stories

When The Shogun Awoke - Chapter 3 (all)

On the same day a certain first lieutenant in the army, Hideaki Kotani, visited Kinjiro in his hospital room. He was a young man thirty years of age who, despite his young age, spoke like an older man with more experience in life.
"Last night I received the news from the chief-of-staff that you had completely recovered. My visit is with regard to your recovery." Sitting face to face with Kinjiro, First Lieutenant Kotani spoke with a grave look. "Congratulations! I wish I could say that... but to tell the truth, I was instructed by my superior to communicate some news that may be displeasing to you."
"I can imagine what it is. The chief-of-staff drop me a hint a while ago." Kinjiro nodded, sighing. "You are asking me to pretend to be mad, to be my former self, Shogun Ashihara, aren't you?"
"Exactly, to tell you the truth." The first lieutenant sighed, imitating Kinjiro. "I hesitated because it's not an easy thing to ask, you know."
"Why?" Kinjiro looked up. "How does the army benefit if I pretend to be mad?"
"I'm not sure if you can call it 'benefit'." After a moment of deep thought the first lieutenant smiled at Kinjiro. "I should rather start from the beginning and talk about how Japan's state of affairs influenced what you said and did, which in turn captivated the people's minds and enhanced the nation's morale."
"I'm afraid I don't know what you are talking about." Kinjiro said mournfully. "Nobody told me about what happened after I got hospitalized. I'd appreciate it if you could tell me. To tell the truth I would rather not hear stories about my shameful conduct when I was sick, because I'm the kind of person who fears losing self-esteem more than anything else. But I cannot resist, please go on."
"In January of the fifteenth year of Meiji, the Rescript to Soldiers was promulgated. The same year you were hospitalized to the Tokyo Lunatic Asylum," the First Lieutenant started relating. "The fortunes of the nation were on an upsurge with boundless oppotunities for foreign expansion. The military grew stronger day by day, and the general mood was such that people began to admire militarymen and regard all others less than human. In this uplifting mood, your high-spirited slogans such as 'Conquer China! or 'Tons of military funds are in my hands!' completely captured the hearts of the people. However, there were still many conscientious objectors. It was quite popular to go on pilgrimage to the Izumo Shrine to pray for draft evasion. For this reason the military decided to publicize your activities to enhance the people's militaristic morale. This was during the eighteenth year of Meiji. The name of the hospital was changed to Sugamo Hospital. You were very much concerned about affairs of the state, making two feet four inches long cannons of five inch caliber out of trash and rags glued together, discussing national politics, promulgating laws and so on. The military put pressure on the@press to report everything about your activities. You joined the cream of Japan's celebrities. The Meiji twenties were the times when Japanese nationalism was gradually raising its head. There were several incidents of hostility between Japan and Chin China over the control of Korea. You were au courant with international politics because you read newspapers everyday. One day you finally declared yourself Great Minister of the Center, Shogun Ashihara, and anounced edicts to the world: "To the Finance Minister: by my order you shall donate ten billion yen to the military for the purpose of unifying the world." "To the Emperor of Russia: by my order you shall dispatch Army Minister to the residence of Shogun Ashihara in Tokyo." "To the Soviet Revolutionary Government:Ten thousand female civil servants are to be employed at an annual salary of thirty thousand yen. Signed, Shogun Ashihara." etc. etc. In the twenty seventh year of Meiji the Sino-Japanese War broke out. You became so excited that you cried, "The destiny of our empire hinges on this war!" You annouced that you would take the heads of the major states as hostages and allocated one district of Tokyo for each one of them on a map. You boasted you could make one hundred billion yen instantly for the military by building a gigantic paper-money printing machine which would print all the currencies in the world. You announced your intention of moving the Finance Ministry and the Mint Bureau to Taotsuoshan. You said you would hand over your mansion to the British Empire for one hundred million yen. You said you would exterminate peasants in a sea battle. You boasted if you travelled to Korea you would make Japan the Land of Fertility and Korea the land of ten rice harvests per year. You declared you would turn Manchuria into an international park since it occupied such a vast territory. Etc. Etc. With these ludicrous remarks you enticed the people into a militaristic mood arousing sensational guafaws all over Japan. The entire nation was intoxicated in a victorious mood; geisha called nasty clients Li Hung-chang, their gobetweens the Red Cross. Toy decorations were on sale everywhere on the streets. As for you, you made a military uniform out of an old frock coat, decorated it with medals made of gold and silver colored paper, posed imperiously in an ceremonial hat made of paper, and played out of tune the lute which you claimed confered by the Crown Princess. Your pictures appeared in papers all over Japan and made people laugh uproariously. During the Russo-Japanese War you expressed your discontent with the cabinet and went on to form an Ashihara Cabinet, declaring it to be the last cabinet in Japanese history. The members were as follows: Prime Minister, Senior First Rank Shogun Ashihara; Foreign Minister, Yamaoka Tesshu; Education Minister, Chiba Shusaku" As soon as he finished the last word, he let out a suppressed laugh. "Oh, I'm sorry."
All Kinjiro could do was gaze resentfully at the First Lieutenant.
"The victory in the Russo-Japanese War further intensified the people's worship of militarymen. The streets were filled with tunes praising them. The lantern procession@celebrating the victory was so riotous that twenty people were killed. Politicians with military backgrounds such as Yamagata Aritomo, Katsura Taro, Yomamoto Gon'nohyoe, and so on assumed Premiership one after another: the military finally gained political power. This heyday of the military continued. The military tried various ways to make you a news story. One of which was a tete-a-tete with General Nogi. They thought it would make an interesting story if you met General Nogi, the leading player in the war. The senano they wrote went like this: on July ninth in the forty-third year of Meiji, General Nogi, Lieutenant General Saito, and Colonel Tsubaki would visit Sugamo Hospital to study its management for the creation of a new hospital for disabled soldiers. There they would meet with Shogun Ashihara. You said to the general, "You underwent great hardship in Lu Shun. Many thanks for your trouble. And my condolences for the loss of your two children during the war. It must be heart-breaking for you. I'm greatly sorry." Of course your words made the front page. One of the reporters went so far as to cook up a story that the general wept at your words, and that too caused a sensation. You went on like this providing material for the papers by reacting sensitively to new trends. In January of the forty-fourth year of Meiji, you issued a proclamation entitled They deserve to be hanged in response to the so-called Great Treason Incident involving Kotoku Shusui and others. On October twenty fourth of the forty fourth year of Meiji when the Coalition for the Relief of the Mentally Ill held a grand garden party, you made a speech and@led a chorus wishing the Emperor a long life in front of Count Okuma Shigenobu. You represented the entire population of the mentally ill in Japan. Afterwards, in the talent show, you played the role of Oishi Kuranosuke. You had a keen interest especially in the issues involvining China, which perfectly suited the intentions of the military. On September twenty fifth of the second year of Taisho, the military authorities sent Kawashima, Honjo Yasutaro, Kohira Soichi of the Society for Sino-Japanese Friendship to your place. You said to these three gentlemen, 'The current state of China which has reached a height of confusion can be attributed no more appropriately than to the inadequacies of its educational system. For this reason I consider it imperative to reform their current system by supplanting it with the Japanese educational system. As to the details, we should consider sending beautiful Japanese women to China to teach the people singing and dancing. We should also frequently send warships to China; and should there be an attempt made to restore the Chin Dynasty we must promptly subjugate China to our control. In retrospect the recent war with Russia was ill-timed; had I been in charge of negotiations I would not have resorted to war. Had we waited a little longer, Russia would have offered us Western Siberia and Manchuria subsequent to considerable development of those areas. This loss of oppotunity cannot be overly lamented. In the future I intend to command a fleet of warships and adopt measures to repay our debts.' In response to Mr. Kawashima's question whether or not you had troops and the money to suppport them, you replied, 'I would be confident of my victory if I were to base the headquarters near Ashio Copper Mines, taking advantage of the abundant lake water and enlisting soldiers from the region. In brief, Japanese politics has no acumen, and that's why the goverment amasses debts. All they know is preach frugality and economy; for instance, in this hospital, the head nurse would not give out even one egg to a patient. And yet the hospital to which Goto Shimpei invested one million yen for its construction, for example, required numerous repairs soon after its completion because the job was subcontracted to an incompetant developper. The foundation of the brick building in Ginza which Goto built in the sixteenth year of Meiji had double structure and was three feet deep; consequently it could withstand any natural disaster, be it storm or earthquake, however severe.' Finally, when they asked if you wanted to make any request, you replied, 'I would like to request a set of Army Genereal ceremonial uniforms. The clothes I have worn for the last several years are too soiled not to be presentable in the presence of the Emperor. Also when I go out, I would like to have a horse carriage waiting for me outside. As a matter of fact I very much wish to meet with the widow of former Lord Yamada of Kaga Province who, though now a widow, visits China frequently and is therefore very informed of the current affairs. Wherein reside the noble officials of Chin China, I wonder!' Hearing all this spoken in a grave tone the three men had to suppress laughter. That was all for that day. It wasn't until November that they sent you a set of ceremonial uniforms of the Republic of China's Army General. That's what you see on the wall." The First Lieutenant pointed at the ceremonial uniform. "It was decided that a plaster statue of you dressed in this uniform with a saber in your right hand would be exhibited in the following year's Tokyo Exposition. With regard to the event you made the following statement to the reporters: 'Ah, you mean the bronze statue! It's going to be ready very soon. The site has not been chosen yet, but as things stand now it is going to be on top of Miyagi Castle's donjon's stone wall. The railing of the fense surrounding it is going to be inlaid with fifteen diamonds. The Tzar of Russia is supposed to send them to me soon. I'm inviting all the Cabinet Members, from the Minister of the Imperior Household down to the least important and several others from the House of Peers to the opening ceremony. Come and see me then.' And: 'Recently the China situation is growing increasingly complex, exposing the Justice Minister's incompetency. We'd better fire Matsuda and replace him with that member of the Indian royal family, the one who resides in Akasakadai-cho. When you go back to your offices, report this appointment in your papers.' Later during World War I you advocated a conquest of the world, and at the time of the Siberia Intervention, the occupation of Siberia. But right before this period people started to voice their resentment of highhanded militarymen. The imported notion of democracy turned the trend around and such words as 'warlords' and 'militarism' became epithets of contempt. Public opinion became clearly anti-military.Militarymen had often been seen swaggering in trains, but now they made themselves small in corners. General Togo, who once shook the world, was only remembered as a brandname for steel; and people knew about General Nogi only as a name for crackers. Recently your political commentaries have lost their sharpness and the influence they had before. According to the chief-of-staff's diagnosis it's because your temperament has begun to curve downward towards a depressive state. And yesterday morning you returned to normal. But I'm afraid to say that your return to normalcy is, from the military's point of view, nothing less than regrettable. Today Japan is facing a grave crisis. It's only the military that can save our country from this deepening crisis of capitalism." The first lieutenant grew more excited. His smiling face had turned serious, cheeks tense and eyes shining with a strange luster. "Now is the crucial moment if the military wants to regain the trust of the people. The Russo-Japanese War brought us political control over Korea. But how about Manchuria? All we have is exclusive rights on Southern Manchuria. Ah! Manchuria! Manchuria is an inexhuastible treasure house! The most urgent business for our country at this moment is to bring the entire Manchuria under our exclusive control." The first lieutenant stood up and started to pace back and forth swinging his arms and sputtering as he spoke, "At this crucial moment when we are on the brink of a possible worldwide financial catastrophe, Manchuria has the utmost importance for Japan as a market and as a colony. Yes, in China revolutionary movement is on the rise. What if it spreads to Manchuria or to Korea? Japan will be left behind! To stop that from happening, it is absolutely crucial to take over the entire Manchuria now!" He started to yell. "We've got to stop Russia! It's attempting to take over Manchuria! We've got to turn Manchuria into a military base for a war against Russia! Japan is now pressed by the political and military need to occupy Manchuria! But look what the Cabinet is doing! It recognized the need; but there is no agreement on the timing nor on the means of accomplishing it --neither among the parties nor among bureaucrats! The army, too, is to be blamed! We need strong leadership! We need initiative! Now is the time that we, young officers, should act on our own! That's why we need you! You have a mission to direct the nation's attention to us! That's right!" He prostrated himself before Kinjiro with his forehead rubbing against the tatami floor. "Please! Please, please don't go back to normal! Please cooperate with us! Please be nice like you used to be! Please stay mad !"
The nurse came into the room. After saying hello to the First Lieutenant in a friendly manner, she said to Kinjiro, "Excuse me, Mr. Shogun. The Grand Chamberlain and the Four Devas are requesting an audience with you if you are feeling well."
"The Grand Chamberlain and the Four Devas?" Kinjiro asked with a frown on his face. "Are you sure they aren't dangerous madmen?"
"No, not at all. But the Grand Chamberlain is schizophreniac and for that reason he is usually violent toward normal people. But so far he hasn't done any harm to you."
"What!?" Kinjiro rose up. "Then if he sees that I'm normal he's going to attack me?"
"I guess so." The nurse smirked. "But if you cooperate and be nice with us like you used to...
"Alright, then, call them in." So saying halfheartedly, he mumbled to himself, "after all this world doesn't seem to have any room for sanity."
"All right!" She went out joyfully.
"0! Then you are going to do it!" The First Lieutenat yelled, eyes glittering. "So you are going to cooperate. You are going to be friends with us like you used to. Thank you so much. As a representative of the army, or rather the entire body of military personel, I would like to express our deep gratitude." Again he rubbed his forehead against the tatami floor. Here is a little token of gratitude from our group of young officers, we call ourselves the Cherryblossoms Club. Please accept it."
"Oh, thank you." Kinjiro took the envelope which contained money.
"Now, please excuse me; I have to be on my way." The First Lieutenant saluted Kinjiro and went out.
Shaking the three cats off his lap, Kinjiro stood up sluggishly and took off his nightclothes. He walked toward the corner of the room and put on the ceremonial uniform. He felt strangely excited in the formal attire. He put on theceremonial hat, attached the saber to his waist, brought the table to the center of the room, and holding the military leader's fan, jumped on top of the ~table.
"I, Grand Chamberlain Sakanoue Jirota, and four others are here. We request permission to enter."
"Yes, you may come in." Half out of desperation, Kinjiro cried in response. He stuck out his chest.
The Grand Chamberlain and the Four Devas came in. All of them were dressed in tattered clothes. Each wore a rope made of straw as a belt. They lined up in front of the Shogun.
"We are very much honored to be in the presence of Your Excellency and are pleased to see You in good health." Representing the whole group, the Grand Chamberlain paid respects to the Shogun at the top of his voice. "On this auspicious day, your Excellency1 the deceased bride and bridegroom have received a draft call letter. We are all resolute in our resolution for the determination to subject ourselves to Your Excellency's honorable command that we cut our throats and die, so hereby we solemnly pledge our allegence. Otherwise, all the trouble we took in leaving our homes behind would be in vain. One feels nostalgic for home from afar; but do come near and take a close look at us! At this crucial juncture we will all be dispatched to Manchuria like a fireball, Japanese flags around our heads, sashes around our waists, pajamas around the rest, setting Manchuria on fire, wiping out all those Chinks. Has Your Excellency recovered from yesterday's sickness? Are you alright now? If so, fine. We are all happily suffering diarrhea from the terrible eggs we ate this morning. We were concerned about your health and that's why we came. The news of your granting us an audiance should be proudly passed on to the poison snake served at the grilled eels restaurant..."