The Story of Larry: Nagaoka and Kujiranami

IN JAPAN 1963 - 1968


We arrived back in Japan after Grampie’s 3rd birthday.

Nagaoka was a small city where our mission headquarters house was. Behind the main house was a building with storage space and a small apartment upstairs. This was where we lived for about 6 months.

GGpa and I began studying Japanese again to help us remember what we had forgotten and learn new things.

Grampie and Marilyn liked to help put away the groceries, and when they saw the can with a cow on it, they said something like,”Yay!, yummy Moo Cow Candy!” Do you know what Moo Cow candy is? If you don’t, just ask Grampie!

Sweetened condensed milk can

Grampie and Marilyn liked to crawl into bed with GGpa and me. One morning Marilyn told me, “I love you because you are old and have freckles!” When she said that I was just a couple of years older than Linnea and baby Sheri’s mommy in 2020!

There was a small room with a wash basin and toilet but no place to take a bath in this small apartment. We had to go over to the main house where there was an ‘Ofuro’. That is a Japanese style bath. The water is heated quite hot in a big tub or a tile bath. No one gets into the hot water to soak until they have washed off all the dirt outside the tub. That way lots of people can use the same hot water to soak in.

By the early part of 1964, Grampie had decided he didn’t need his soother any more; we celebrated Christmas; GGpa and I finished our study time; and we moved to Kujiranami.



The place where we lived in Kujiranami was a rural area on a hill above the Japan Sea. Our organization, the Japan Evangelical Mission (JEM), had started a Bible school there. There was also a small school for the mission children. Grampie and Marilyn were not yet in school.

Our apartment here was larger than the last one. The living room and kitchen were connected, and there were 3 other rooms. One of the rooms had a tatami mat floor. I’ll tell you more about this kind of floor in the next story. That was the room where the little kids played when they came to our place. One day while they were playing together, Marilyn jumped off the low trunk, and guess what! Her big toe broke! We have no idea how that happened!

Oh dear, off to the hospital we must go.

Did any of you ever break a bone?

They took x-rays, then we had to wait to have the doctor set the bone. But the wait was long, so we went home so Marilyn could have a nap. While we were home there was a BIG earthquake. It was so strong that even though we were a long way from the center of the quake, we could really feel it rolling. It even cut off the electric power where we were.

After Marilyn’s nap, we went back to the hospital for the doctor to set the broken bone. But there was no electric power at the hospital and it was quite dark. The doctor managed to set her toe using a flashlight!

Building tipped sideways

In Niigata City, where the earthquake was strongest, many buildings just leaned over and fell; others just stayed leaning.

Army truck with dirt being shoveled out

A few months later, Grampie and Marilyn had to wave goodbye to us as we got into an army truck to ride across a muddy area where they were building a new highway. We were on our way to Tokyo to go to the same hospital where Grampie and Marilyn were born. This time we went to welcome their new little sister, Lisa! Grampie and Marilyn stayed with our missionary friends who lived up the hill from us.

Baby lisa wrapped up

After a couple of weeks, GGpa and I had that long train ride back home from Tokyo with our new baby girl. I worried about the scary truck ride down the hill and across the slippery, squishy, muddy road with my new baby. We made it safely, and we were very happy to all be together again.

Young Larry dressed up with a vest

Linnea, you were able to welcome your new little sister! Grampie, all grown up in this picture is holding little Sheridan (Sheri) Mae. She was just born. Sheri is wrapped in the soft blanket made for her by her Nana.

Grampie holding Sheridan



We arrived home in Kujiranami with Grampie’s new baby sister, Lisa. Her big sister and brother began teaching her some of life’s important lessons. Marilyn began by showing her how to use a tape measure - an important lesson; we need to measure many things in life!

Marilyn and Lisa head to head



Arlie Hunter came to teach at Japan Sea View School (JSVS) a couple of months before Lisa was born in 1964. She missed her niece back in Canada, so when Lisa was born she ‘adopted’ Lisa as her surrogate niece! They immediately loved each other. Usually Lisa would not let anyone hold her other than her Daddy or Mommy or Aunt Arlie.

Aunt Arlie, or Miss Hunter, was Grampie and Marilyn’s teacher at school.

The floor in one of the rooms in our apartment had tatami mats on it. Tatami mats are made of rice straw, so they are not hard like a wood floor. When the other little children came to our place, it was where they played. It was the room where Marilyn broke her big toe. It was a good place for Lisa to learn to walk.

A straw mat

The size of a tatami mat is usually 3 feet by 6 feet.
Do you have a tape measure? You can use it to find out how big this is.

The Japanese tell the size of a room by saying how many mats it has. The room in our place was a 10 mat room. The tatami mats are arranged side by side, end to end or in other interesting patterns.

Rice bundles drying beside the road

Rice bundles would be hung up to dry close to where we lived. Perhaps the straw would be made into tatami mats.

Another missionary family lived a short walk up the hill from us. Their little girl was a couple of months older than Lisa. They came to visit us, and Lisa noticed that Mary was walking. It seems that Lisa thought, “If Mary can walk, I can too.” So the next day she decided to do it.

She went into the tatami room, pushed herself up to stand, fell, pushed herself up and fell again. She repeated this over and over until at last she didn’t fall, but succeeded in walking!

This reminds me of what Nahnee, my Mother, taught me when I was little:

"If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again boys and girls, and you’ll succeed at last."



I knew there were rats that came into our kitchen.

I got up to feed Lisa in the night. One night as she was nursing, I saw a rat run into the kitchen cupboard! I couldn’t scream and wake up everyone, but I sure was scared by that critter! The only time that Lisa threw up after nursing was that time. The scare must have curdled my milk and that was not good for her.


Grampie screamed, and everyone woke up! GGpa and I ran to see what was wrong! GGpa saw a centipede crawling up Grampie’s pajama sleeve. He grabbed it with the sleeve and got Grampie’s arm out of the sleeve. Fortunately it was a baby centipede. Centipede bites are poisonous, but since this was a baby one, it did not harm Grampie. But it was very scary!


Grampie liked to listen to his mommy read stories.

Listening to a book story

Grampie also listened to stories being read to his daddy by kids from the school

GGpa, his daddy, had worked so hard that he had a problem with his eyes and had to rest them in a darkened room for quite a while. He was not allowed to use his eyes to read, which he loved to do. One of the teachers at the school had a bright idea! She decided to have the school kids take turns to come and read stories to Grampie’s daddy. This helped pass the time for GGpa and gave the kids good experience reading, and helping someone who was special to them.

Grampie listened to those stories too!

Leslie in the car with books to give away

Japanese children love reading books. They did not know about God and the Bible. GGpa took Bible Story books to many Japanese schools to put in their libraries. Grampie watched and no doubt helped his daddy load the car with the Bible Story books ready to take to schools. GGpa was away from home a lot while he was doing that.

The summer before Lisa was born while Marilyn’s broken toe was healing, she had chicken pox. But she was not very sick and had very few pox. But when we went to Nojiri that summer, Grampie got really sick with chicken pox. They were even on the bottom of his feet. I was pregnant with Lisa, and even though Grampie and I slept in the same bed, I never got chicken pox.

Grampie and Bobby had only two weeks of kindergarten. After those fun two weeks, Bobby got sick, and that ended their kindergarten days!

2020-11-21 updated 2021-03-25   © 2021 Larry Grove