Fukuoka: Residents Recreate Bygone U.S. Base Recipes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Masayo Nishikawa, left, and Mieko Maki look at the “Hakata Hibachi” recipe book, in Higashi Ward, Fukuoka City.

FUKUOKA — Recipes created by the wives of U.S. military personnel have been translated and reproduced as part of efforts to revitalize a Kyushu district that once hosted a U.S. base.

Camp Hakata was located in the Saitozaki district of Fukuoka City from the end of World War II until its closure in 1972.

To help keep memories of those days from fading, locals took on the challenge of recreating the recipes, while trying to breathe fresh life into the area.

The project was led by 58-year-old Masayo Nishikawa, who holds cooking classes in the community. On Feb. 28, Nishikawa and three others served local residents a taste of American home cooking recreated from the recipes. As part of a “tasting party,” the group prepared savory rice with chicken, a clam chowder said to be John F. Kennedy’s favorite dish, and cream-cheese salad.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Clam chowder — said to be John F. Kennedy’s favorite dish — with stuffed grilled mushrooms, back right

Savory rice with grilled chicken attracted the group’s interest due to being a Western-style dish that called for the use of a rice cooker. The chefs also intensively discussed the pineapple-and-whipped-cream salad, pondering the effects of substituting the pineapple with seasonal fruits.

‘Hakata Hibachi’

The impetus for the project came from a recipe book entrusted to the community four years ago. The book was received by members of the local Shika Society of Commerce and Industry who were invited to attend the final reunion of people formerly stationed in Camp Hakata, which was held in Florida four years ago. The society had been researching the camp, so the former residents passed on the book along with photographs from that time, hoping they might prove a valuable resource for future generations.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The “Hakata Hibachi” recipe book

The recipe book “Hakata Hibachi,” was compiled in 1966 by a Protestant church women’s club, which was made up of wives of the camp’s U.S. personnel.

In October last year, the society asked Nishikawa if she could recreate the dishes in the book to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the return of the camp to Japanese sovereignty. Nishikawa has translated 30 of the more-than 300 recipes so far. She said it was “fun to imagine the kind of home cooking [people] used to eat while so far away from home in Japan.”

Many of the recipes contained words for ingredients that were unfamiliar to Nishikawa, so she had trouble making sense of some recipes, she said. When she thought a dish might be too sweet for Japanese palates, she tweaked the recipe accordingly.

According to the society, after World War II, the U.S. military seized a former Imperial Japanese Navy base and turned it into Camp Hakata. At the time, there was much interaction between local residents and the U.S. personnel, but the camp’s history is becoming increasingly less familiar to locals.

The society is working to try to revitalize the district by leveraging the fact that Saitozaki was once a U.S. military base town. Nishikawa is considering holding an event to introduce “Hakata Hibachi” and its cuisine, and possibly offering associated foods at stores in the Saitozaki district.

“Many of the dishes are unusual for Japanese people, but they suit the Japanese palate,” said Mieko Maki, a society member who also helped recreate the recipes. “I think the food angle will interest many people, and I’d like to find a way to teach others about the history of the city through the recipes.”

Marilyn Monroe connection

Fukuoka Prefecture was home to several U.S. military bases after World *5

The Yomiuri Shimbun

War II that served as footholds during the Korean War (1950-1953).

According to the Shika Society of Commerce and Industry, the Camp Hakata site opened in 1936 as Fukuoka No. 1 Airfield, then used as an Imperial Japanese Navy air base during World War II.

Courtesy of Shika Society of Commerce and Industry
The main gate of Camp Hakata before its closure

After the war, it was confiscated by the U.S. military and used as a transportation base. It is known that U.S. actress Marilyn Monroe visited the facility on her honeymoon with baseball star Joe DiMaggio and met many people who were stationed there.

Following its closure, Uminonakamichi Seaside Park and the Marine World Uminonakamichi aquarium were built on the site.

The society has produced a pamphlet containing photos and other information from that time and is also working on such projects as shutter artwork for its shopping street to create a “U.S.-like” atmosphere.