Saturday, April 18, 2015

Black Ships.

This is coolbert:

From a comment to a prior blog entry:

"I can't help but wonder what the U.S. was punishing Japan for in 1863. It seems that minding our own business goes back a long way." - - Anonymous

American naval contingents part of a much larger multi-national-force waging a punitive campaign against rebellious Japanese factions. This was the Shimonoseki Campaign.

"The Shimonoseki Campaign . . . refers to a series of military engagements in 1863 and 1864, fought to control Shimonoseki Straits of Japan by joint naval forces from Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States, against the Japanese feudal domain of Chōshū"

Recalcitrant and objectionable Japanese warlord factions opposed to the agreements of trade and amicable diplomatic relations with the "western" world powers. This all before the Meiji era.

Those American "Black Ships" of the Perry Expedition also producing some interesting Japanese poetry with a military dimension.

"The surprise and confusion these ships inspired are described in this famous kyoka (a humorous poem similar to the 5-line waka)":

"Taihei no
 Nemuri o samasu
 Tatta shihai de
 Yoru mo nemurezu"

"This poem is a complex set of puns (in Japanese, kakekotoba or pivot words')".

"Taihei means 'tranquil'; Jokisen is the name of a costly brand of green tea containing large amounts of caffeine; and shihai means 'four cups', so a literal translation of the poem is":

"Awoken from sleep
of a peaceful quiet world
by Jokisen tea;
with only four cups of it
one can't sleep even at night."

"There is an alternate translation, based on the pivot words. Taihei can refer to the 'Pacific Ocean' ; jokisen also means 'steam-powered ships' ; and shihai also means 'four vessels'. The poem, therefore, has a hidden meaning":

"The steam-powered ships
break the halcyon slumber
of the Pacific;
a mere four boats are enough
to make us lose sleep at night."

Also this from the book "Flyboys" by Bradley:

"By many standards, Japan [in 1850] had the highest standard of living in the world, with a nationwide system of roads, a national marketing system and 'majestic citadels, many exceeding in size the largest castles in medieval Europe'".

A society of persons too with great sophistication and above all manners. "Among the heathen we shall find none that exceed the Japanese in manners" - - St. Francis Xavier.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well I'm certainly relieved to discover that U.S. military intervention was to secure the strategically indispensable Shimonoseki Straits. Where would be be today without them? U.S. military action in defence of non-vital interests, especially against a weaker power, appears to have an even longer history than I had suspected.