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War Brides Vol.1

“I bought the flight ticket with my severance pay”
Kikuko Raabe

Kikuko’s husband Paul and her daughter Paula, around 1973

Kikuko lost her father at the age of five, leaving her to be raised by her mother during a time of great confusion after the war. After graduating from a five-year prestigious girls’ school, she was introduced to a job through the Hirosaki City employment office, selling cameras at Misawa Air Base. At the time, she was working in the same shop with Pulitzer prize winner, Kyoichi Sawada. “All of the customers just came to see Mr. Sawada. My future husband, who had heard about the good quality of Japanese cameras, happened into the store. Without understanding much about cameras, I tried my best to explain them to him. I guess that made a good first impression.”  When Paul asked her out on a date, Kikuko’s response was “I’m sorry, I already have date!” Kikuko laughed. “Paul reminded me about that after we got married, but I don’t remember at all.”

In those two years of Paul’s stay at Misawa Air Base, he grew closer to Kikuko. After returning to America, he proposed to her via letter. After about a one-year-long process, Kikuko came to America in 1960. Her mother was happy for her and had no objections. 

Article published when Paul was promoted to Captain, making mention of his three-year stay in Japan and his time at the Texas military base

Kikuko’s first steps onto American soil was in Texas. “I left from Haneda airport on a JAL flight. When I first arrived in San Francisco, Paul came to meet me. I bought the flight ticket with my severance pay. I’ll never forget the number. 43,000 yen!” It was an international voyage before overseas travel for Japanese people was officially liberalized. For the common folk, it was no simple thing. It was a time when one dollar was equal to 360 yen and even the salary of a high-ranking government official from a prestigious university barely exceeded 10,000 yen.

After Paul’s retirement, we made our first move as husband and wife to Washington. “Every time we passed through, we saw the ocean and mountains. It’s such a nice place and I really wanted to live here. My wish came true.” Five years have gone by since Paul’s passing. “I think I’ve had a good life. Up until now, it’s gone by in the blink of an eye. Cherish each and every day. Life is over before you know it.”