped away from your minds, but which I hope would bring you back in time to those good ol’ days we spent at St. Joeユs.

Mr. deCouto, I apologize for having taken so long to put the first article together, and thank you for awakening me to the many places which I have either long taken for granted or could have forgotten altogether, being a ‘Hamakko.’ In this first write up, I will walk you from the Sacred Heart Cathedral to Motomachi, the route all of us took on Sept. 23, 2006 to attend services for our senpai and teachers who have passed during the course of the year.

So shall we go ? I’m sure all of you will easily recall Sacred Heart Cathedral for the many events that you may have been involved in – midnight mass on Christmas Eve; Mass on Easter Sunday; the annual bazaar and many others. Some of you, as choir boys, may even have sung hymns here. Didnユt we walk from school to the cathedral trying very hard to stay in a straight line but constantly being scolded as we overflowed into the street? Sacred Heart Cathedral still stands today as it did during our days at school. For us, the cathedral was a holy place of worship – quiet, very solemn and no nonsense.

Just across Sacred Heart is Ferris Junior High and High School, the girl’s school that I’m sure you remember, maybe not the name, but the certainly the girls that were exercising around the Bluff after school in their bloomers. Remember how they used to run? By the time they approached our school, most of the Ferris athletes seemed completely out of breath that they couldn’t even cry out their slogan. Of course, as gentlemen of St. Joe’s, we had to help them by running from behind and crying out their slogan, ‘Fight – O – hai !’ We had to do it all the time even if it meant many dirty looks from the girls upon us.

Walking further towards our school, at about 500 meters from Ferris, we come to the Union Church. I think I need some help from you on this landmark, as I have no recollection of this church whatsoever except that it existed, maybe it could have been at another location rather than the current.

As we stopped and wondered at the Union Church, I looked at the pavement of the sidewalk and noticed that it hasn’t changed. It’s embedded pieces of large stones, much larger than cobblestones, all the way and throughout the Bluff. They are hard to walk on but definitely give the whole area that vintage and nostalgic appearance.

Climbing up a slight incline and on the left side of the road is the Berrick Hall, once home away from home for the boarders, and today, a museum owned by the municipal government. The City of Yokohama was kind enough to provide the Alumni with a little space to store some of our memorabilia in the Berrick Hall. This oldest western-style structure on the Bluff has been completely restored inside out and is now one of the hottest spots on the Bluff for many tourists from all over the country.

I’m tempted to cross the street and head for Futaba and St. Maurユs, two sister schools and our dear neighbor, but I wonユt reflect upon them. I would rather like you to have your countless memories take you on a time slip. So letユs not enter the passage leading to St. Maur’s but head left to where our high school entrance once stood. Oops, we almost missed the Bluff Clinic, perhaps, better known to most of you as the Bluff Hospital – right at the corner. I remember it being larger when we were in school, but I cannot rely on my fading memory. The narrow alley, between our Alma Mater and the Bluff Clinic, leading to St. Maur’s still exists today. During the Golden Week holidays, when St. Maurユs has its annual food fair, we lease space in this alley with other vendors to sell articles that have been donated by the alumni. Proceeds, of course, go to the Association.

And we finally arrive at the triangle-shaped annex of Motomachi Park. At this very place, once stood our high school entrance – until year 2000. The municipal government converted this triangular lot into a small park and they were again so kind as to allow us to display our memorial plaque in honor of our Alma Mater. At the same time, the developers who built a huge ‘mansion’ where our school once stood were also considerate so as to preserve the SJC insignia on the wall of the mansion. A bronze plaque of Mister Gaschy and a part of the iron leg of the chair in the auditorium decorate the wall of the mansion, which is built adjacent to this park – so small in size, but immense in value to us alumni.

Let’s continue our walk. As we exit the park and move right, this house comes into sight. Today, it’s converted into a fancy restaurant, but if my memory is still functioning, I think it was one of our schoolmates’ residence. Whose ? I am counting on your help.

The Christ Church is still in its original place. The Church has just gone through major repairs after it was damaged by arson some years ago. ‘Why are there so many churches of differing denominations on the Bluff ?’ I wonder today, but as a student, the thought had never crossed my mind. I have no answer to the question, but if any of you do, please be kind enough to share it with us. At any rate, I’m very pleased that the Christ Church is fully repaired and once again shedding its light upon the world.

The French restaurant, Yamate Jubankan, was built in the 60’s despite strong opposition from the residents. Permission was granted because it was built under the exact same specifications as the blue print that proved the existence of a restaurant during the Meiji era. By the way, the Jubankan, if you remember, sells cigarettes as well. Being one of the first ones in school almost every day, Brother Wasy used to catch me in the morning and run me on errands to the Jubankan for a pack of Hi-Lights.

None of us will forget the Foreign Cemetery. Many of our teachers, friends and relatives rest here. Our annual event ends here with a prayer before the statue of ‘Our Lady of Faith and Fortitude,’ which was transported from our school playground to where it stands today in the Foreign Cemetery and a visit to our teachers’ graves.

Walking down the passage all the way will lead you to the end of Motomachi street. As you can see from the photograph, Motomachi is still full of people, especially on weekends and holidays. It so happened that Sept. 23 marked the beginning of the Charming Sale, thus attracting more shoppers and tourists than usual.

Not many of you may know the Starlight Grill which is a relatively new restaurant found in the narrow street which runs parallel to Motomachi and which has gained a lot of popularity lately. I have never eaten at this restaurant, but judging from the long queue, the food must be good.

But not as good as Mutekiro, I bet. Through the kindness of Mr. Suzuki, this year, all the alumni that gathered for the event enjoyed authentic, savory French cuisine at a very reasonable price before we ended our annual event.

We are finally at the end of our journey. I hope you have enjoyed the long walk, and I hope to take you through Motomachi in my next write up, but if you have some places that you would like to see pictures of, or hear about, please do let us know. I canユt promise everything, but will do my utmost to cover as many as possible.

Stay healthy, all of you, and see you soon

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