[West Coast, 1927; shortly before departing from San Francisco to the Far East.]      Although when generally speaking of LRH adventures in Asia, one is typically referencing his travels across northern China circa 1928, his first taste of the Orient actually came a year earlier with his father’s posting at the United States Navy’s refueling station on the island of Guam. In consequence, the sixteen-year-old Ron and his mother embarked upon a roundabout voyage to that “Asiatic Station.” Also in consequence, and compiled from handwritten notes en route, comes Ron’s typewritten journal of sketches from ports of call at Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

     If the Asia of his journal seems grim and dispirited, the view is fully accurate. Having leapt from stagnant feudalism to a furious capitalism in the space of two generations, Japan was indeed no longer “the happy land pictured so in stories.” Better than half the indigenous labor force earned less than 48 cents a day, the great slums of Osaka could not even be ignored in the tourist guides, while the paupers Ron references in Kobe numbered more than twenty thousand. Likewise, China was no happy land in that summer of 1927. To put it very bluntly — and this from LRH friend and author Will Durant — “the most powerful feeling in China today is hatred of foreigners.”

     Hawaii, however, had still been a reasonably unspoiled paradise, and following from Ron’s description of surfboard riding at Waikiki, he would actually number among the first to surfboard in Southern California.

Asian Diaries continued...

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