By Anthony Grey
By way of the writer of "Saigon" and "Peking". Set in July 1853, this story of the 1st conflict among the fledgling glossy countries of the United States and Japan illustrates the civilian hysteria provoked via the arriving of the americans on steam-driven warships, and the mutual fears this set in position.
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The vessels carry many mighty cannon and hundreds of soldiers... They are driven by great wheels which churn the water into white waves... ’ He paused once more, struggling to catch his breath. He had just used the pejorative expression gai-jin meaning ‘outside country barbarians’, and his eyes flashed as he repeated it. ‘The gai-jin are all Americans. Some are black giants! They forced their way ashore in the Satsuma tributary islands of Lew Chew, to the south-west. They appear to be intent on conquest!
Above, in the deep darkness of the sky, millions of stars were shining brilliantly, and on reaching the very top, instead of looking down into the crater, he found himself reaching up with his arms into the midnight heavens. Without difficulty he began pulling at the sky, and drawing down the dark stuff of the night. It came easily into his hands like glistening silk. The silver stars continued to shine as he wrapped them around his body in a loose and beautiful cloak which trailed across the snow behind him.
Reassured he stepped nearer. But when he studied his reflection, he suffered a sudden deep sense of shock. In place of his own familiar features, he found he was staring into the unsmiling face of a Japanese samurai. The top of the warrior’s head was shaven, and a long oiled pigtail was tied in a topknot across his crown. Dark eyes bore into his unwaveringly, their expression hostile one moment and enigmatically quizzical the next. Then, as Eden watched, this fierce male face dissolved slowly, to be replaced by the softer countenance of a beautiful Japanese girl.
Tokyo Bay by Anthony Grey