Mike and the Takakei Brothers
Mike and Diane Traynor with the Takakei Brothers and wives
Today I experienced a flood of memories, feltincredibly fortunate to be alive, laughed as hard as I have ever done, and fought back tears of loss, almost all at once.
Dianne and I are working in Japan with numerous Japanese pediatric neuro-oncology researchers, visiting various hospitals, meeting with the Children's Cancer
Association of Japan, and preparing for the International Brain Tumor Conference on Research and Treatment to be held in Hakodate, Japan starting this weekend.
We have also had the opportunity to meet with key personnel at Honda's world headquarters in Aoyama.
This morning when I awoke in Chitose, Japan, my emotions kicked into warp-overdrive as I headed out to Aoba Park to hopefully settle my mind which was redlining
at 15,000 RPM and climbing. To get it back down to normal I pushed my exercise pace ever harder hoping to calm my innards, which in time succeeded. Today I was to
meet two Japanese brothers who had befriended me during my stay in Chitose from 1959 to 1962. They are Shigehiro and Takahiro Takakei owners of the motorcycle
shop that I raced motorcycles out of during my time in Chitose. I last saw them in 1962 as I was unexpectedly, and in a matter of hours, airlifted out of Chitose to never
return until today, 46 years later. That day I learned my father had been in an accident, I was the eldest of 6 children, and would now finish up my enlistment in the states
and become the breadwinner of our family. During my 2 years in Chitose those brothers were great friends and companions to a young GI a long way from home.
They surely played a role in my life that would determine the future course of my adult pathway.
As I donned my business suit and combed what little hair that remains, I wondered how much of our 2 years of friendship they would recollect and the sometimes incredibly
funny exploits we shared as they worked to continually repair my 1957 250cc Honda Dream motorcycle and keep it in racing shape. I had a propensity for eating piston rings
during each race meeting so what started out as a 250cc was rebored so often we began having trouble finding big enough oversized pistons. But on an Army corporal's pay,
it had to be race, rebuild, and race again because what I was doing to that gentle engine on the quarter mile short track at the Army's Kuma Station was over stretching
Soichiro Honda's vision for an Earl's Fork street bike beyond all expectations. In other words the poor Dream which was a great commuter bike was slowly being ridden to
death so I could further my budding racing career. This bike also was my year round daily driver regardless of the weather, so it gave far more than was ever expected of it.
To honor our meeting I brought along 25th Anniversary Ride for Kids tee shirts to give the brothers as a memento of what they had unknowingly helped birth. Their enthusiasm
for motorcycling was parallel to mine so they are part and parcel to my 48 year love affair with motorcycles. I also had created a photo album of old racing photos and shots of
them at their modest shop. As I had endeavored to relocate the brothers over the past year through Dr. Yutaka Sawamura, M.D., Ph.D., one of our colleagues who is a pediatric
neuro-surgeon in nearby Sapporo, I noticed that most all communication coming from the Takakei's Mitsubishi auto dealership (they sold the modest motorcycle business several
years ago and went into the newly burgeoning Japanese auto market, creating what is today a huge dealership) never included much information from the older brother Shigehiro,
but rather from his younger brother Takahiro. So early this morning I began to have what became well founded trepidations on Shigehiro's well being.
Long before our appointment to meet was due my wife Dianne's and my hotel room phone rang with the voice of Shigehiro's wife happily saying they were in the lobby, could
we please come down? We scurried to see them and were greeted by Takahiro and his wife, Shigehiro's wife, a pretty young translator, and a reporter from the Chitose bureau of
the Hokkaido Shimbun Press newspaper. There they stood all in a line with bags of mementos and giant grins. I darned near cried as Takahiro looked nearly the same as he did
46 years ago. I could not believe that I recognized him and that he knew exactly who I was! The camera's flash went off a gazillion times as we enthusiastically greeted each other
and were all talking and laughing at once. As the reporter furiously scribed her notes we must have all stood there talking a mile a minute for a half hour when I realized there was
lots of furniture we could sit down on, and we did so.
Story after story on great times of the past emerged and I had to pinch myself looking at Takahiro who was resplendent in an expensive sport coat and slacks since the only clothes
I ever saw him in were greasy white coveralls as only a man of wrenching talent can wear. We then went to the old bike shop location which is now perhaps fittingly, a vacant lot,
empty of the howls of laughter and the noisy race bikes being tuned right across the street from the telephone company. That created a real dilemma because in the summer with no
air conditioning, they opened the windows and the operators tried to handle tons of calls as we made a lot of noise late at night working on the bikes. The operators would yell out
the window to quiet down and now and then the police would show up to enforce better manners. I learned today that the Army Military Police would also visit the shop and tell them
to make sure the GI's quit making so much noise. That gave me a bit of a red face as I never knew that it got that far.
As they explained the plans of the day they had lain out, the mystery about Shigehiro emerged. He had experienced a brain blood clot and subsequent damage so he was hospitalized
and yes we would go see him. They said he did recall who Mike was and they said he was pleased we were coming to see him. When they wheeled him out of his rehab session he too
looked every bit the same as I remembered him, but the distant look in his eyes atop a gentle smile broke my heart and I fought with all my might to hold the flood of tears back.
Dianne said it was obvious to her that I was having a tough time as it was written all over my face despite a great big smile I mustered up. I was at once incredibly delighted to see
him and greatly saddened to see how such a vibrant young man I had known was today fighting failing health. They said they did not expect him to come home from the hospital so
our visit may have been just in time to see him with most of his faculties working.
We talked for about 30 minutes and some stories he recalled but others were words from a stranger. They say you can never go back, but do not believe it. Today I went back into
great memories, and yes on occasion a tear crept into my eye as we would recall another hilarious incident between the kind and gentle Japanese shop owner and his sons and a handful
of wild eyed young American's all learning to be riders and racers. Unbeknownst to me and probably the Takakei's, those infernal 2 wheel machines brought us together in a way that
probably no other catalyst could have done. I would never say we were reckless, but today as I recollected many rather harrowing exploits we had in those days I realized we were
certainly pushing the envelope and never knew it.
If life is meant to lived to the fullest extent, we did it to nth degree back then and today I was allowed the great privilege to go back and relive it again.
There is much more to share but suffice it to say, this will long be one of the most memorable days of my life. I hope one day you will experience the same.
Mike Traynor, Rictor, Jack
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