Our Echo
Title, story type, location, year, person or writer
Add a Post
View Posts
Popular Posts
Hall of Fame


Story ID:9550
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Tokyo Honshu Japan
View Comments (11)   |   Add a Comment Add a Comment   |   Print Print   |     |   Visitors
By Fred Wicert

In 1955 I was stationed in Tokyo, Japan in the Air Force. I began in the New Kaijo building. Eventually that was turned over to the Japanese and we moved to Air Force Hall which during the WWII had been an Imperial Army officers billets. Then that was turned over to the Japanese and we moved once again. This time it was to Hardy Barracks. While at Air Force Hall I was wishing for a motor cycle. I had a girl friend that lived in a distant part of Tokyo and when at the New Kaijo building we were only a couple of blocks away from the train station. At Air Force Hall it was less convenient to get to a train station to go see my girlfriend.

I really could not afford a motorcycle but that didnít stop me from wanting one. One day there were two men who wanted to sell one and they were in a hurry. They were getting ready to go back to the States. They had a pretty shabby looking but heavy bike. It was a hand shift, 250 cc bike that the engine had been re-bored to 260 cc and it had been used for mountain climbing competitions. The men claimed the bike had been up Mt. Fuji a couple of times. The price couldnít be beat. They were only asking $50.

Wow! Only $50. Even I could afford that. License and insurance of course were that much again. I bought it and now owned my first motorcycle. I took it to the house where my girlfriend lived. I cleaned it up as best I could. Then I bought tail lights, brake lights and turn signals and a lot of wire. I completely rewired it. The chain kept coming off so I took it to a nearby motorcycle shop and had them install a new chain. A few days later the shaft on the foot crank twisted off and that had to be replaced. A week after that the clutch went bad.

It took a long time with a lot of red tape to get married to a Japanese national and I realized I did not have enough time remaining. To get enough time, I reenlisted to fill my own vacancy and requested an extension on my overseas tour. I was paid a reenlistment bonus so now having some funds to work with I took the motorcycle to the shop. I told them I wanted them to rebuild the engine and completely rebuild the bike. I told them to replace everything that was worn and to replace all the rusted parts with new. I had them put new seats on it and give it a new paint job. When it was done it really looked sharp.

Air Force Hall was shut down and turned over to the Japanese and we moved to Hardy Barracks. A valve got stuck in the engine. I was fed up. I decided I was not going to fool with that lemon of a motorcycle anymore and I put a For Sale sign on it. Evrybody knew about all the trouble I had with it and didnít want any part of it.

Finally, a Japanese employee said he wanted to buy it. He came to and from work by train but he lived several miles on a dirt road from the train station and it was hard for him to go to and from the train station. A motor cycle was just what he needed. He bought it with the stuck valve. He got the valve fixed and used it every day to go to and from the train station. After two years that I knew of he never had any trouble with it and as very happy with it.

I found a newer 350 cc Kabton motorcycle and bought it. This was in February of 1957. It was so nice. It was like going from a Chevy to a Caddy in comparison to the other motorcycle. I had it for two weeks. I had a date with my girlfriend Tae. It was my habit to go at two or three times the speed limit. A speed of 32Kph or 25Mph seemed so slow. This day was different. I was going to pick up Tae, leave the motorcycle at her place, and then we were going to take a train to the Ginza where we could enjoy dinner somewhere and then take in a show at the Nichigeiki Theater. I was running early and had some time to kill so for once I was traveling at the speed limit.

I was on a wide street with two lanes each way and a solid double line down the middle. The double line has the same meaning in Japan. It was different from the USA in that the Japanese drive on the left instead of the right. I was driving along at the speed limit near the center line. In Japan there are many three wheeled trucks. The back has two wheels and the front has one. They are usually powered by a large motorcycle engine.

Up ahead I observed one of these three wheeled trucks, half ton pickup in size, parked at the curb. Just as I came abreast of the parked truck, the truck pulled away from the curb in a ďUĒ turn and struck me in the left side. The impact knocked off my distributor cap, kicked the transmission out of gear and bent the brake pedal under the motorcycle. By some miracle it did not knock me down. My motorcycle was in neutral and I could not use the brake so it rolled quite a ways before it came to a stop.

The US Army MPís came to investigate the accident. They also transported me to Tokyo Army Hospital. My left knee was injured and there was also a deep puncture wound in my thigh. At Tokyo Army Hospital they spent four hours scraping pieces of paint from the truck out of my knee and sewing me up. The knee took 64 stitches. The doctor considered giving me a blood transfusion but decided against it. He thought I should stay at the hospital but I talked him out of it and the MPís took me back to Hardy barracks.

When I got out of the car at Hardy Barracks I was coming in the door of our office and I heard Sgt. Price saying, ďHeís coming in the door right now Tae, Iíll let you talk to him.Ē Tae had got to a phone somewhere and was calling to see why I had stood her up for our date. She was angry. I told her I was just coming back from the hospital and the first thoughts in her mind was that I had been playing around with the nurses, and not that I was hurt. When she saw me a couple of days later and my leg was all bandaged up she was more conciliatory.

I took my damaged motorcycle to the motorcycle shop for repairs. The owners of the truck never admitted guilt but they did give me the amount that repairs to the motorcycle came to as a condolence for the injury to me. I suspect the police instructed them on the amount to give me

The first time I used the motorcycle after it was repaired, I hit a pot hole and the front shock absorber came all the way out and refused to go back in. I took it back to the shop to have that fixed. Tae gave me an ultimatum. She said,ďEither the motorcycle goes or I go. I am not going to lay awake nights wondering if you are going to get yourself killed on that thing. You choose either me or the motorcycle and thatís final!Ē I told her okay, that I will get rid of the motorcycle. I told her that I was going to take it to the motorcycle shop and have them sell it for me.

I thought to myself that she will calm down after a while and then I can keep the bike. I decided to ask the people at the shop to sell it for me, but I was going to put a price on it so high nobody will pay that much for it. Then after a couple of months Tae will be calmed down and then I can start riding it again.

I began coming to see her on an Army bus that made regular runs to Camp Drake. I usually saw my motorcycle in front of the motorcycle shop along with the others lined up there in front of the shop.
About two weeks later I didnít see it. I didnít think anything of it. I knew my friend Ukio, the master mechanic, always grabbed the first one he came to whenever he had to go to Ekebukuro to get parts. I assumed that was where it was. The next two times I went by on the bus I didnít see it either. I got off the bus and walked back to the shop. Ukio was there so he didnít have it. I asked if they had sold it. The owner looked puzzled. He asked if my girlfriend didnít tell me. Then I asked, ďTell me what?Ē

Then he explained that Tae came to the shop one day and said I had changed my mind. She told them I just wanted to get rid of it and didnít care about the money. She told them to just sell it for $15 for parts and get it over with. There was a man there at the time that had one exactly like mine. He said if it was for sale for parts at $15 then he wanted it. She told him no papers were coming with it so he couldnít drive it and he said that was fine with him. He gave her the $15 and took the bike.

She had outsmarted me. She somehow got wise to what I was up to and turned the tables on me. When I angrily confronted her over it, she defiantly asked me what I was going to do about it. Of course, since it was her, there was really nothing I could do about it. Then I asked her for the fifteen dollars and she told me she had spent it. I had tried to outsmart her and instead she outsmarted me.

That was the end of my lifetime ownership of motorcycles. All in all it was a painful and frustrating and expensive experience. Many years later I was in Thailand and I did ride on a trip with a Thai friend once on a motorcycle, but other than that I have had no other experiences with them.

Please visit my website at: