Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow on Cherry Blossoms - i.3

6 January 1905

Poles sprang from the sidewalk in a neighborhood of Tokyo, and a fine neighborhood because it was under the broad powers to remake samurai into Western military. But this was difficult – and one could see just looking at the collection of people on the street. Some could be out of another era – when Tokyo was still called Edo, and the dress was prescribed by law. Others were in the latest style: uniforms wearing blue, with everything just so, and a breach loaded rifle on their back – and women wearing the latest style. There was no hint of a running group hanging up a severed head – this was not done.

Collections of war troops were led by an officer every now and again – bracing themselves with the fresh fog. Exercise was a key feature in the new military, with each part copied from the best of European, or North American, models. One of the hidden but key features was that there would be no more female samurai – instead women were to be wearing long dresses, though the bustle was generally losing favor. But one could see some of the women wearing The traditional close of a geisha or oiran – the difference is that geisha entertained, and only partook of sex at their pleasure, whereas oiran consisted of highly refined coupling. This was different than mere yūjo, who only offered release from the monkey upon most men's backs. The difference between traditional and Western was striking most when the two were walking side by side – somehow the mixture of the two was more powerful. Especially when the flowing robes of the female, were next with the Western garb of a merchant. It showed how the old was still alluring, whereas the modern had power – thus the old was feminine, and the modern was masculine. One could almost see a ukiyo-e print with every glance, of the eyes, were fitted with a camera, that left behind an image. That image was maintained through the rest of one's existence – in this new Metropolis?

Someplace specific, though I had never actually been there myself. It was a tea Shop, but a ritual tea shop. This was the essence of chawan – the tea bowl – and the rituals associated with it. Zen Buddhism remained supreme in this place, and all of the people wished some form of forgiveness and spiritual awakening. There were more boisterous versions of the tea aesthetic – for conviviality was also encouraged, but those were in different places than this. When I was small, I use to reach high above me and take a cup of tea – from out of the tray that it was to be served out of – it was wrong, I should have waited for those who were visiting to drink 1st. But the aroma of the tea, and the site of it mixing in with the water was magical as I held the cup below my mouth and drank that 1st drop.

If one did not know Tokyo, or the leanings of the upper-class people of Japan, one would have wondered why a stone draped with willow branches was West of the turned in the river. In the street, with cherry trees along one side, it seemed quite ordinary to anyone foreign. This was because the stone represented the gate to the pleasure quarter. And within it, certain things were done but never discussed except very discreetly. It is not that they were done ornately – some were as boisterous as you can imagine – but they were within the walls with white sashes hanging from the 2nd floor, topped with lanterns which were also white with red and green decorations. This was the Yoshiwara, the entrance to the floating world. The world of business, save for that of pleasure, was on the outside. And things that could not be discussed with foreigners were done here: women; men; boys were all for sale. It is even said that for ecstasy one looks for a duck. Though the men did not talk about what would be done with them –there were sniggers that certain men exchanged.

The other thing that stood out was that there were no utility poles – in this place, such things were for the outside. No mountains behind it, because it was solely for itself. Messages were still carried by writing on a slip of paper, everything was done as it would have been done since the founding – which was close to the beginning of the shogun era. In that time though the Emperor was theoretically the head of all of Nippon. Though actual power was through a dictator – and if he were noble the title was shogun – there are many who would like this era to come again, perhaps with a different name. I wondered down the boulevard, seeking a place where the pleasures of tea and company would be combined. This is different, you have to understand, then the pleasures of drinking and company – because in that case the senses are dulled, while in the case of tea, they are heightened to enter an order degree. I myself have not understood whether it was the actual tea, or the imagining that the tea holds a fragrance, which in truth is not there. I had once tasted coffee, and the effect was quite different – a bolt of blue crushed into the front of my skull. It was an American who gave be this cup, saying that this was another form of consciousness. Perhaps it was, very different from tea. It would be a taste that one should have to grow accustomed to. The Americans obviously did.

Then from out of the haze, there was a sign just barely visible to the naked eye – but I knew instinctively that this was the place. Ceremony reigned everyplace within the eye, but here with especial clarity, because everything we have in these walls was diverted to not just tea, but the tea ceremony – including the cups, the accouterment, the ladies who served – as well as the leaves and the refreshingly bright water. If outside the Yoshiwara, everything was to be business and family – and remember these were much the same thing – then outside this tea ceremony, everything was ordinary – but inside the sip of tea was distinctly refined to an ancient art form. But it was in the pleasure district, so it was not just beautiful, but exotic in its presentation. Very few women were here other than to arrange a night for some man in their purvey. If for men this was a district of pleasure, for the women it was a battlefield on the exotic field – where men stood on cushions, so as to reach that divine bliss.

Reached such pinnacles here, they were to be blunt in the field of combat – even combat with words. Until recently, when the Boshin war was on everyone's lips – and there were a host of rebellions – that was the only kind that most samurai actually participated in. it was the disintegration of the bakufu – the rule by the shogunate and its vessels. But here was the last stand of that religion, and it was a religion at its core. If Western religions preached the era of Christendom, here was the embodiment of a different kind of religion, where women were to serve the men, and all the men were supposed to serve their superior – up to and including the Emperor, himself. But it was not himself as others saw him – but himself as a God. And here was the God dispensing wisdom by reflection on the tea ceremony. It was in the shadow of the Yang Earth Dragon – as recognized by the Chinese long cycle – called the Stems and Branches – the shadow of the Boshin War named for that year in Japanese. So it is within this Elder date cycle that everything within the pleasure quarter was frozen in place of, the wars, the earthquake, the manners were all part of a design pattern known only to the keepers of the Shang Oracle bones.

Fluttering in the breeze, was the white decorations – against the oak sill. It was calling with a ghostly presence of all that came before – tales of centuries past which still lived on in the faerie world. Within this world embroidered silks of tremendous exquisiteness were the stock and trade of the women who organized every step of the way – as a man was to a rifle and bayonet, a woman was to poetry and dance. Though which could be the more deadly was anyone's guess. I slowly slipped into the curtain, and found myself directly in front of the hostess – who it was obvious was sizing me up. She wanted to know whether I was here for the tea ceremony, the company that went with it, or whether I was looking for the unique kind of intimacy which went without saying. After a moment she had made up her mind and began:

Like calls to like, would you like to be with the Naval people? They have just started a tea ceremony.”

At this point, I nodded my head “no”, and instead answered: “Madame, it is my pleasure to wait for someone who invited me.”

Details, at that time, were considerably different, because at no point would the Madame use paper, or writing implement. She also knew that use of a name could be disastrous, and would not ask for it. The details of a tea ceremony are better explained elsewhere – because the nuances escape my limited grasp. Even as a description of an art form, it is hard for itself – writing a poem would not be to easy a feat, what the French would call the coup de grâce – ready about the texture of thinking through the substance of what it means to be at the ceremony – displayed on a scroll, called kakejiku, or more specifically gasan, if left standing – a scroll about the tea ceremony. But that is beyond my scope – and beyond my limited facility with words. Left me then wave my hand at the greatest works, with every gesture illuminated – and let your mind wander through the calligraphy.

The master was of course one of my friend, and the 1st guest is called shokyaku – which was the lady, to help him perform the tea ritual. This was an elegiac dance, and I wish I could enumerate all of the individual steps. But I watched as the main participants slowly performed Each movement of the tea ceremony. I suppose it was beautiful – but in truth the joy was lost upon me. At this point the lady excused herself and let us talk privately – I assume that he had made this clear to madame. And then I looked at him, in a way for the 1st time – because I assumed there was something different about him which he hoped that I would notice.

Officer – but of the Army. We had known each other for a very long time – since childhood. He was shorter time was, but broader in stature – and a perfect specimen that the Army looked for in its officers – broad, with great hands to wield either a rifle, or launch a canon. He almost looked as if he was encased in his officers uniform. The face betrayed no expression, at any time – which was of course preferred in any sort of officer. Even towards a Japanese, he was blank of all feeling – he had to put into words what he felt.

Space between organize festivities, and the tea ceremony – in this world of pleasure – was the latitude to engage in a real conversation. One difference is that establishing the level of politeness is far more ritualized then even in the most rigid of European languages – for example French or Russian. French is the best example, because there is a mechanism for establishing the exact degree that the 2 sides are talking, about Japanese is even more formal than this. And this is the case even in the pleasure world – and though he was my friend, we still needed to know weather we were talking as to family members, or something quite more intimate. And in the pleasure world, that could be very intimate indeed, everyone else would pointedly not notice if we were to engage in homosexual behavior – indeed one of the points of the pleasure world, is to be cast off from the boundaries. Boundaries which had grown harder because of the Western view and the Japanese view were so different. In the Edo time period – Homosexual liaisons were absolutely permitted, though in different degrees and in different ways. There was a hierarchy attached to the allowable ways of showering attention, but in all cases, in all periods, such forms would be known about – and celebrated in tales that could be told. In the military caste – in the Edo period – Such roles were strictly formalized. The penetrative partner was called nenja while the feminine partner was called wakashū. The reason I say this, is because my brother and my friend were engaged in such a relationship – though I did not know the exact details. But it made the discourse fluid until someone had said something – and I was not going to be the one to set the conversation level.

In that round about way before lines were fixed, and alcohol was not part of the mix – clearly this had been part of my purpose – he told a story which I listened to intently. It began with describing a woodblock print by Ishikawa Toyonobu, with 2 actors portraying an open homosexual love affair – the wakashū was on the left, and the was on the right. Of this did not mean that he wanted me in that particular way, but he was describing the boundaries which he intended to use. In essence, he was saying that I was to be the subordinate partner in our relationship. However what the relationship was, was not implied yet. Though I imagine that would be the conversational heart of the matter. He was actually using old terms – the new one was Shōnen, But that had the implication of a young boy, and was depicted in various kinds of comic art. he was using the older terms because he wanted to convey a different meaning entirely.

He began with the , turning to his effeminate partner: “You have done and asked to visit job with your hair.” At which point it was replied: “I learned from a geisha the secret of making an art of seduction.” There was a pause: “The bed must be just out of sight, with only an edge of a pillow gracefully peeking playing site.” For my friend, this was an elaborate disguise, because as said he normally needed to speak promptly about his inner torment. The blurrings of meaning danced across my skull – but I did not understand what he was getting at – though it had to be something.

A different story about 神奈川沖浪裏 – the Great Wave, by Hokusai. I intimated that the mountain was also the amount of desire – that is the mountain of male desire and another male, and the wave had just been withdrawn out. My purpose was to note that the feminine partner was not in the relationship for erotic attachment – but to please the masculine partner. This please do quite a good deal – meaning while I did not know what he was getting at, I knew that it was in the area conveying a parallel between the masculine/feminine in homoerotic attachment and what was he was getting at. This point the level of politeness was set, and was set very low – and he finally got to the point:

I need a man to go in to that foreign country which we are invading, and note the movements of both our enemy and ourselves. I want both, because we are worried that the direct instructions are not being followed.” I noticed the “we”, meaning that he was instructed by higher up individuals. And probably individuals who shared his leaning towards men, and wanted someone who understood their meaning and would be conscious of the choices which my friend would make. This was part of the Japanese conversation pattern – chose a subject who would understand what is being done at. Thus sometimes one needed to engage a female to extort another female – and so on. This time select a willing partner who would understand there is a parallel between samurai and daimyo, and wakashū and nenja. It was not a normal way of doing things, but then there were multiplicities ways of going about this. Clearly his superiors had a vision in mind, perhaps because he was the most persuasive – but then I realized, he would be watching me – and so both of us were part of a larger scheme. 

Scheme which was concocted by a group that sat close to the Emperor, but not to close. They been given an assignment, by some officer of the Cabinet. So order came from 2 levels down the scale, no more than that. And that was the way that I became introduced to the wider level of scheming.

Intricacies of dealing with this came forth as he decided to tell me things – even if they were not true – about what my responsibilities were. Key to all of this was of course finding my brother, in the loose fields of combat. He explained that “we” - myself unincluded – were afraid that the opposite number had cast an eye on him, and they were suspicious that he was more than an officer. Which was true – he managed the intelligence operation, and reported back to his superiors on its progress. But now he was missing, in the wilds of Manchuria. It would be my job to find him – and get him to report what he was doing. Casting my mind back over the story – it seemed likely that they no longer trusted him to do his duty, though why was not told to me. I sat silently while this was explained – and realized that in a way I was the superior, in that I controlled whether I was to go. The sense of power almost crackled in my fingertips. Normally, he would give me a precise view of the mission – on paper. But this was to secret for any sort of writing down.

Pause – because he too was in an awkward position. Just as I would be speaking of what I had done – he would be listening and interjecting short orders. The reverse of this was uncomfortable for us both. He continued: “There is another officer, of military intelligence, employed by the Russians. I want you to execute him, even if it means your death. Here is a picture.” then the picture was handed to me, and it was not a good likeness – he was extremely blonde, with a grace to his movements, one could guess at its height. But that was essentially it, save for the scar along his left cheek.

Again he spoke, because there was another part of this mission – having to secure the cooperation of the United Kingdom before the mission was started – without explaining the real details. The Empire of Japan had to convince the representatives of a different mission, one that would align closely with our détente. 大日本帝國 - The Greater Japanese Empire - was new to the world stage, Britain was the master. Had to do more than just learn what was to be a great power – we had to see how policy was the prerogative of the dominant center. Which unfortunately was not Japan. One had to understand the layers which policy took, because while we were engaged in containing Russia – Russia was a willing partner in containing Germany. It was a dance, with the conductor residing in London. He can explained what he wanted me to know, though I only believed a quarter of what he told me. Before I went out, I had to go back to the center of the Englishman's cabal. I should go back to the ladies household, and talk to a man which I had only briefly met – because he was the nexus of intelligence for Britain. He would have to be enamored of this story – a cover story was the word that he used. He recited it as if he had learned it from his superior – which he almost certainly did.

While intelligence was certainly part of Japanese politics, we had to learn the phrases that Britain used. This is why the structure of government was changed to a constitutional monarchy only 15 years before – we wanted everything to be along European lines.

Which is why he knew that Akahi Motojiro was behind this – the man with a secret plan fight also gifted as a painter and poet. Originally he had traveled to St. Petersburg, but now he was somewhere about the continent – though his base was reputedly Helsinki. Wherever anti-czarist sentiment welled up, he was often there, himself, to gather forces which were ravenously opposed to the current regime – a hero of the Japanese love of the secret, for now and all time. He had a wide range of loyal operatives, including some who would die for him. He was hunted by many in the Russian government – but most particularly by the Department for Protecting the Public Security And Order – also known as the Okhrana, in order which was notorious for its agents provocateurs against left-wing and foreign nationals. It was possibly that they were behind the writing and dissemination of the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, as well as other notorious activities – there was little outside their purview including reading of private correspondence. They were rabid about assassinating Akahi – but while they had many attempts, they were unable to strike, a very rare feat for such a powerful organization. He on the other hand had many victories, among them reputedly was the assassination the Russian Interior minister – Vyacheelav von Plehve, hated for starting the war on the Russian side – though people who followed it admitted that the war would come in any event – there were to many people on Japan's ruling elite who also desired a clash of armies.

The story that I had to believe in was that I was to report on the subdural of Chinese and Russian domination – that Manchuria was becoming a Japanese province, though not formally. He also explained how the government was in the hands of 2 elite bodies, and they were fighting for control of the nominal constitutional mechanisms. He explained that this was to sensitive to talk about, and that I should only report to him. He was talking of course about the extraconstitutional body – Genrō. It was certain men who had been influential in starting the restoration – and it was behind all of the machinations of government. All that was contained in the Constitution, was only a this façade to this reality. Understood only the barest outlines of the structure which he now laid bare. It was not the Emperor who ruled – the shogunate had been replaced by a council, with no name – the Genrō were the real power, and the Emperor merely picked who was to run it.

It had been at least 2 hours, and I realized that there was another factor – why not go to one of their own? This had not been touched upon. And it would never be touched upon, so secret was it in its form that even expressing it would have been only touched upon if one were to commit seppuku. It was that hidden. Think about it – the workings of the real government was enunciated, but other things were unspeakable.

Then there was another pause – and my eyes snapped to his face, having wandered to the details of every other point in the room. But he had not been looking at me until the pause occurred. It was draining – I had not been so bored with a recitation of detail in all of my life. But now my eyes looked at his – and it was my turn to pronounce that I would go. Of there was no way for me not to go – and he knew it. That is why the answer was almost as if the explanation had engaged my mind fully.

Of course I would like to be assigned to this.” Though my head was filled with detail, much of which was nonsense or extraneous information – the chance to get out of the home islands was 1st and foremost in my mind. “Where will I go to make arrangements?” He just slept a piece of paper. And on taking it - just to be at sea, was almost enough to engage everything. And obviously it would be on a secretive ship – a freighter of some kind. Disguise was obvious – which again exacted a thrill.
This gives a great pleasure.” he was back to uttering simple phrases.The silence from the room eventually called the lady.

Pleasure quarter is not simply for erotic pleasure, but the pleasure of doing business in ways which are not explained. There is the Constitution, and then there is the real form of government.

While standing in the street, I realized that some hand of destiny had plucked me, I wish I knew whose hand it was – and whether it had been for good or ill. The white flags did not have any clue which they which to share, and the faces were on their own ecstasies.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Snow on Cherry Blossoms - i.2

5 January 1905

Snow falling on bunch up cherry branches, of midst the white blossom winter. It was a frame which looked outside the woodland picture. The snow piled up, though without wind. The house of my renting, looks out on a patch of neatly groomed forest – a shrine to the dead. As you look at it, it looks in to you – deciding whether you to will be among the honored dead. Brother looked at it, just before he left, and pronounced it a fine garden with a deeply religious shrine. He left to be attached to one of the fleets; to win glory for his Emperor and his empire. I wish I had the gift to explain it in poetry – it need a solid fact, that merges in to poetic license, as it gives down, as syllables – until the cutting word instills the season. Or says Shiki, as it snows.

Yesterday, I wore a Western style military uniform of Japan, today I am in the native clothes of the Empire – the difference between Western and Eastern in my name: Akira Ishawara, and Ishawara Akira. The Empire of the rising Sun. I remember Yokoyama visiting the somewhat small apartment that we were children in, and he spent many hours with myself and my brother telling stories about his adventures – including a samurai duel. I did not remember every word he said, but the feeling was more important – there was a laugh that covered fear in my voice, and my brother as well. But Yokoyama was entirely different – it was a laugh which conveyed respect for the other men who had not made it there last night fall. Every samurai dreams of this and dreams of it with respect. Most of them have their last poem – and a chance to recite it is valuable.

He recounted a moment when a leaderless took on 3 warriors attached to the local Lord of . While the story was truly famous, to our young ears it was new and bright as a longsword was. The ronin, the , stood his ground – holding his sword above his head, and challenging any to attack him. He did so because someone – though he did not know who – had allowed their scabbard to just hit his sword. This was inexcusable, and he immediately took a stance – because in his mind, his honor had been touched, and is whole self demanded that this was a formal duel – cleansed only with the blood of either his enemy or himself. Saya-ate, the touch was called – the scabbard strike. Unless there was a profuse apology from the man who struck his sword, it would be unthinkable to do anything but falling in to a ritual which was as old as were. It was the nature to strike back, it was the heart of their creed.

3 samurai were serving the local Lord, they could not apologize to someone who was not serving anyone – this to was not allowed. So they lined up – because if you examined their faces, one stood out as vicious, and he was the one who accidentally struck the scabbard. But he knew that his 2 companions would back him, so on are must be maintained. It was truly unthinkable for 3 lorded samurai to bend to 1 who was unloaded. Before striking each one of them called out his name – at which point the ronin did the same. Many people gathered around, including other samurai. The were in favor of the brave ronin, rather than the 3 samurai – it was after all the sense that one was taking on 3, and the fact he was doing so for no more than honor. The ronin advanced towards the man in the center, who was after all the one who had actually started things. And the Ronin new it by now.

Each step by the one was deeply planted the roadway, in a manner that an old master would have deemed sufficient in his little book. Then the samurai on the right, seeing a nod from the senior charged forward. Then the samurai on the left moved in as well – again because the senior demanded it – was not going to lead the charge, though he should have. It was at that point that the ronin sweat cleanly from left to right, taking out the 2 junior with a single stroke. Their swords flew out – but the attacker did not even look at them, instead trodding his way towards the senior. However, the remaining samurai took to his feet – almost at a run. At this point with victory all but assured, the loan ronin cleaned off his sword, and gently placed it in its scabbard. We all knew from the story that his next stop was to report to the magistrate, about the 2 who had been killed.

Brother and I felt a sense of courage from the narrator, and straightened up just a bit – as if we had just maneuvered the stroke. But a deeper sense was when I realized that when one chooses a leader, one must die for that leader – no matter how stupid it was. The original choice was clear – one had to choose the right leader, and that meant serving under anyone that he chose. In the story the 2 samurai chose badly, while the ronin by not having made a choice – had chosen well. It is better to serve with honor nobly, then serve for coin dishonorably. The lesson would be known only to the dead – because one must be dead to serve.

Narrator grew stern: “I must go now and deal with your parents, because there are things that you do not understand. But you will in time.” Then he turned to me: “You must watch your younger brother, in all ways. Because in time there will be a war, and you will not be able to watch over him at that point. He must be prepared, and that is your responsibility.” I nodded at the time, not realizing that he knew, as I did not, want a weight that was on my shoulders.

It would then learn in time, because I brother was on the fleet headed north to engage the Russians. Even now I thought that men made military maneuvers, but women knew all of the ends and outs of the people – as men knew the sharp steel of a Sabre. And on thinking about it, it may well have been the ladies who had the advantage in the choice of weapons. This because I thought about the gathering at the lady's soirée – and how the lady had deftly maneuvered everyone to their particular place, and knew to do that at a particular time to achieve a particular result. What I did not understand was what that result was – though I knew it to be important.

Glancing out over the city streets, which were captured in a doorframe. This was a Japanese house, with every piece lovingly made by a carpenter. The joints were ancient in their roots: a top held to the sides by a single wooden joint. This was Shoji – a sliding door. It framed the outside with its frozen cherry trees, and above them the Evergreen trees which scattered the land. Beyond that it was a cityscape, with wooden buildings packed together – and the ubiquitous utility poles which were still using traditional structures to hold up modern needs. Their was a confusion – nearby it was forest and garden – where has just a little ways away, Tokyo was blooming into a very contemporary city – to compete with London, Paris, and New York. I felt a swell of pride, because this had happened only in the last 50 years. And both the modern and ancient had been participants in the structure as it was. Down the city streets one could see ancient garb and modern uniforms mixed together indiscriminately. Iy. Imagining that the men held large ideas, which they had no patience with the women – after all the Imperial city was a place of men. However it seemed that in the West, women had a more subtle role in making a city fit for their use. It made me wonder how the women controlled the men, because it seemed to me that the women though they were inside, looked outside with their hearts. And instructed the men to elaborated on their design.

It is like me to believe that there was a reason why the western woman controlled the men, whereas the men postured for each other. It also implied that Nippon was destined to be the same way. A thought which was appalling in its naked splendor. Quickly I pushed out of my head, but it sat as a dragon sleeping sits – gnawing away at the air around it. Because oriental dragons do not eat the way Western dragons do.

Was it not obvious that the Russians should sue for peace? After all last year, we defeated them in Manchuria, and it would be a simple exercise to clean them out of their key landing points. But obviously the Russian Czar – Nicholas II – was not convinced, nor were any commentators accept of course the British. But the British built our ships, and thus had a keen interest in our progress. But all the rest thought that – somehow – the Russian Empire would triumph. The French call the “élan”, and pronounced the Russians were filled with more of it. But I think that is because they did not realize that one ronin would defeat 3 samurai. And the report would be filed in proper order, in the West.


Just as the various foreigners did not understand the significance of the defeat of Russia, Nor did the Japanese understand what might could be brought to bear if only Britain had wanted it. Be foreigners did they not realize that the Russians slaughtered civilians during their fight in Manchuria led the upper echelons of Japan to put distance between the Empire of the rising Sun, and everything else which was in Europe.

There was no regal nature in the West. What kind of élan was slaughtering civilians? Was there a kind of noble chivalry and spreading rumors about the “yellow peril” that gripped the average Russian infantryman? That the average European citizen believed this was an indictment of their sense of whose forces were better equipped and better trained – it was this not prattling's about élan. One would hope that the French would offer their substance against better-trained troops, such as the Prussian troops. It was so obvious that both foreigners and the popular mass of people in Japan both had misinterpretations. The only question was who would find out 1st how badly their conceptions were mislaid.

Turned from the outer view – covered with a light dusting of snow – to the inner cover compartmentalized apartment. - which was still built out of wood, unlike Tsukiji, which by Imperial decree was built out of stone. The yellow-white grasscloth was lining almost every inch of the available space – but this was normal. Even the Imperial Palace was subdivided into rooms which could hear everything that occurred around them. I was told that in the Royal Chambers of the monarchy of France – so long ago – that everything that the royal couple did was in sight of several ministers, who each had the duty to protect one or another of the accouterments that defined some aspect. As it was in European royalty so it was in Nippon.

Grasscloth was in the middle, timbers outside made of different kinds of tree, and if it did not burn down in a fit of destruction, it would be burned down intentionally. Every so often every building needed to be rebuilt in Tokyo – and indeed most of the cities in Japan. It was a ritual cleansing, that many would do. Everything which was reported to be old, was in actuality rebuilt many times. Only the floor plan of the highest buildings would be spared. Long the timbers were various forms of remembrance – masks that resembled demons, swords which had a lineage, lanterns which had once upon a time burned on a particular night. This was part of our religion, the religion of spirits. There were 3 parts: Buddha for taking the body, the Imperial ritual for preserving it, and Shinto for keeping it alive in the form of children. At which point I bowed towards the ashes of my mother and father, who died quite young and left me in charge of all that they had kept in their hands. Which was quite a bit, because my mother came from a rich family – and was offered to my father who came from a poor samurai clan. It was my mother who kept the books and managed the money. A talent that I had, and my brother did not.

Which is why he joined up in the front ranks of the Navy – because he knew that he was no good at living, so he would die for his family. This was a great honor, and no one could deny him the glory. Because the glory was unending, and life would pass as a dream. That other would wish him to live, including me, did not occur to my younger brother. He was a dutiful junior samurai – and he hoped that I would carry on the illustrious family name. I realized that I was the senior, and would have to strike down whatever ronin was in the way. The moral of the story took a different tact in my brother's mind.

Deeper into the rooms, because neither of the 2 brothers had yet to marry – and for me, that was almost frowned upon by my elder relatives. For you see, my mother having brought money, she would want me to be married and carry the line. It was from her loins that my brother knew that I would have to merry. It was almost as if the ghosts of my ancestors were in communication with each other. Remembered the face of my mother's mother quite distinctly as she lectured me on virtually everything – she was a compendium of knowledge, that very few people would actually listen to. But I did, and was introduced to the ways which we did everything in our lives. Everything from dressing ourselves to the rituals of tea.

It was in the room which had a short long table for eating, that I sat down and picked up something strange to my parents: a newspaper. Of course, it had the propaganda of the age – but it was true propaganda, though it did not exactly say where the troops were massing. But they were massing some place, and it named the Russian generals who would be skewered by their attacks. That my long focus became short did not bother me, until the Butler came in and said:

My Lord, a man who has no title wishes to speak with you, on the matter of the rent for this place. Would you like to see him?”

Rent was in arrears, but February was the time to discuss this – clearly he hoped to bring in other people, or get the money for this place sooner. The hand went into the pocket, and clinked with coin. I should not have had it today, but there was a point where I had an opportunity to collect money that was owed to me, so I could dispense it to various people that I would owe money to. Be realized again, the power that women had – because it was almost certain that I had had the opportunity because of the lady. It suddenly seemed obvious that I was one of the people who she had some sort of affinity for – though I did not know how, or even why she would take such an opportunity with someone so low on the scales.

Yes, I will see him.” This should be a because he did not just drop by – he had someone who thought I would be without the money. So not only would he be surprised, but his spy would be as well.

Shuffling off of the butler, and returning with the broker took a long minute of time – during which the room grew darker. There was a storm coming, and what is more a large storm. He could see this even though there was no opening to the outside.

The man who was brought in was a stocky thick man – moreover it was a man whose station in life was unknown – several people thought he came from the lowest class of people – burakumin, will technically it meant a “ Hamlet person”, did not was really about what they did for a living, butchering of animals, or producing leather – these type of work was considered unclean. But no one really knew what it was he did, what it was his father did, what his ancestors did – because he did not have any relics from the past, nor stories to tell about his youth. But other then his thickness and slightly smaller features which bunched on his face making it look slightly ugly – there was no reason to ascribe anything either unnatural or untoward. He came in, respectfully, and asked:

Good morning good sir, I have a matter of some delicacy to talk with this establishment, but I did not know who to talk to. If there was a wife, I would talk to her – or the eldest female.” What he meant was the person in charge of dispensing money – because, in old custom, the father would never do this – and since I was in the older clothes, it would seem that I would not dispense money as well. Which left a quandary – because there was no female to call upon. As far as he knew only too people lived in this rather small building – me and my Butler. Of course, there was no impropriety in this, but it still left a quandary. He would have tried asking the Butler if he would give a money, and have been replied in the negative. Thus he was forced to ask me if I did it myself – and the contortions from asking were noticeable, he had wedged his neck up and several times girded his neck. Because of force, he was in modern dress, and his color was far too short. It almost made comical appearance as he picked at his throat. Every time it seemed that a wedge of his neck came spinning out from his shirt.

It was almost impolite, to watch the neck spew out of his modern dress – but I had to do so because it was actually chucklingly funny. But finally I resisted any more of the comical, and eventually said: 

“If you want to ask for money, then I am the person who will dispense it. I am sorry if there was any mistake about it.” A year and a little bit more had high taken residence, during that year the initial payment from a land broker had paid – thus he did not know who to ask on a regular basis.
Then you must know the payment for this house is in arrears.” Countenance distorted, there was a long pause upon his face. My lip held slightly open, to worry his tongue – but before he could speak again, I opened my jowl:

The butler has the money for the next year, you should have come forward sooner.” I was speaking as I were different from all of the others – as if the hatred of the world was known to me but rejected as part of my image. Of course, there was money until deep into the night before. Then the solicitor's nature tugged his eyes to my servant, who had already gotten out coins for the next years rent. It would be best if the coins were scattered across the floor, and the solicitor would cast himself to catch each one. The jingle and klang of money interspersing with his cavorted greed in finding it would be amusing. But naturally the Butler did not do any such thing – instead putting the coins on the table – counting them as he did so. A century ago many of the major powers used silver – Nippon among many, including China, England, Spain, and the United States. But now money was almost entirely made of gold – with a few exceptions. Gold was indeed different – it is yellow color was only one difference. All over the world in the past generation had switched to gold, because of the mining of Africa – once there was no question but that gold should be the standard of the world. Silver had been found in a number of places, but refining of gold made it the kingdom of armies, and fleets. With armies and fleets, one could land anywhere and secure gold. But to engineer a flow of gold into the coffers of the state, meant that it had to be the standard of all things. Every transaction wanted to be in gold, and was gradually working its way to that. Rice used to be the coin of Japan, since armies were paid in it. But now we had to have armies and fleets that could bind beyond our own islands – and we had for the moment to pay other lands for the ships. While he went his own way, I stopped to think about how everything was designed to make trade and war possible, because gold made ships, and ships protected merchants. I had even heard last night about how some people in England wanted to make oil the driver of the fleet – as opposed to coal. If this was true, then the entire world would move to oil. But Japan had no oil.

I looked up, but could only see timbers and grasscloth, but in my mind, I could envision our Japanese fleet taking arms against the Russians, and the results would be the same as last year: crushing defeat for the European power. I wondered back to the opening onto the covering of snow. It seemed that the Europeans would have to admit to countries to their inner circle of power: the United States and the Empire of Japan. Obviously, the taking of Port Arthur was not sufficient – at least 2 of the diplomats assigned to Japan. I wondered what it would take – as I sat and watched the flurries mount outside, reading my manuals which were updated on the 1st day of the Western year – each page fluttering as the snow covered branches.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Snow on Cherry Blossoms - i.1

I Land of Diplomacy

The sun rises, on a world where an empire which it does not set.

In some lands, the art of diplomacy is to say nothing extremely well. In the land of civilization, writing down what passed to me was as good as any to record the events. There things that eluded – there were certain things that were beyond reasoning. But still it all, it is the best way to show the collegial nature of the hothouse that marked the cold turn of the year. It is enough to record the words which reached, even though they were not really correct...

4 January 1905

Profile was her face –I was a Japanese officer looking at a white woman; the nose is long, and aristocratic - beneath the eyes whose liquid blue was strange to me, coming from the land that the people from here called "the Orient". We did not call it that - it was just home. And a woman wore white as a mark of beauty - . She looked at the gathered people in the drawing room, in the year 1905 - a year when most still had to think to write 19 rather than 18 when drawing up a letter. It was also one of the last days to have Christmas ornaments up, for there was a strict provision among the upper classes of Britain to have them removed by the Twelfth Night.

Day was a spectacular day also for the Empire of Japan – because the word came out that we had taken the Russian Port Arthur, subjecting its officers to either go home or be made prisoners of war. Everything was turned over to us completely intact. But to imagine the circumstances you have to draw your mind back to the early when the faint embers of a distant era where still warm. When frocks and all the other signs of horse and buggy whip were still on everyone's lips. That hordes of young Russian soldiers and sailors had been agreed to be removed marked a victory – of the leaders, of the warriors – but most importantly because of the leadership.

But it was not talked about loudly, only in soft whispers. everyone looked at the lady of the house. The woman herself seemed to stare only for a moment at every man or couple for just a moment, seemingly to reinforce that she was like everyone else – that she too was of this past moment. But looking at her eyes, the way he did, would belie this notion: because rather than a dull maneuver of cold bright eyes, hers danced with a gay remonstrance of protest, which one could see underneath her veil. She was covered with black from skull to feet with only jewels which were opalescent or viridescent. But she hid her eyes, leaving only a glance to each that those who did not know her would think she was of the patrician class which ruled Britannia.

Everyone knew better than this, not because of personal learning mind you, but because he had inside information which detailed that she was brighter than she looked – or rather, she hid how she looked to the masses, whether plebeian or patrician. It was my hope that Japan would be numbered among the great powers, and this victory over the Russians was to be part of that. But for the moment everyone stared at her, and the power which she represented. She ignored this, because, after all, just because one had breeding and status did not mean one was gifted with the keen eye or elite beau monde of intelligence. So he observed how she would only cast a glance at each individual or couple, hiding behind her shroud. The diplomatic officer, of course, would cast his eyes over the entire multitude – whispering sweet nothings that his emperor's government had selected. Because, Britain and Nippon were in fact secretly allies, but the official line was that they were neutral. This was, of course, a lie, which she actively participated in – because she was in fact in the employ of the Foreign Office. But this was known only to a view people, of which both she and he were both members. Because while he could not hide the intelligence of his eyes, this was still a time when his countenance could easily disguise his superior intelligence. At home, he was fourth in the top of 東京帝國大學, the Imperial University of Tokyo, or as it was known to the inhabitants of the island emperor's chain. But this would not be known of in the present, Westerner's, company – because they would only see a man who was dressed in black and had nothing to suggest that he was anything out of the ordinary.

20 or so people to convey their condolences to the lady - some had left, while some were taking their time getting here and had not arrived, while it was obvious that some remembered him by well, with some reminiscence of what a fine man the recently deceased husband was. Though it was obvious that from the age gap the married pair, it was probable that it was a marriage of convenience – he defined lust, and she to provided and settle down with a large inheritance after he was dead. This was entirely proper for this day and age. He was married before and had two children which were almost the same age. And though no one talked about it, neither the children or the mother talked to one another. This was also appropriate to this time and place.

Room was brightened by the fact that it had been redone just a short while ago in the new mode: in England it was called “Art Nouveau”, but there were a myriad of different names in different countries. What is most important about it was the curve to all of the lines, and a certain jouyssance and a sense that the art style was total in its makeup, no detail whether architecture, interior design, or jewelry should be out of character. There were pieces of furniture from the 19th century, but they were relics of the past. So from the gilt bronze adornments to the wall cabinets made in the new style, the mode was new, not old. This was to be taken as her gift to her husband, showing the modern style of his new wife. She sat on a long chair, resting beneath a very long mural composed of a satyr and a nymph squatting down while he played a tune on a lilting blend of pipes. Thus it was odd to be decked out in an older fashion of dress, while the room said that it was modern. If this was unusual no one said anything.

Though people did not say they were broken down into two groups, this was exactly what happened. The there were British, American, French, and German speakers all gathered around each other. In a what could only be described as a faction, over to the side, were a trinity of Frenchmen speaking there own language, about what appeared to be a dispatch in the right-hand corner of L'Echo De Paris which openly questioned whether the United Kingdom was in fact neutral, and that the Republic of France knew this, and was trying to attain assurances that Britain would not engage against its ally, Russia. In the Journal, it was openly suggesting a more forceful approach to his Majesty's government. Of course, at a funeral for a distinguished gentleman – the husband of the woman – it would be impolite and impolitic to raise such an because making de rigueur what was known inappropriately by glancing at a journal.

Come now, monsieur, you must speak in English, because everyone will want to know what is engaging the three French officers so delightfully. They would think it a monumental secret which they are not entitled to know.” Her face was glittering with the ornaments of the Christmas tree, which she was enrobed from his position.As was the usual custom, there were candles on the Christmas tree, because the use of electric lights had not gone in to fashion as yet. At once the lady had made a pronouncement, while her azure eyes were fixed on the eldest French gentleman, who it was obvious was the leader of the three. And the Frenchman turned to look at her directly, as was his custom, unlike a military man who would be stiff and formal, he was more fluid in his nature.

The man who she was addressing was a trained diplomat, who had served underneath all range of political leaders, he was devoted to France of whatever leadership could forge a government in the turbulent Third Republic. He was tall, thin, with a mustache which was then and by this point white – and a face which oblique to what he actually felt. He had a full head of hair, but he paid it no attention, as if it were normal for a man his age to have one. He was also, once known to all involved, rather fluid in his alliances – as if it someone whose main focus was to gain loyalty for France on whatever course she had said her so on. It was not his decision what was to be done, only to carry it out with such zeal as he could muster. Which while not as much as he originally felt towards his native royalist leanings, was still a great deal more than most people could have managed on any particular day.

We are sorry, we were talking about some trivia in one of the French newspapers. We shall not be given again on these sorry tidings, where are concern is for your beloved husband.” His voice was cold and his accent betrayed only a little bit of his native language – which was proper for a diplomat, because in actuality his English was flawless, but there was a semblance to maintain, that France was a trifle superior, even if it was not the case. It was a point of pride for such Frenchman, but it was also not truly the case. Something that the Frenchman, the lady, and the Japanese gentleman all new to well. France was a paper tiger in fact, though not yet in name, because it was the birthplace of the last great conqueror – Napoleon – and the last great buffoon – Napoleon the Third.

The war between Russia and Japan is going badly for Russia, n'est pas?” As you know my French is not my strong point: ”We in Japan are celebrating victory – though the is one more campaign to go.” There was more to say, but at that point I was cut off by a diplomat, who noticed that the lady of the house was not amused by the direction of the conversation. Though he did not entirely make sense, his intention was to take the stage and run with it – even if he fumbled slightly in his entrance.

Their had been a brief reference to this, yes. But as we said, we shall speak no more about it – because your Majesty's Government has pleaded to be neutral.” Not a trace of any movement betrayed what he was feeling on the inside, he was totally reserved as was the custom among diplomats. And above all he was a diplomat to the core – it was inbred through many years and many generations. It was also the case that a person on the other side was standing just a few feet away from her – that is the Japanese diplomat, who suddenly received a whirlwind of scrutiny from all apparent. But he betrayed nothing of what he was feeling, and other than his eyes, he seemed rather monotonous. Nor did he betray the actual thing that was questioning his own mind, and that is why did she make an issue of this now? It was not the sort of thing that one would ask in polite company, on the contrary, one should have avoided this at all cost, seen as it was a formal occasion, with no hint of politics or any sort of official business. Then he spied the Japanese diplomat, and realized that 4 Russian gentlemen had just left, so obviously she had sprung a trap after the Russians left. He noted that, and put it in his deep file.

Was it something to do with the very rare picture on the front page on the 2nd of L'Echo? Of the frontline between the Russia and Japan? Is there use from St. Petersburg on the Japanese capture of one of their to basis.” Her lips turned upward, though the French diplomat did not know why; until he raised and eyebrow and with and almost imperceptible nod came to realize that the one odd face in the group was the one person who he did not know. He then guessed that the face did not belong to an individual from China, but one who was drawn from the northern part of the park – Mongolian, Korean, or Japanese. He stared to the face of this – to him – extraordinary face, and for the first time examined in detail the hues and contours which reflected deep below his features, a man. Since the French diplomat was not an ordinary man, he was not in any way in all of the yellowish cast of the skin, that being the detail which he tossed aside – unlike many of that time and place. Instead he looked beyond any form of what people in his time called “race”, to form a deeper impression. Though what that impression was could not be divined by an outside observer. But what could be said was that the French gentleman gained a new respect for the Japanese diplomat, because he knew that they were all on the same side – of the side of gaining trust and manipulating favor through the art of words. And this was a very large thing indeed. The French gentleman would also note that the lady – while looking like the contrary – was actually a very astute observer, because even to glance at L'Echo was a sign that she knew Parisian French quite well. He would not make that mistake again; he was here for remembrance of the dead man, but now he kept his eye on the lady, because even in the feminine form an adversary was still potent. In fact more so, because of its alluring form. This to was an adaptation of those older days, when most men thought nothing of the fairer sex.

Amidst the Christmas ornaments strewn around the room, a triangle was developing of the English lady, the French diplomat, and the Japanese gentleman – that would grip the three of them in a tight little bow, and how it would develop only fate would know. Because, after all, most cultures will admit that faith is also of the fairer sex. And the French diplomat knew this all to well.

My point of view - that she had arranged this conflict, but he knew that the purpose of this was to draw them together, not split them apart. But he also realized that this would be opaque to the French gentleman. He flicked his eyes over this gentleman, and wondered if this would be a sound way to introduce the two of them, with all of the bystanders. But he knew that this was also part of her plan, and he knew that no one would assuage her desire. Because underneath all of the trappings, he knew that she was a woman of intense desires – both in government, in business, and in bed – though the last he would have to take the word of several gentlemen who had had the attention.

Crept up on everyone involved that there was a intense clash between the lady and the French diplomat, as if they were measuring each other, and trying to find out who was the dominant character. On one side the French diplomat was male, which counted for a great deal, on the other hand, the lady was both stern and in her own element – this was, after all, her domain. Then gradually the French diplomat eyes rolled down in his head as he graciously bowed to the lady. And it was not just for the sake of it, he was showing submission to her. Which she graciously accepted, with a small nod and bend of the head. All at once the rest of the gathering chimed into noise, because they had seen that the French diplomat had bowed his head and made a hesitation which was all he needed to do. And everything about the conversation was about anything but the trial between the two, there would be recompense later, of course, but for now each person would hold in their head a distinct view that was completely their own, pronounced in their own particular way and in the language that they enunciated with. But each one had one thing in mind – a persistence that the lady had one the battle, but the war between them – as between the Russians and the Japanese - was as yet undecided, at least formally. It was for anyone to guess which war would be over first, one could take a fair piece of action on both sides pitting components of the to – it would be roughly even now that the Russians were not involved. Of course dvoryanstva would object to such a demeaning figure, and they would maintain that Russia would be the winner over the Oriental foe which had taken the field against them. But when looking at them concretely, the amount of land – there principle object of attention – was going down from a peak of 9/10 of all, to roughly 6/10 of all, and seemed to be going down sequentially from their. And without land they controlled nothing. And they knew that, quite well.

Interesting was that a tall Englishman came up to speak to the Japanese diplomat, and immediately inquired what he thought of the way Englishmen dealt with tragedy. “It must be unusual for you to observe the etiquette of this for land.” It was my honor to speak with him, not yet 30, looked at his new interlocutory, and tried to remain bland – has the diplomat had been.

Not at all, in fact it has a deep resonance with the way we commemorate the same feelings. Perhaps it is because this island and ours are separated from one each would call the continent.” He betrayed nothing of his content for this mannered display. And he thought of the ritual that would occupy the customs back and home, most particularly many warriors would be taking their own lives in a ritual of seppuku, which for men involved cutting open the gut, and with great grace turning a sword left than right and left again, and finally up. They would also write a poem in classic style. It was nothing like the gathering that the lady displayed. But he was polite, and it not say any of this to the tall English gentlemen. “I do not believe I have caught your name, while mine is long, you may call me Daichi, with the family name of Ishikawa.”

You will forgive me if I mispronounce your name, because while I speak many languages – all of them are what we call Indo-European and thus are related in some manner, while yours is unrelated to these and I must be forgiven for taking a little bit of time to remember it.” His white mustache ebbing and dripping as said this. He then pronounced the last name rather badly – sounding something like Ishagawa – rather than Ishikawa. But he was sincerely trying, so the Japanese diplomat gave him an encouraging nod. The Englishman then launched into his real objective: “I was wondering if you, and if possible your wife – in you have one – would like to spend and evening at the place that my wife and myself maintain here in town.” It was obvious that the Englishman maintained at least two houses, one in the Metropolitan landscape – and another in a more rural setting, being rich enough to do so in his homeland. “You can call me Earl of Lansdowne, or simply Lord Lansdowne.” By the way the Englishman said the title, the Japanese diplomat knew it must be important, though he would have to look up just how important it was. There was a Japanese house of lords, of course, but it had only been recently establish by Ito Hirobumi, largely imitating the Great Kingdom model, thus it was not as important. But he knew that it was important in England, because he had served under both liberal and conservative governments, and was always in the mix of important people, especially in the foreign affairs sphere – he would not be a man to cross with. And the Japanese man saw beneath the façade of the men, a cold and impartial stare, as if the Japanese man were a monkey. Then the realization that this man was secretary of state for foreign affairs exonerated itself, and the manners that the Japanese gentleman took on a renewed vigor, since the English was both older and more senior and held in greater esteem.

Bowed, but remembered that I should only execute a flourish rather than a true deep bow, because the Englishmen had a distinct set of flexion which was distinct from the Japanese way of doing things. Which would more characteristically be said to be obeisance then anything else, where as the English manner was more in the way of genuflection – a distinct point of difference if you knew your way around different manners. And both of them did – and then promptly ignored me, seeking instead the diplomats' point of view.

While his approach had been formal, there was more than a hint of gruff gravel to his voice, which when stirred could lash out into everything but excrescence in its scope, and perhaps even that would be ordained if necessary. The Englishman was a hard man, with hard experience, and ruthless means of attaining what he wanted. And the I recognize this, though many years his junior.

Japan, not Europe – the land of the rising sun. Because we were in the diplomatic quarter of Tokyo.
Outside the walls of this building, the positions were completely reversed. Out there people talked of nothing else that the victory. The people were whipped up in 2 a froth about the courageous troops – likened to samurai. The Russian fleet had been annihilated over the last month, and now the Army had made strides in subduing the Russian masters. In the walls, news would come only very slowly – where as outside the newspapers of Japan were celebrating. This was the spirit of the age – where people received the news only in their own language, and with the point of view of their own government.