stories

When The Shogun Awoke - Chapter 4 (all)

Several years passed.
Awkwardness disappeared completely from Kinjiro 's enacting of mad Shogun Ashihara. This was of course due to the assiduous coaching by the nurse who had known Kinjiro well when he was mad. In addition, when he met reporters, Shimada prescribed Kinjiro an extra dose of an antidepressant called "tariran" since his melancholy mood came out involuntarily in his expressions and attitude. There was a time when people gossiped that the Shogun's remarks had become too predictable and banal and so reporters stopped coming for interviews. But as his acting improved, they started to come back with fifty sen to three yen in their pockets for interview fees.
When reporters were not at the hospital asking him questions he drafted edicts and bills. They were usually published in newspaper columns. For example when the general election was held in Taisho 13, he drew up a bill designed to enforce fair campaign practices, in which he itemized punishable offenses--- like the following :The dissolution of both Houses has now revealed their evils. In view of our principles that the state be fair to all and official discipline be strictly enforced, whoever either accepts or gives bribes during the general election shall be punished as follows :Article 1. Should, at this crucial moment for our nation, any House Member whose duty is to elucidate rights and wrongs of issues of importance to the state, advocate correct views and justice, and reflect on the national interest and welfare, offer electoral bribes, he shall be sentenced to death and his assets confiscated. Article 2. Whoever votes under the influence of a bribe at the time of election shall be fined a hundred times the sum of the bribe accepted; two-time offenders shall be fined a thousand times; and three-time offenders shall be fined ten thousand times the sum of the bribe accepted. Article 3. Any political party where at least one of its memebers is convicted of either of the two above offenses shall be ordered to dissolve itself. The said member shall be disbarred from any future political activities of any nature.Constitutional democracy is by its nature rule by majority. With due respect to this principle, I hereby submit my proposal for deliberation. Great Council of State Emperor Ashihara The third month, the thirteenth year of the Taisho Era.
Kinjiro maintained high interview fees exactly like the stingy Shogun Ashihara. If there were many reporters, he charged them twenty sen each; when there were two or three he charged fifty sen. If they wanted his photograph, he demanded two or three yen, judging each reporter with his keen, sane eyes.
One day two reporters had only one yen on them.
"What do you want today?" Kinjiro stared at the two reporters, rolling his eyes.
"Today we came to ask you for instructions as to what kind of pleasures we can get out of this one yen," the older of the two said sneeringly. His hair shone with too much grease.
In dealing with reporters like these who would look pitifully at him, a madman, he made it a rule to dispel his depressive mood by shouting out loud to surprise them. "You, creep! How much do you think a yen is worth? Mere ten mon of the past. But I know a good way to spend it. I'll tell you if you give me two yen."
These words turned the middle-aged reporter immediately sullen. His self-esteem must have been hurt by being scolded by a madman.
"Well, you've got us in a fix." said the younger of the two. "Because we are starting out from the capital of one yen. Can't you come down a little?"
"No way."
"Please!"
"No, I won't speak for one yen."
Kinjiro knew, however, that he would not haggle any more. The madman, alas, had to let them feel superior by belying his insistence on not yielding.
"Guys like Wakatsuki and Tanaka are trouble makers because they are the kind of people who want to stand out in a crowd even if they don't have money." It was not easy to distort the latest news to such a grotesque degree as this. "Despite my present plight, let me tell you, all the members of the Houses of Peers and Representatives are my disciples. For example, Hamaguchi, who is fifty seven years old, is my grandson."
"How old is Your Excellency?" asked the young reporter.
"Seventy six."
"Then he can't be your grandson." he said sneeringly. Pointing at the five cats on Kinjiro's lap, he asked, "Your Excellency, do you like cats?"
V"Whether you like them or not, you got to keep some in your house if you want to do something big. Cats correspond with each other. For example,
this cat knew about the recent fire before anybody else."
Sensing that Kinjiro was getting worked up, the middle-aged reporter started to flatter him. "Your Excellency looks very much like Kono Hironaka."
"That's right. We could be brothers. Kono is a great guy. The Chichibu Incident of Meiji 17, the Kanamiyama Incident, the Fukushima Highway Incident, and so on... allthese big feats were masterminded by him. You weren't even born yet." Treated like a teenager1 the middle-aged reporter again pouted.
Kinjiro ignored him and continued speaking, "When it comes to embezzling public funds, nobody can beat Tokugawa lesato and the incumbent Foreign Minister Shidehara. Alright, I'll write you an edict." He took a brush and wrote proudly in fluid cursives.
To Your Highness Prince Kujo:
Speaker of the House of Peers Tokugawa and Foreign Minister Shidehara shall be eliminated by the force of the entire Imperial Army.
Shogun Ashihara
Kinjiro continued. "Appoint Maeda Toshisada as Speaker and Tokugawa Yohachiro as Foreign Minister. Japanese politics today is like England's, very cunning. We've got to learn from France. Explain these matters to Kujo Toshiko. She is easy to deal with. She is still single."
"Your Excellency, she is no longer single."
"Hm, she is married already?" He tilted his head with an incredulous look. "Wakatsuka's degraded himself to the point of consulting Saionji. What an outrage for a politician! He'd better consult me instead. I can guarantee his cabinet ten years of life. Generally speaking, nowadays ministers are no better than beggars." Jumping from topic to topic was not easy for Kinjiro. "Since the Prince Regent is visiting Hyogo now, political parties should adopt the ancient Great Council system. Those who disobey me shall all be banished to foreign countries. Aoki and Konoe of the Study Group will do hard labor at the Food Division."
"By the way," asked the middle-aged reporter, "what is your view on disarmament?"
"If airplanes get better, we stop producing cannons. As easy as that. As for the situation in Europe, heroic France and womanish England are fighting over Singapore and the rest of the world is wondering which side to support."
Shimada came in. "Oh, you are still interviewing him," he mumbled with a sour look, staring suspiciously at the reporters. "I came to examine the patient, but I think I should come back later."
"Err... please stay. We are just about to finish up." said the reporters. "Mr. Shogun, thank you very much for your interesting ideas."
"Hmm, thank you for your trouble. You may go." said Kinjiro stroking his beard.
Shimada fixed a sad gaze on the back of the departing reporters. "Those guys don't look so excited."
"Things didn't go well today." Feeling dejected Kinjiro picked up two fifty sen coins from the tatami floor. "It wasn't easy to please those idiots." "I came this way thinking that the medication had probably begun to lose its power. So, that's what happened." He sat in front of Kinjiro. "Shall I increase the dose from now on?"
"No, please don't. It makes me very thirsty," said Kinjiro, shaking his head, "But I'm glad you are here. It's depressing enough having to keep company with idiots. So just to think they are treating me as a madman makes me even more depressed." He sighed deeply. "As you know, I'm a man of high self-esteem. In fact I think I'm more intelligent than most people. But even before I say that, I can say I'm proud to be sane. So no matter how haughtily I behave and how subserviently they behave, I can tell that they are laughing at me deep down. "The misery of a madman", "Lunatic Asylum---here too is a rough world: one yen for an interview": so they write mockingly in the papers. I can't put up with them any more.
"I understand," said the doctor nodding slowly several times. "In the past the First Lieutenant Kotani came here frequently to encourage you and cheer you up telling you how much you helped boost the nation's morale. But suddenly he stopped coming."
"Of course. Those peaceful days when the military used a madman for PR purposes are gone forever." Kinjiro cast a glance at his ceremonial uniform with a sorry look. "I acted a caricature of militarymen. And people felt warmly about them. But now the world is stinking with decadance. I don't need to play that role any more because there are plenty of other people who are disgusted with the military and caricaturize it all the time. The military has become more sensitive to their kind of humor and so it's only natural that it started to shun me."
"Excuse me." The door opened and the nurse entered the room holding a tray. She glanced at Shimada with a frown but when she looked toward Kinjiro her face was smiling. "It looks like the reporters went home. I'm here to clear things away."
"Thank you very much." Kinjiro handed a fifty sen coin to the nurse who started to clear the tea bowls. "Please buy some cakes for the patients."
"Thank you as always, Mr. Shogun." She made a gesture of gratitude by raising the coin with both hands, smiling. Putting it carefully inside a pocket in her white uniform, she glanced at Shimada and then strode out of the room.
"I can't stand it," said Kinjiro staring at the tatami mat as if to spit the words out. "I just can't stand the fact that I can't live in this world unless I act like a madman even though I'm not." With his imploring gaze fixed on the doctor, he continued as if to make each point clear. "Come to think about it, I have a feeling that I was happiest when I was mad. Shouting and swaggering, I truly believed I was a shogun. I could always have my way with whoever called me "shogun" no matter how they felt about me. I didn't have to distress myself with suspicions that those flatterers who called me "Shogun" or "Your Majesty" might actually be sneering at me behind my back. In other words I had to stay insane to materialize my old-time dream of being recognized as somebody important. To put it differently, by being insane I could be myself without shrinking back before others, at last, for the first time in my life. I'm envious of what I was when I was mad. I even respect my former self as a madman. Why? The reason is that even though I had my ways all the time people liked me better when I was mad than when I was normal. Reporters and people in general were more pleased with what I said when I was mad than when I was sane. I'm even beginning to think that I should have stayed insane to take full advantage of my talent. When I read papers of the past I notice that I was full of such generosity, explosive vigor, and superhuman capacity to fantacize that as a sane man I can't even imagine to emulate. I want to regain the talent of my former self. I want to lose my mind again." He dropped his head forward in despair. "I want to go mad again!"
Just then a sound of footsteps came running along the hallway and also a scream.
"Help! Hhhhelp!" It was Nurse Kanasugi shrieking.
"Doctor! Please help me!" She darted into the room and hiding herself behind the doctor screamed, "Murderer!"
The Grand Chamberlain came running into the room, his face red with fury. "You bitch, I'll smash your brain out!"
"Stop that," Kinjiro cried, with as much dignity as he could gather, to the Grand Chamberlain who was about to grab the nurse. "Quiet. You insolent wretch."
The Grand Chamberlain prostrated himself before him. "Yes, Your Majesty."
"What the hell is going on here?" asked the doctor.
"This man...this man..." The nurse cried hysterically pointing at the Grand Chamberlain, trembling. Her eyes were wide open behind her glasses. "This man attacked me all of a sudden. I didn't do anything."
"You didn't do anything?" The Grand Chamberlain said again, flying into a temper. "You lunatic bitch."
"Calm down. I thought you never got aggressive with lunatics," said Kinjiro, putting his hand on the Grand Chamberlain's shoulder.
"No, on the contrary. I only beat up lunatics," cried the Grand Chamberlain.
V"Explain what's going on. What are you so mad about?" This time the doctor asked the Grand Chamberlain.
"She makes us eat rotten eggs all the time." said the Grand Chamberlain, who had somewhat quieted down. "We've been complaining for a long time. But she would always say, 'I won't allow you to make complaints. If you protest, I'll tell the doctor that you are dangerous and request that you be held in solitary confinement.' I've had diarrhoea for ages. My underwear is all yellow. It stinks. My ass is no good unless you want manure. Today again you served us rotten eggs. I didn't eat. Then she said she would't give me any more eggs beginning tomorrow."
"Hum. What you are saying makes sense." The doctor nodded.
"What are you talking about? Do you trust what this mad man is saying?" The nurse burst into tears. "I almost gotkilled."
"Nothing's wrong with my mind," cried the Grand Chamberlain. "I'll kill you."
"You see? He said he would kill me. That's why I say he is crazy." The nurse provoked him.
The Grand Chamberlain jumped at her and began to strangle her from behind.
"I told you. Patients get angry when you say things like that." The doctor turned his face away from her with a scorn.
"G... gan't breathe. E.. .elp. I'll... die..." Choking, the nurse rolled her eyes and started to kick noisily in the air.
"What's happening here?" The chief-of-staff, other doctors, and some patients rushed into the room.
VThis clamorous commotion lasted for over an hour.