A Pocket of Resistance: Beautiful Women, Sasebo 1970


We called her Judy. i never learned her real Japanese name. She was one of a bevy of beautiful and bright young women who worked in the Stand Bar Butterfly in Sasebo, Japan, when i was spending about six days out of every twenty-two as the Military Sealift Command (nee Military Sea Transport Command) replenished our transport ship, USNS Geiger (T-AP 197) and later the USNS Upshur (T-AP 198).

Now before i go any further, Judy and the Stand Bar Butterfly were not what you might be imagining now.  The bar, which also served appetizers, was far from the red-light, Fiddler-Green craziness of sailor town, a red light district of more than 250 bars (i know because Miles Humphrey and i counted them, but that is another story). It was in downtown Sasebo; a “stand bar” was a legitimate bar and not a front for anything else, and the women who worked there were on the up and up. They were bartenders.

My fellow officers of MSTS Transport Unit One took me there my first night after reporting for duty. We had been out carousing and drinking at the “Town Club,” the Navy’s officer’s club, which had been the headquarters of Admiral Yamamoto when he planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. As we grabbed a cab for downtown, the CO, Hank Fendt informed me the Bar Butterfly was like a base of operations for the unit officers, which were the CO; me, the XO; two doctors; and a chaplain.

The bar was located amidst office buildings with a movie theater nearby. It was a narrow room with about 20 seats at the bar. There was not enough room for any tables.

Usually, there were four to five bartenders, all female, working the bar. It opened around noon and stayed open until at least three a.m. every day. On the very first night, i fell in love with Kazyko. Kazyko is altogether another story. Below, i have included a poem about her and Maureen, but let’s return to Judy.

When my rejection from Kazyko ensued, Judy and i became fast friends. i think she wanted me to feel better about what happened with her friend Kazyko. As i had done with Kazyko, i would shut down the town and end up at the Stand Bar Butterfly until it closed at some indeterminate time around three or four in the morning. Judy and i would get a bite to eat, talk, and often we would take a taxi to her small home on a hill over looking the Naval base. We were friends, and although i would often hold her in my arms, it was as a thankful friend only. Nothing else happened. After a couple of hours of sleep, i would walk back down the hill, about three miles, to the base and my ship berthed at an installation outside the naval base proper. i remember the early morning sunrise, the beauty of the land, spoiled only by the strong aroma of the benjo ditches.

Five years later, i went back to Sasebo. Stand Bar Butterfly had moved and downsized. Only one of the young women worked the bar when i found it. She told me Kazyko and Judy had both married U.S. Naval officers and moved to the U.S.

Sometimes i miss Judy and the Stand Bar Butterfly.

The poem:

Kazyko and the night rain

 Before i lost her –
well deserved, i might add –
Kazyko and i walked in the night rain.
She was tiny,
a sense of humor, loving american jazz
sometimes a flash of brilliant anger.
i could understand the latter:
her parents died in Nagasaki
from that bomb
while she visited an aunt
outside of Sasebo
where she lived when i met her
visited, feeling out of place,
too large for the propane heated
small house on the hill
for dinner of
ramen and sushi
with Kazyko and her aunt.

Kazyko worked at a stand bar,
but in downtown Sasebo
in the business district,
not in the red lights of
bawdy sailor town.
She didn’t fool around,
we went to movies
early morning, 3:00 a.m. dinners
in small, only Japanese diners,
quiet, away from the clamor,
once we walked in the rain,
the night rain in the city of Sasebo:
her gleaming black hair,
bobbed at her shoulder,
clung to her skull,
revealing the delicate neck,
considered erotic by the Japanese,
i was taken
i lost her.

the love of my life
is similar to Kazyko,
although there was no
intent to reincarnate
my beautiful Japanese experience
when i met this lifetime dedication:
she too is exquisite, fine,
once she had her hair bobbed,
we swam together in the ocean
her hair clung to her skull,
revealing her delicate neck,
considered erotic by the Japanese,
i was taken
for my lifetime,

but not in the rain;
not in the rain.

16 thoughts on “A Pocket of Resistance: Beautiful Women, Sasebo 1970

  1. I remember Sasebo like it was yesterday. 68-70 commissary store. Knew the area well from sailor town to saki town. Knew a lot of bar girls and a few like you had. They are the ones I will never forget! I understand! I am happily married for 47 years. But those two years meant a lot to me! Will never forget.

  2. I never knew that stand bars were, as a matter of fact, upright and distinct from the general hullabaloo that went with every port of call on the wespac circuit. I often went to the Stand Bar Again in Sasebo…..no frenzy and no hype….just good and generous drinks and a large shelf of jazz LP’s. You could request anything back there. The Japanese loved American jazz and this tasteful oasis exhibited that. ….really good memories from the Stand Bar Again. It was a unique place and a unique time.

    1. I used to go to the Again SB, every chance I could. What do you remember about it. Do you have any photos from there?

    2. 1966-67 stationed in Sasebo. I remember the Stand-Bar Again a place just to hang out drink beer and listen to Jazz with out being bothered. Another place finding out and off limits a group of small bars underground to hid from the SP’s or MP’s kind of in the south end of Sasebo. Can’t remember the name of that area but still remember it fondly. I’m sure it’s been torned up and filled in with development. Lot of other memories and people that I had met.

      1. The area in south Sasebo was probably Hizukushimachi. I used to sneak over there from Sailor Town in the late 1950s-early 60s. Those bars catered to the merchant seamen. Wow, that is a long time ago!! Always enjoyed Sasebo; many fond memories of the place and the times. Especially enjoyed walks by the water in Kujukushima and then a meal and hot sake in a small restaurant there.

        1. We called the Hizukushimachi area Merchant Town for merchant seaman. Never went there but spent a lot of time in the seaman’s club in Pusan.

        2. I had the distinct privilege of returning to Sasebo in 1984,1991 and 1992. The Paradise Alley Sailor Town bar street of the 1950s-60s is ancient history with the land now part of a large enclosed shopping arcade since the late 1970s. Sailor town now anchors one end of the arcade and sake town anchors the other end. The bar girls now are from the Philippines. In the 1950s-60s I lived two blocks behind the Officer’s Club Jim mentions and then one block to the left up the hill, I had a small apartment above my landlord in an all Japanese neighborhood. Some of the men in the neighborhood worked on the Naval Base, some in the shipyard and one was a police officer and my Aikido sensei. I used to go to Sake Town with my neighbors and they would sponsor me into the bars there. They were much nicer bars than in Sailor Town and the added benefit was that I learned to speak some Japanese. That was a really enjoyable life!!

    3. Use to hang out at the Stand-Bar Again 1966-67 for a quiet place for beer and listening to Jazz when the other places became a zoo when the fleet was in.

      1. Harry, yes, it was, at least the Butterfly was. We would even leave our shopping buys and other items there, go out and come back. i almost got engaged to Kazuko and we occasionally would go out to the country for a meal at her aunt’s house. It was a wonderful experience.

  3. I stumbled across this site/post. I was born in Sasebo in 1970. Perhaps you knew my dad, Bill Jones, USN? He and my mom, Betty, lived in Sasebo ’66-’72 before transferring to San Diego and the USS Denver.

  4. I was on Permanent Shore Patrol in Sasebo 1967. Used to check all the bars for servicemen. Paramount was a fish bar but met Mickey.

  5. I was on the USS Ajax in 1962-63. Loved Sasebo. I hung out in Saki town at the Bar 24, where my girl friend worked. Ironically, her name was Kazuko, and I was in love. I reupped, and saw her again in 1964, but she would not marry me. I’m married for 53 years now, and often wonder what might have been. I probably would have stayed in the Navy and retired in Sasebo, but I’m Happy with what I have.

    1. i too have wondered what it would have been like to have married my Kazuko. i too finally found the best way for me. Thanks.

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