Log in

No account? Create an account
patriciaormsby's Journal
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends]

Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in patriciaormsby's LiveJournal:

[ << Previous 20 ]
Sunday, March 27th, 2016
8:24 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.1
1  Storks and Butterflies

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)
September 2116

The morning sun illuminated a soft blue September sky, shimmering across Puget Sound with the promise of another sweltering day ahead. Cedar-covered islands beckoned in the distance. Their shores were all tangled masses of fallen cedars, decaying and eroding slowly in the surf, but on nice days like this it was possible to row a boat across through the driftwood and debris, and dock it among the fallen trees. By tying it to a stout polished branch of a well-chosen giant, while bearing in mind the prodigious tides here, you could walk up the trunk into the forests, where huckleberries and thimbleberries grew profusely in the cool shade, and lots of blackberries waited in any sunny clearing.Read more...Collapse )

From the middle of this blue sky came a faint but deep drone unlike anything that had been heard in this region since the wars following the dissolution of the old U.S. empire.

Weather-beaten farmers in their fields cast worried looks overhead, squinting into the pastel depths to locate the vanishingly small silver object that produced that dreadfully haunting sound.
Children ran for their mothers; fishermen, roofers and recyclers stopped what they were doing and cast puzzled looks at each other. There had been rumors of an important visitor arriving from Japan at some time in the coming weeks.

One of the young carpenters working on a new extension upstairs of the “Fashions & Notions” tailor and fabric shop in downtown Neverwet, Washington (formerly Everett) went bolting down the makeshift stairs, calling, “Henry! Henry! Yeh gotta git up’ere and see this!”

“Just give me a minute, Josh, and I’ll be with you,” said Henry, squinting at the needle he was attempting to thread on his sturdy steel foot-pumped sewing machine. Finishing that, and laying aside the silk fabric he’d been working with, Henry straightened his lapels, and with the stern frown that, together with his severely central-parted greased and well-trimmed hair, always belied his easy-going nature, he climbed the crude wooden steps up onto what had been the roof of his shop and stepped out from under what was becoming the new roof.

“Look up in the sky over there, will yeh.”
“By golly! That has got to be an airplane!” exclaimed the astonished gentleman.
“Well, we figured as much,” said Josh excitedly, “But who do yeh think? You know the Japs, Henry. Dyeh think it’s the Japs?”
“Japanese, Josh, Japanese!”
“Dyeh think it’s the Japanese?” said Josh, ignoring the rebuke.
“Well, let me get a good look…” Henry brought up his monocle and squinted through it at the tiny object far away. Then he ran downstairs and came back with a sturdy pair of binoculars.
They could see it was just one airplane, not an invading force. No escorts. Really rather lonely looking, laboring through the vast blue space.
“Josh, we really do not know who it is at this point,” explained Henry. “The Japanese have not flown anything more impressive than a microlight for decades, so it would be highly doubtful. Let me look at it again…no. Just an obscure marking… New England, now. They might. On the other hand, though, the Japanese could have revived the art out of necessity. You realize what that would mean.”
“They figured out cold fusion!!”
“No, that’s not what it means, Josh,” said Henry as he continued to watch the airplane. “Hmm, it’s turning this way. Still can’t tell. Might be Canada. Cross-Pacific flight is for all practical purposes, dead.”
“But what if it is the Japanese?”
“Oh, well, Josh,” said Henry, passing him the binoculars. “It would mean the Japanese are getting stomped, and that’ll be their prime minister, defense minister, possibly even the emperor.”
“The emperor! That’d be so swell! Will yeh meet ‘im?”
“I don’t think so. They’ll make their stand down in Seattle for a while under heavy guard and anonymity. For that reason, I would expect them to be coming by ship, just like everyone else.”

As the aircraft came lower and closer, they could see it was a heavy keeled seaplane. The red hinomaru under its wings flashed as it banked.

The entire town of Neverwet Washington had turned out to watch by then. The plane slowly turned back, deepening its somber droning further and further as the pilots throttled back, intensifying menacingly as it come lower and lower, until finally it turned back over the sound, banked one last time, and came skimming across the water just above the waves. The engines’ droning stepped one degree lower, and Henry, Josh and anyone else watching from a good vantage point could see white water spray upward, nearly concealing the seaplane. It was then that they also noticed the small flotilla of motorboats, rapidly converted from fishing craft, that had departed from the recently refurbished dock. That in itself would remove any doubt from the minds of what few citizens had not already ascertained it. It was the Japanese again alright.

The Japanese were a stiff but pleasant folk who, upon being released from the overcrowded refugee camps, where they’d been detained under conditions of severe deprivation, in some cases for more than a decade, had taken to repopulating deserted inland communities. There they secluded themselves in deep austerity, a genteel but real poverty, as if in permanent mourning. Despite this, they made sincere efforts to maintain good relations with their neighbors. They’d been known to share their rice, for example, during times of famine. They seemed to bear no grudge toward the Cascade Republic over the ill treatment they had received, but everyone always wondered what they might be saying in private. Worst of all, there were so many of them. And more kept showing up.

Everyone knew that if you crossed them, retribution was swift, but after that, they’d all be smiling and affable again, as if nothing had happened. That was nice, but also unsettling.

There was a ragged group of Japanese fishermen inhabiting the flooded ruins near the dock like so many cormorants. They built tiny, but sturdy shacks among these ruins, where they seemed to weather even the nastiest winter storms. You’d check on them the next day, rather worried, and there they were, repairing their shacks and boats. Unlike the other Japanese, they all smoked, and they also tended to go out to sea wearing no clothing whatsoever except a single length of red twine tied around their privates. People wondered if they’d feel naked without that. Attempts to get them to show more public decency were met with obstinate requests for others to respect their privacy.

 The inland Japanese would journey over in groups to exchange rice and cured tobacco for dried or smoked fish, mostly small ones that no one else was interested in, and take those back as an important protein source. They seemed to have worked out a system in which each town would send its merchants over on certain days, so that there was a steady flow of them. They seemed to want to make everything move like clockwork. A big disruption, such as an unexpected storm, would cause confusion, but then they would get organized again and get on with things.

Recently a new group of Japanese had begun arriving. Over the past several decades, they seemed to show up in waves, and each time a new group would show up, the Daiippa (first wave), who’d experienced the camps, would hear about them and approach the authorities in whatever towns they were being detained in with a promise to take care of them on their own.

“Well, where’ll yeh put ‘em?” they’d be asked.
“In our towns.”
“And ‘ow’ll yeh cope with ‘em?”
“We will work harder. We will expand our irrigation system and fields.”

It always seemed to work out, though with new mouths to feed they would lapse into visible poverty yet again, with signs of malnutrition, and you wondered where the breaking point would be with larger groups, but they kept their word and “coped” with them somehow.

Their clothing at this time, among the poorest groups, consisted of patches, the children favored with more colorful ones, which were stitched together with whatever they could scrounge, sometimes human hair, a detail omitted when this became a popular urban fashion in the wake of the story I am about to tell you.

Even in their hardest times, they always managed to hold little festivals, inviting anyone in who stopped by, plying them with whatever booze they’d produced. Each day they’d put out little offerings in front of their arrays of little stone Buddhas. A child would stand guard nearby to keep off crows, chickens and dogs, and in the evening, the offerings were retrieved and divided up.
In addition to chickens, they kept a smattering of goats and large mobs of ducks that they released into their paddies each morning. From a distance, you could hear the curious chiming of the drakes, punctuated by stentorian demands from the females. They didn’t seem to eat the meat from these, though, but traded it for medicines and other necessities.

It was hard to tell what the mortality rates were in their communities, because they seemed to save up bodies and then hold mass cremations when they had the resources, and it appeared some of these cremations themselves may have been merely symbolic. Each village had its own priests, both Buddhist and Shinto whose duties included keeping account of everyone, but they wouldn’t divulge information to outsiders.

One thing that everyone noticed was that they seemed to divide up each new group of arriving refugees based on region of origin and distribute them that way.

It was all, let’s say, a bit too well organized, as if it had been planned out in advance. And the refugees just kept coming. The old container ships had quit arriving quite a while back, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief because that seemed to be the end of the mass migration. That respite, however, lasted for only a little over a decade, and then they started showing up again, this time in jerry-rigged craft, telling horror stories from the war-torn western regions of Japan, where they were facing an even more desperate mass of invaders from famine-stricken parts of China. Clearly, anyone capable of getting out of the way was fleeing. Hope still lay to the east, from whence the sun arose. The relative prosperity of the Daiippa survivors was well known to the new refugees. In fact, it was famous worldwide.

It didn’t really help matters when people learned that the term “daiippa” dated from World War II, when it meant “assault wave,” as in Pearl Harbor, but by then everyone also realized that this time it was a peaceful assault conducted by a pitiable crowd, capable of little more than begging, and that, furthermore, there was nothing that could be done to stop the influx.

This new group, though, was entirely different. They arrived not in overloaded fishing boats, but old passenger ships, which would be met and escorted in by the navy. They discharged their passengers, refueled at one naval base or another and departed with a load of arms and ammunition to be used in the war against China. Furthermore, local officials were being notified ahead of time how many people were to arrive, their path of travel, and their location of resettlement. These were to be temporary refugees, it was said. It was also said that the surge in demand for bio-diesel, spiking food prices, would then subside, causing these prices to crash again. The new group was thus having a severe impact already, to which they appeared to be oblivious.

Their arrival, of course, suggested the war with China was not going quite as well as they’d expected. The Japanese all hastily denied that. But new houses continued to be built in the inland communities, and an influx of wealth brought formerly quiet little towns to life, with the new refugees and their awkward English making frequent trips in groups into larger towns and cities to make deals with the merchants for goods and services.

The newcomers had considerably more pride, too, than the previous waves of refugees. Haughty teens strutted down the newly refurbished pier carrying cloth-covered, but still obvious, swords on their shoulders. Their clothes were western, but they all seemed to look disconcertingly identical.

Everyone knew the government was monitoring radio messages being sent between Japan and Cascadia. It was said that some important people had decided that it would be safer for their families to take temporary refuge among the Japanese-speaking communities of the Cascade Republic. The papers announced the number of people scheduled to arrive, and these numbers kept growing, as did the estimated length of the visitors’ stay. Some of the messages intercepted were in a code that translated into nonsensical stories about butterflies, chrysalides, swans, storks that swam, apples being washed for a feast, giants waiting, lawyers dancing, and on and on.

The people of Neverwet turned to Henry, the town’s tailor of highest repute, because he spoke a certain amount of the language and had established friends among the Japanese, who had been visiting his shop more and more frequently.

“Apples,” he explained to them, “Probably refer to Cascadia. The Japanese are still growing them out in the mountains, while other farmers have been having difficulty with them in the heat. They take a lot of pride in that, you know. Now, the ‘giants’ and ‘lawyers,’ that is a puzzle to me, but one of the ladies from Rock Hills told me it might refer to the shrine out her way, where many Japanese are living. In fact, the shrine has been there for more than a century, predating the fall of the U.S. In fact, some of the new refugees have been going there. Most of them are going to Seattle and other cities. So this is just a guess. But if it turns out that I’m correct, we may have some interesting guests.”

The arrival today of such an impressive aircraft caused quite a stir among the people of Neverwet, which until recently had been a quiet, fairly prosperous town rebuilding from the wars and retreating from the encroaching sea. Everybody in town knew what an “empire” was, and why you didn’t want to have anything to do with one. On the other hand, how many of them had ever had a chance to see an emperor?

The Emperor of Japan, they knew, was rumored to be in poor health. He’d not made any public appearances for quite some time.

“’Ow long’d they say?” asked Josh observing the aircraft on the sound. “A year? Two? That’d go a long way towards explaining the extravagance of reviving aviation just for this. A long sea voyage could take a toll on a guy, no matter ‘ow luxurious the quarters.”
“Well, you know, there’s been hints of this or some big event set to happen here, and Neverwet still has the old naval port. There had to be a reason for that,” shrugged Henry. “Or perhaps they just thought up a new reason to justify it.”

The port had been heavily bombarded in the wars and the city itself had been largely abandoned at this time. Winter hurricanes with high tides had driven what residents remained eastward, out of the Snohomish delta to a bluff they dubbed “Neverwet.” Thus the town normally had a military presence, but for the past week there had been an influx of army personnel as well, who had been told to keep quiet about their mission there.

“You’d think they’d be more inconspicuous about it if it were someone important to them,” said Henry. “Every person in a week’s gossip reach knows something is going on over here.”

What occurred next only fueled speculations about the identity of the passengers. The largest of the boats in the flotilla, which had a sizable cabin, approached the seaplane, which shut off its engines in response, allowing the boat to row in closer and dock. The other boats spread out in a circle around the seaplane as if to guard it. Folks like Josh and Henry with binoculars and a good enough view could see a side door on the seaplane open and, from the boat, a stout wooden plank extend out to it. After a few minutes, some men dressed entirely in white except for tall black casques on their heads brought out some hoops and began extending a large length of white cloth along the plank until it was entirely concealed. This ostentatious method would allow passengers or goods to be transferred along it either way unseen. The cloth remained in place for the better part of an hour before the men in white reappeared, folding the cloth slowly and bundling it methodically, maintaining the stateliness of a ritual.

“That can only be the Emperor!” concluded Henry, awed.

When they had finished, the plank was withdrawn and stowed, and the door on the seaplane closed.

Surrounded now by the smaller boats, the big boat with its mysterious passengers or cargo proceeded slowly to the refurbished pier.

“Must’a run outta gas!” said Josh, taking a turn with the binoculars.
“Why do you say that?”
“The big boat’s being rowed. Oh, ‘eads’ll roll, won’t they?”
When the big boat laboriously finally reached the refurbished pier, the ritual with the white cloth was repeated.

When that finished, five white lacquered palanquins with round golden inlaid seals stood revealed on the pier.

Current Mood: awed
8:14 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.2
 2  The Pink Princess

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

The very next day, all of Neverwet was abuzz with sorts the of interesting stories and speculations one would expect from such an unusual event. This was from TheWaterproof Times columnist Georgianna Notewright.Read more...Collapse )
“People have always said that nothing ever happens in Neverwet. With the arrival of our fine fellow humanoids, the LDS, we never even get wet anymore! And now, that, of course, is an exaggeration. (Georgianna? Exaggerate?) There is always something salacious going on. Yeh just gotta know where to look for it.
“But yesterday! Yesterday?! Yeh’d a had to have been blind, deaf, not to mention stupid, not to have noticed or heard or somehow sensed there was sump’n big going on. I will not belabor you with details on what everybody around Puget Sound already knows, that a gawky-looking seaplane arrived from Japan and plopped down like an albatross right out here next to Neverwet. That, folks, was the ‘swimming stork’! I kid you not! So what was the little bundle of joy it was bringing us? That has yet to be revealed.
“Now if yeh did not have binoculars like some folks did, yeh have to take other folks’ words for ‘the rest of the story.’ But this is what we know. They did some gossamer sorts of goofing around reminiscent of what tent caterpillars did to my plum tree last year. You wonder if they’d brought over the Insect God. Every slanted-eye individual in or near Rock Hills must have shown up. From like nowhere. They had their cavalry here, and an army of guys in white with big black jugs on their heads, which don’t really look like they would protect them in battle, and they were equipped with short wooden bats. (But, yes, yeh do wonder what they could do with the bats if they took a notion.) And they had a phalanx of their finest young sam-yoo-rai swordsguys. Not only that, they had OUR army out there pointing OUR guns at anyone who might disturb THEIR procession.
“Any time they passed a house or village they repeated the tent caterpillar show. (At night, I’m told, they just cut the torches and snuck through.) Y'know, if yeh really want to keep yer arrival a secret, this is not how yeh go about doing it. Which has everyone speculating. ‘Probably a decoy.’
“Y’know I have my manicure to worry about, so I sent a couple spies out to see what was going on. Here’s what they said.
“The guys that were holding up the sheer white cloth, that was a bit over six feet high, would run ahead to each settlement and rest until the parade caught up with’m. It was possible to go up and chat with’m at those times. They were shy. A bit slow with the English. They explained their clothing. Kimonos, hakamas and jikatabi boots. The cloven-hoof sort of ones. They didn’t think their clothing was special. (Well, I for one would not be caught dead in it.) But they admitted it was a special occasion.
“When they say ‘yah,’ by the way, it means ‘no’ not ‘yes.’ So they can actually say ‘no,’ it just doesn’t look like they can.
“They refused to say who it was that was so important they had to spend the entire day trying to conceal his or her, well, it actually appears to be ‘their,’ presence.
“We are assured, however, that whoever they are, they are not ‘dangerous.’
“Now I don’t need to tell yeh that whenever yeh hold an ostentatious event from which everyone else is excluded, somebody or other is going to crash it. Can yeh row a sieve across the sound? I didn’t think so.
“Some of Neverwet’s finest recycler roustabouts took it upon themselves to get a closer view of the procession to see what they could find out. They got on their horses and galloped up the back roads so they didn’t run into the army. Our army! (A shame they never came up with a good emoticon for a roll of the eyes!)
“They went all the way out to The Cat’s Meow, and waited there, disguised somehow as patrons. (Easy to do.) When the procession arrived, it was so quiet they would have missed it if the soldiers assigned to guard the event hadn’t come in and told everyone it had arrived and to be respectful, please.
“A couple’a the boys went upstairs (which the soldiers had told them most expressly not to do, but they were discreet enough to get away with it). They saw all the knights and swordsguys and people all marching along in formation, and a few hustling about, spiffying up this and that detail. (Yes, they do that even in their sleep!)
“A couple of the other boys went outside, where they waited patiently and politely just outside the cloth barrier. And they could tell a sizeable crowd was coming through, but they waited until they heard a single rap on the pane up above’m.”
“Then they ducked under the cloth with a whoop and holler. I mean, it was just amazing they didn’t get killed. But, of course, they’d thought to get another boy to go over and chat up the soldiers. It was well planned, just as if they had been Japanese too, so they managed to pull it off.
“Now what they saw, and I am hearing this second-hand, mind yeh, is the five palanquins, with the bearers getting a bit jostled and some lady attendants shrieking (it was hard to tell them from the men until that point). The swordsguys drew their weapons and wielded them in rapid succession all around them, of course, in threatening stances. So our brave fellows feigned surprise and bowed out (pun intended). And then they ran like the devil for their horses and dodged outta Dodge, thereby missing the best part of yesterday’s show.
“It was the guys upstairs who saw what happened next. In the middle of the commotion, the paper door on the middle palanquin, the biggest and most ostentatious, the one you’d expect to hold the Emperor, slid open and a face appeared, blinking in the mid-afternoon sunlight through thick glasses. Then one of the attendants hustled over and slid the door shut again. And what was His Majesty wearing? A pink dress!!!
“What’d I tell yeh? Decoy!!! Remember yeh heard it here first. Now, where is His Majesty?

“Ta-ta until next week!”
No one actually bothered to pursue the naughty boys. The army might have, but nobody had been hurt, and there were more important things to attend to for the time being. Of course, both of the boys continued looking over their shoulder for quite a while, and when the identities of the palanquins’ passengers were revealed, their friends also feared they themselves might be targeted in the night on some god-forsaken street. That was how the Japanese were known to deal with perceived insults and injustices.

Back at the port, though, once the procession had gone out of sight beyond the first set of ruins, the seaplane started its engines up again, but rather than taking off or proceeding to the naval station as everyone anticipated, it merely taxied over to the pier and docked there. Two ancient Japanese pilots in black leather alighted with a laugh and were joined by a few of the Japanese fishermen, smoking and bowing vigorously, who’d moored their boats and removed and stowed the motors. Their critical role in the drama had finished and it was time for a good drink.
Over the next few days, they would help dismantle the seaplane, which was carried away piece by piece to the fishermen’s huts, and from there, somewhere safe and secret in the dead of night.

 As for the procession at The Cat’s Meow, order was quickly restored and it continued on its way with no further events. I suppose, most people are more sensible in their dealings with folks wielding guns and swords.
The pace of the procession, already laborious, slowed further as everyone tired. The cloth bearers bowed out at dusk, with torch bearers taking their place. The horsemen departed then too, along with their bevy of manure catchers. The Army of the Cascade Republic continued to provide protection. The swordsmen, torch bearers, water bearers, palanquin bearers and other attendants finally delivered their secret passengers to their destination some time in the deep dark hours of the boar.
The palanquins used that day were all identical white lacquer with golden chrysanthemum seals, except that the middle one was a size bigger. The occupant of that was nothing but a girl in a pink dress, with very long black hair, thick glasses, slightly buck teeth. A really ordinary Japanese face. And that was it. She was dubbed the “Pink Princess,” and known fondly as that in Cascadia from then on.

A few days later, they were informed that the boys upstairs had been the first to get a glimpse of Her Majesty, the Empress of Japan.


Current Mood: salacious
8:05 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.3
3  The Storm Petrel

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

Dangerous clouds were brewing over the Pacific. Four days after the Empress arrived in Neverwet, the naval station reported that a “radiological event” had occurred somewhere to the west and urged people to avoid unnecessary outdoor activity. They also renewed their often-forgotten warnings against eating fish. This set the whole town of Neverwet, Georgianna included, to speculating again. In the absence of any form of acknowledgement from either Chinese or Japanese radio transmissions, though, they would have to rely on an analysis of the radionuclides and wind patterns over the next few days to get a clearer picture of what had occurred. The results would be announced later. For the time being, the speculations ranged from a nuclear bomb on one of the cities, to an incautious assault on one of the old unsecured reactors lining Japan’s coasts, to a successful counter-assault on China, to a booby-trapped nuke in Tokyo, rumored to be the power source used by the elite there to maintain luxuries unavailable to the average person any longer.Read more...Collapse )

This, together with chatter about how the Japanese might be trying to power their new communities out near Rock Hills, was the big topic at the Storm Petrel, a bar located on the outskirts of Neverwet along the road where the procession passed. Past five it had a lively clientele of working men and women, which attenuated past nine. The bar closed at ten, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it provided service as long as there was anyone conscious to receive it.

One of the more notable of its regular patrons was a young man named Sam Pickens, who was about as black as a person could get, and also about as quiet and polite. He lived with his Aunt Clara in a rented room not very far from Henry’s Fashions and Notions shop. Nobody could ever recall having met his aunt, said to be quite elderly and therefore never venturing out, but Sam mentioned her each day, usually as a signal that he was taking leave. “Oh, but my Aunt Clara needs me back now. I’d love to stay longer, but I must say goodbye.”

He dressed simply, always seeming to wear the same pair of jeans and woolen shirt, but he must have had at least two of each because they were always clean. He had one coat for cooler evenings. He ate each day at the Storm Petrel or other bars in the area, wrapping up a little of the food carefully in a cloth handkerchief each time to take back to his aunt. Observing this, the cooks made sure he got somewhat larger portions. He had a few friends in town who occasionally visited his room, but they had little to say to anyone about Sam or his aunt, except that they liked their privacy. Sam was unemployed and apparently unemployable, widely thought to be “simple,” living on his aunt’s funds. But other people wondered. He never said much, but when he spoke each word was well chosen, grammatical and kindly. He liked to frequent the bars because he enjoyed listening to people talking. Back in the days of TV, it was said, he might have been a “couch potato” ordering in fast food. One of the real benefits of losing petroleum was that people like Sam had to walk for entertainment, and another was that the food was much healthier. This was certainly helped by the fact that Sam refused to drink any form of alcohol. People would order him up a drink when they saw him just sitting there, but the bartenders all knew to fix him up something soft.

 Around nine at night, about a week after the Empress’s arrival, an hour or so past the time Sam would normally have gone home to his aunt, he was still there, enthralled and participating in his own passive way, in a conversation with three men he knew who were less frequent patrons. The men been there for a couple of hours. Having enjoyed several drinks and with the topic of oriental nukes exhausted, they were inclined to speak openly about their feelings toward the newcomers. Sam evidently enjoyed that.

“Read Georgianna’s latest?” asked the first man. Josh was the amiable chubby blond carpenter in his twenties we met earlier.
“No, I can’t say I have,” said Sam.
“Sem don’t read,” said the bar tender.
“Oh I read, George,” said Sam softly, “I just don’t read Georgianna.”
“You’re more cultured than she,” said Josh. Sam grinned.
“And what about you Tom?”
“She’s spot on this time,” growled Tom. “Yet another ‘orde of locusts, if yeh want my opinion! When d’yeh think the latest assault’ll stop? When China nukes the last of ‘em and they all fly over here? Next thing, the Chinese will be following ‘em. What good’ll Japan do ‘em if it glows at night? I mean, when is this ever gonna end?” Tom was a robust man in his early twenties with a mass of dark brown hair and a quick temper who worked as a recycler (known in Meriga as a “ruin man”). He had been one of the ruffians that had crashed the procession. His normal view of the Japanese was that they were pretentious, and the latest arrivals only served to confirm that view. Like most people in the recycle trade in Cascadia, he had relatives with political power. That’s how you got permission to retrieve items of value when ownership was disputed.
 “Well? I’ll betcha we look just like an ‘orde of WASPs to them,” noted Josh.
“Oh very funny!” glowered Tom.
“If I’d a choice, I’d take the locusts over the WASPs,” continued Josh. “The locusts ‘aven’t fared very well aginst us so far. They know who ‘as the upper ‘and.”
“They are decent people,” said Henry, the tailor. “They’re worth the time and effort to become acquainted with.”
“What? Learn the langage of ents?” snorted Tom. “It’s impossible to see ‘ow they communicate. Do they waggle their abdomens, like bees? Is it sump’n in the way they bow? They all seem to coordinate their actions without saying anything at all. What do yeh make of ‘em Josh?”
“Well, we can discount all the ways bugs communicate,” said Josh, stirring his scotch and water again, “They don’t waggle their tails. They’re stiff as boards. They don’t kiss. They don’t touch antennas—hell, they don’t even touch ‘ands! They don’t gesture. They are expressive as the wooden Injun at the door over at the Red Man. Beats me!”
“Pheromones?” suggested Tom.
“Oh, cut it out you two!” said Henry laughing. “I can tell you the secret to their communication. It’s quite simple. They’ve played certain roles in their lives, and they’ve seen other people playing other roles. These roles are all set, so they know what to do automatically in almost any situation. Quite handy, if you can get everyone to agree to it.”
Henry’s family had maintained friendships with the Nisei for several generations, and Henry himself had gone as far as to learn a little of the language. He never flaunted that ability, but everyone in town knew if they had a question about their new neighbors, he was the one to go to.
“But I still don’t see ‘ow they coordinate it all,” said Tom.
“Well, they value group harmony. That is the basis of any action they take. And their children learn this. In a new situation, they look for a role that needs to be filled, and then they go fill it. The whole script is memorized early on.”
“What, no secret ‘andshakes then?” said Josh.
“Or subtle bee dances?” added Tom.
“Yeh ever see any of them at a hootenanny?” said Josh. They just stand around looking dumbstruck. No good at all at spontaneous stuff. Yeh wish someone would put the poor fish back in the water.”
“If it’s a traditional dance, they know what to do.”
“My god that sounds boring!” scoffed Tom.
Sam shrugged, “Japanese traditional dance? I’d be interested.”
“But you see what happens,” explained Henry, “When the role hasn’t been laid out for them. They don’t want to make a mistake.”
“Well, why don’t they just break into one of their traditional songs or dances that they know. That’s what I’d do,” said Tom.
“I’m tryin’a thinka the last time I saw a square dance at a disco,” said Josh, looking dreamily at the ceiling “Nope!” he shrugged, “Wouldn’t go.”
“If they’d just watch us a few minutes, they’d figure it out. It’s not like it’s that hard.”
“They don’t like looking like fools,” said Henry.
“Who you callin’ a fool?”
“No one, Tom! That’s not what I meant. The Japanese are formal. They are conservative, they don’t like to make mistakes, because it will upset the group harmony.”
Sam checked his pocket watch, and quietly called the bartender over to pay his bill.
“I’d ‘ate to think what the Pink Princess would do if she saw ‘em carrying on like we do,” said Josh.
“She’s the Empress, Josh.”
“I know! I know!”
“And most of them never see her at all,” explained Henry. “Her role is the most strictly defined of all.”
“A girl in a pink dress?” snickered Tom.
“Pink kimono!” huffed Henry.
“That’s not what Geronimo saw,” said Tom, “Ever see a kimono with scalloped collar?”
“You’re certain he saw that?”
“Buncha people did,” nodded Josh. “It’s not only Georgianna that says she ‘ad on a dress.”
“Okay,” said Henry, knitting his brows with suspicion, “But she is too busy to go around watching or condemning anyone. And the Japanese, well, they will forgive you, Tom. Trust me. But that was a really stupid thing you and the guys did!”
“Well, if we ‘adn’t, nobody would even know what she looks like!” he growled.
“I can see a good reason why they didn’t want us to see ‘er, y’know,” said Josh. “As all of Cascadia and maybe even Kennida, Cal’fornya and Messico by now know, she’s no beauty queen. If yeh wanna uphold a mystique, yeh gotta ‘ide the fact that yer not a prospective ‘Miss World’ or whatever.”
Henry considered trying to explain certain things to his younger companions again, but he realized they were venting their worries, and clearly beyond rational discourse in any case at this point, so he just shrugged. He looked over at Sam, who rose to his feet, smiling, and said, “I’m sorry, fellows. Aunt Clara needs me.”
“Okay, Sem,” said the bar tender, “See yeh tamarrah.”
The Emperor’s role, as Henry had explained to his friends earlier, though now it was the Empress’s, had less to do with appearances than with playing a central part in an ancient drama with her countrymen in a cohesive manner that perpetuated a harmonious society. Records of her lineage extended back nearly 3000 years, one of the longest anywhere. The determination to continue this was borne by each member in good standing in that society.
At this late hour in the evening, however, to the boys these would just be boring details. So he listened to them rehash the local chatter about “chrysalides” and the “flying ent queen” making the big new “colony” out in the “ent hills,” where they had erected a cell phone tower after the first “luxury liner” arrived with the “cossetted rich girls” and how all they ever did was talk about themselves: “Ni’onjin this and Ni’onjin that! When they think we don’t know what it means. Hah!”
“Actually,” interrupted Henry, raising a hand, “The ‘nihon-jin’ that they are all worried about…”
“And the girls all run around together with their phones…”
“It means, ‘Japan Camp’…”
“And they sit in groups chattering like monkeys…”
“It’s the people they left behind, that are getting pummeled by the Chinese…”
“And yer trying to talk and they all start shrieking…”
“It’s the brave people trying to defend their homeland…”
“And they don’t care that people are staring at ‘em…”
“The word for the American camp, you know, here, themselves…”
“But yeh can’t tell them to shuddup or go away…”
“Is ‘bei-jin,’ guys, ‘bei-jin’!”
“Or one of their swordsguys will be after yeh…what’s this about Beijing, Henry?”
“Ho…”said Henry, throwing up his hands in exasperation. His friends were in no shape to try to understand the new “invaders,” and Henry realized that that was what it all really boiled down to for the people of Neverwet, Cascadia: a massive intrusion of people with such vastly different habits, customs and ways of thinking that they resembled insects, not mammals or even vertebrates, but mindless bugs. Worse, everyone knew the Japanese had to have similar feelings toward their hosts, they were just too polite to show it. Their starving, bewildered countrymen who had washed up on these shores had made willing slaves and loyal foot soldiers. They’d been forbidden to live on any but the poorest lands, and in some cases, they’d been chased off lands they had worked to improve. Was it payback time for all the former abuses? The people of Neverwet were certainly going to think such things. Trying to bridge that gap was nearly impossible, but without a real attempt to span that chasm, conflict was inevitable.

Henry tossed back his scotch, called the bartender over and paid his part of the bill. His two friends, in their drunkenness and discontent had begun to resemble braying donkeys to him. Outside, Henry straddled his bicycle and swiftly returned to his room at the back of his shop.

Current Mood: one of those moods
7:54 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.4
4  The Paper Palace

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

In the midst of a deep forest, with a narrow clearing containing a razor-wire fence enclosing one hundred hectares, within which more forest stretched onward, finally arriving at a thick earth wall three meters high topped by slate gray tiles studded with inconspicuous shards of glass, stood a large house made of paper and imported cypress wood. In its central courtyard sat a very lonely young lady in a pink dress. Her companions for the moment were a pine, maple, cherry and willow. Each would be resplendent in its respective season. Like her, each was imported.
Small, unfamiliar birds living in the forest nearby flitted to and from the trees, eyeing Irina like a curiosity. They chattered to each other, then fled. Somewhere in the depths of the forest, Irina heard the energetically trilled warble of a winter wren, a familiar sound from Hokkaido’s mountains. “Oh, don’t tell me, they must have imported you too! Oh, what a fix we are in, eh?” she lamented. “This was supposed to be preferable to death somehow.”Read more...Collapse )

She sighed sadly, then she drew up her chest proudly, “And I shall be Empress!” She shook her head sadly, reminiscing about her classmates teasing her after the birth of her little sister, not directly mentioning the embarrassingly obvious topic of no male heir. Everybody knew that technology would solve this problem given a little more time, with her mother young enough to attempt conception again. One of her cousins did finally manage produce a male descendant, but a lot had happened in the meantime.

Irina had aspired to be an astrophysicist, and that is what she always told her teachers and classmates. It was a respectable pursuit and a sign of hope for the future—keeping alive the knowledge gained in better times. So was the name Irina. A nod to the faltering west, her name was a prayer for peace, so that prosperity could once again reign, and Japan could reach out once again to the stars for the hope of all humankind.

“Empress” was nothing any cognizant human being would ever aspire to. Life as a goddess, life beyond the living. For three years she had been performing all of the duties of her late father, whose passing, about a year before, had been concealed, because such news would discourage her countrymen who were defending Japan against a steadily growing stream of attempted invasions. Ever since her father had fallen ill, rumors of his death circulated, leading to a loss of morale, it was said.

After China declared war, Japan suffered defeat after defeat. For safety, the Imperial family fled first to Nagano, then to Hokkaido.

By the time the great hope, little Maruhito was born, Japan was in such dire straits that an announcement of his birth would have to wait. He had arrived at the palace in the second palanquin on the lap of Irina’s cousin Yori. The first palanquin had held Irina’s mother, Empress Dowager Masae. She was deemed too frail to undertake the rigorous duties of reigning empress. Masae herself refused even to consider it.

The fourth palanquin had held Maruyoshi, father of Maruhito and a descendent of Emperor Taisho. He was a distant cousin to Irina. The last palanquin had held Midori, Irina’s little sister. The Imperial Treasure had arrived separately, by sea.

The Imperial Household opted for secrecy about its internal matters until the safety of the heir could be guaranteed. Later this week, they would announce the May 2116 birth of the heir apparent, the untimely passing of Emperor Nagahito (moving the date forward to the heat of August of the current year, one year after his actual death), and the ascension of Irina to serve as interim sovereign, stepping down when Maruhito was old enough to assume duties.

Free again, Irina would be able to pursue once more her real dream of pursuing the stars.

Irina wondered if she would see any of her classmates again during her public appearances. How many had fled like she? The effort that had gone into preparing this palace must have been phenomenal, and someone must have been planning and working on this for at least a year in advance, “just in case it might be needed.” How many people had arrived here ahead of her to prepare it?

How many others had chosen or been forced to stay behind to defend Japan?

Upon her arrival the previous night, Irina had changed into ceremonial garments and, accompanied by her attendants who had had to walk all day and had not had any sleep since the plane arrived, performed a succession of ceremonies at each of the palace’s three shrines. That lasted nearly until dawn. Space on the seaplane had limited the number of her attendants. The others were not due to arrive by ship for a few weeks. Despite good ventilation inside the palanquins, she and her family had been very hot all day. The palanquins had originally been lacquered in black, but given the conditions in Cascadia, that had been hastily changed. Irina managed to curl up on her side for a while and sleep, and was thus caught unaware in the commotion. Thinking they had arrived at the palace, she slid the door open, a major embarrassment. Her mother, hearing about it later, chided her in her mild way, which Irina took to heart, interpreting it as an attempted excoriation, but it was water under the bridge.

No one had had time to unpack yet, because there was too much that needed to be done, so Irina put her pink dress back on between duties. It was a comfortable outfit.

She’d been almost as sheltered from news of the world as the average mountain dweller, but it didn’t help that people kept bustling around her with worried expressions all the time. She would just begin to believe their protestations that everything was fine, when they’d all get uprooted once again and settle somewhere else a little more remote. “Well, how many more palaces like this can they build?” she thought.

The Emperor of Japan had nominal political power, but in reality it had been merely rubber-stamp authority for centuries, relying on the good will of others to do the work, because he had too many other duties to perform. When Irina ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne, her mother warned her that just as it had been for her father, political influence would be outside the scope of her purview.

Since no male heirs had existed until Maruhito’s successful birth, the Imperial Household had prepared Irina carefully to accept and perform the duties of sovereign. It was her sensitive mother, Masae, however, who had provided the most insightful advice. As Empress, she explained, she would not be director of the symphony written by her ancestors and so familiar to her people as to be internal, but more like “metronome.”

“Ii-chan,” she said in her tender tones, “You stand now at the head of a nation, but do you make the nation work? That’s fifty million moving parts. The directions to them must come from all levels, both above and below, as you know from the ceremonies. You merely give the signals, and the nation works. Without you, it all starts falling apart. There is no freedom of choice involved. But remember that in hard times, they all look to you as an example. The only influence you will ever wield is as an example. And that requires self-sacrifice.”

Irina also knew (though she had never heard directly or indirectly) that she was being criticized for her “choice to evacuate.” Officially, yes, it had been her “choice.” She wondered to herself if she could have demanded to stay and together with her people face what was by then clearly an inevitable defeat if she had had more strength of character. Where the Chinese were landing, you didn’t want to be taken for an elite. Could she have donned rags and lived in a hovel? And performed her duties? For obvious reasons this was never considered realistic. Her blessing upon the choice was a mere formality. Their location in Hokkaido had been compromised. The blockade of Tokyo Bay had severely depleted Japan’s fuel stores, and prolonged heavy rains had ruined the fuel crops. Kyushu and Shikoku had been lost. Honshu still stood but was faring badly, with Osaka under siege. As a desperate last move, they’d prevailed upon Russia to help them defend Hokkaido, but word came back that Russia wanted nothing to do any business between Japan and China. They did indicate, however, that they might just let an airplane slip by unnoticed, and now with China possibly aware as a result of these negotiations that Hokkaido was where the crown jewels lay, there was nothing further that could be done.

Irina received a letter from a classmate at about that time, giving her opinion that maybe this was why the gods had seen to it an empress must reign in these times. She would not lose face if she fled, and that way she could spare her country the ignominious loss of their greatest treasure, the ancient customs she was doing the most to preserve.

Hope still lay in the direction of the rising sun. Everyone knew that Japanese communities had been established in North America. The Cascade Republic had been relatively peaceful for decades. Aside from possibly sending assassins her way from California, there was nothing China could do while her people regrouped for their reprisal. What concerned Irina at this time was how her “countrymen who had made the brave choice to pioneer a new existence in America” would perceive her when, as she knew, the other brave choice for them would have been to die of starvation. Now, here she was, one of them, just a million times richer. How welcome were the Imperial Family and several tens of thousands of Japan’s elite going to be among people forced out of Japan by them? These folks had never recovered to the level of life they enjoyed prior to then.

“Just affix the stamp there, okay? So we can get moving.”

And Irina did as she was told, and dressed as she was at that very moment, she and her family were driven in a motorcade down to Otaru, where they boarded Japanese Air Force One, the nation’s one remaining passenger aircraft, and took off shortly before dark.

Current Mood: hurried
7:48 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.5
5  Morning Reflections

by Sally Oh
October 2116

One problem with living in a forest is a lack of sunshine. The Imperial Palace had been planned so as to allow the sun’s rays to reach just barely the southern windows of the northern hall over the tops of the trees at midwinter. The shady southern hall, on the other hand, stayed cool even in the dog days of summer. The clearing for the road approaching from the east, along which the equestrian archer battalion galloped each day practicing, gave a view of the rising sun on whatever mornings allowed it to be seen at all. This day happened to be one of them.Read more...Collapse )

Irina sat beside the little pond in front of the palace with its placid school of multicolored carp. They barely disturbed its mirror-smooth surface with an occasional gentle poke to seek out tasty remainders of breakfast. The pond had been a sort of constricted nod at a “moat.”

From where she sat, Irina could see the gate and make out the guardsmen with their swords, but that wasn’t what held her interest. She was more preoccupied with problems.

She had a little free time between breakfast and morning tutoring. Her English was being augmented because one of the local dignitaries had complained rather callously that he could not understand what Irina was saying. The real problem, Irina realized, was that she was too shy to speak loudly and clearly. Her political sciences teacher had warned her this might happen, but it was her English teacher who was now under considerable pressure.

That wasn’t a big issue as far as Irina was concerned. Her father Nagahito had spoken flawless, though hesitant English and had guided his daughter to do the same as a possible future sovereign. In fact, he had harbored a secret hope that Irina would actually succeed him. He had been a gentle person that Irina was always keen to please.

The rest of her family spoke very hesitant English. A native-speaking Nisei butler had been hired recently, ensuring Maruhito would grow up speaking English as well as Japanese. That way, there would be fewer embarrassments.

Irina’s ancestral goddess, Amaterasu, shone brightly now through the misty avenue before her. “But why do I study?” Irina asked softly to her progenitor “I’ve been in contact with foreigners—oh, good heavens, I’m the one now that is a foreigner—all of three times, and every time, every word I say is carefully scripted and approved. Every detail has gone as planned.

“Oh, except for the ruffians!” reminisced Irina, “Oh, weren’t they brave! Oh what I wouldn’t do to be having a beer with them in a bar!” Irina brought up a hand to stifle the laugh that threatened to erupt. Someone was apt to come running to see what the matter was. She looked forward to the day Maruhito was deemed ready to assume her duties and she could retire. Even then, she would never be free to seek out the boys that had stopped the procession. She was just happy that they didn’t get themselves killed.

She knew that unlike in Japan, affairs abroad seldom managed to go according to plan. Things were supposed to be more spontaneous. She also knew that the mayor of Rock Hills and her entourage had been briefed as to what they were and were not allowed to say beforehand. Her meeting with them was for show, and anything substantive had been taken care of elsewhere. But something nagged at her. She knew deep down she would never be given a complete picture of what was going on.

The “golden cage” as an emperor nearly two centuries before her had termed life in the Imperial Household was more like a pressure cooker, but few who had not experienced it could relate. That pressure had killed her father, and nearly her mother. As a result, her family and attendants were all emotionally close to each other. The staff were professional and caring, but there was really only one among them whom she trusted to be honest with her. One really good friend.

Well, two, in fact. There was Amaterasu listening dispassionately to Irina’s innermost thoughts as she rose resplendent over the forest. “You’re the real sovereign,” said Irina, “But in two weeks I am to speak for the first time before a group of more than five local citizens. In fact, it sounds like there might be more than a hundred. I need to make a good impression. I’ll do my best, but at the same time how can I tell what they really think of us?”

Then she heard her name called and jumped up to join her English teacher, an ancient creature in her nineties who’d been schooled at Oxford. Impeccable Queen’s English—and you wonder why people in Cascadia have trouble understanding her. Go figure.

Current Mood: studious
7:39 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.6
6  Local Views

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

“So what has ‘Er ‘Oly ‘Ighness the Pink Priestess Princess got to say to us plebes? Will she apologize, yeh think, for the intrusion?” Tom shook his mane. “They said it’d be ‘temprary’ but I doubt they meant it. That is a lot of work that went into those houses and their little tea gardens.”Read more...Collapse )

“I think it was wishful thinking on their part, Tom. It’s not any fun losing your homeland to hostile invaders that say they mean to boil you alive. Have you tried talking to any of them?”
“Would they deign to talk to someone as lowly as myself?”
“Not if you don’t try, Tom. You’re not trying. If you hold out an olive branch, most people in distress will take it. They’re shy, Tom, so you may have to, like, shove it at them and keep insisting. That’s what they expect, because that’s how they relate to each other. They hesitate.” Henry took a thoughtful sip of his scotch. “You have to show them they are welcome. They’re not bad people. Even the piss-poor among them never steal.”
“'Xcept yer land.”
Henry frowned. “They bought their lands here. You can check out the deeds at the courthouse.”

The land on which the palace had been built was adjacent to the long-standing shrine famous now for the “waiting giant and dancing lawyer” from their coded messages. That shrine had been established more than a century previously and had preserved a large stretch of forest in good shape. Forested land adjacent to it had been purchased. The county would have been loath to part with such a large amount of public forest had it not been for the promise of effective preservation in its natural state with limited intrusions. (The technological help and a certain sum of precious metals being offered was certainly another factor, though.)

“It is all legally recognized,” continued Henry. “They played the system the way it stands.”
“They bribed people.”
“”They paid the asking price, which has always been quite a bit higher for ‘wayfarers,’ by the way.”
“Who are yeh accusin’?”
“Nobody, Tom! I don’t know who benefits from it, nor do I care to hazard a guess!”
“Well, to be sure, it was extortionist.”
“Of whom?” wondered Henry into his drink, more to himself than to his companion. He checked his pocket watch, which had stopped again.
“Oh, look!” said Tom, “There’s Josh! Cm’over and chat, guy!”
Josh swaggered over cheerfully. Henry hoped his other friend, lacking relatives in high places, would take a slightly more circumspect view of the Japanese.

As it happened, though, Josh was more preoccupied with the drought and the effects it was having on crops, meaning eventually, food. This topic did not lead directly to the Japanese. It did indirectly, but Josh was sensible enough not to bring it up, because, again, it was a sore point.

The Cascade Republic had gradually become a rice-growing region. Over the decades, the Japanese refugees had acquired their own lands, acre by acre, but not prime farmland, from which they were systematically excluded. Instead, they acquired forested mountainous land with rugged terrain. They cut the timber for their houses and created terraced paddies with elaborate gravity-fed irrigation systems, within which organic matter and minerals would precipitate, gradually enhancing the soil. They started out barely able to survive, planting small crops that could tolerate the acidic soil or creating small plots with rich soil by their houses, where they grew vegetables and tubers, but as time went on, they managed to create their own good farmland.

The drought had not affected them as much as other people. Springs still flowed, and they were accustomed to hand-carrying water to their vegetables day after day during dry spells. That simply had to become a larger scale effort this year. Lots of hard work.

Everybody had been happy to see these quiet, hard-working little people slowly get to their feet again in ways that did not compete directly with their own livelihoods. They were a source of inspiration, and often compared to “honeybees”—another insect analogy.

“Industrious little guys,” as Josh was apt to call them. Josh had picked up some of their carpentry techniques, and it had brought him a grudging degree of respect for them. The houses they built stayed up even in severe earthquakes and withstood the terrible winter gales each year. If you were very patient, you could apprentice yourself directly to one of them. There was a famous school with a master, the son of one of the Daiippa. He’d had a humble origin in Japan as a day laborer, but rose to prominence in Cascadia when the ancient but economically disfavored techniques he’d studied in his free time—one of the benefits of economic decline—suddenly became vital to survival.

One had to apprentice him- or herself for seven years to learn the trade, which was never explained, merely shown, and if you didn’t get it right, you just didn’t eat that day. Non-Japanese who had mastered the trade could found their own schools, which were more explanatory and less demanding. Those who had studied under them did not receive the coveted Japanese accreditation, but they helped propagate a lot of the methods.

The net result of this, however, was that again and again fate just seemed to favor the intruders. And here again, a major drought had come along, but yet again, the Japanese were doing okay. And then along came their queen…

Current Mood: exasperated
7:11 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.7
 7  The Sun’s Reply

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)
November 2116

Among the mistaken impressions the people of Cascadia had of the Japanese, one of the worst was that they had a very limited range of feelings. It was said their emotional development had been stunted in a society that did not allow them to grow up in a normal manner. Throughout history westerners had repeatedly referred to the Japanese as hopelessly childish, a “nation of twelve year olds,” as General Douglas MacArthur once said. It was an understandable misimpression. Japanese hesitance may be taken for lack of ability in societies where competition dominates.Read more...Collapse )

Conversely, in Japan, it was said that foreigners exhibited an exaggeration of their true feelings. They, likewise considered this childish, and if you think about it, doesn’t it make sense? As adults, we are expected to exert more control over our expression of emotions.

With her cosmopolitan upbringing, Irina had conversed with many foreigners in Tokyo. She knew the normal range of expressions to expect from Americans and what they meant: surprise when their eyebrows would go flying; disgust, when they’d roll up their eyes; joy, when they’d squeak and jump; anger, when they’d go akimbo. They were not subtle about it at all, and this was going to come in handy for her. Their faces would tell her a lot more than her attendants would about what was going on.

Irina knew that the members of the public she was facing were not truly representative, but what she saw in their faces was an urgency, politely suppressed as she spoke for about 20 minutes. Their brows would knit, and a hand or two would travel upward, pause at ear level, scratch a little and then go back down again as they shifted. Irina had many well-chosen nice words to say about international friendship and owing a huge debt to the people of Cascadia and the former United States. That debt, she said, never could be repaid, “But we will try to contribute to the growth of the Cascade Republic’s economy and help solidify your country’s position among nations.”

Their eyes asked, “How will you contribute? And what about…?” Irina got the feeling she was still missing a crucial part of an unfolding story. There were men and women present in nearly equal numbers, dressed formally in neatly tailored suits, but not excessively formal. They had kind faces. Irina knew at a glance they’d been carefully selected for her.

The audience had been told that they would have a chance to ask questions at the end of Irina’s address, and so they were all waiting patiently for that, but even before the applause had had a chance to die down after Irina finished, she was whisked efficiently off stage and replaced by Foreign Minister Yoshida, who thanked Irina and asked for another round of applause for her. Then he fielded the questions, which as one would expect were mostly about Irina and would have been better answered by her. She knew what the appropriate responses were. It wasn’t that she would be an embarrassment. The audience was left with the impression the people running things were being miserly with her time.

The word “figurehead” certainly came to mind. The audience undoubtedly realized this to be expected, but here she was, the “face” of Japan finally revealed beyond the level of hearsay.

Photographs of her would be circulated to anyone with any interest, artistic renditions appearing in the newspapers. Irina had no idea how much interest the Cascade Republic actually had in her, whether it was just a small clique of Japanophiles or just about everyone. After all, local affairs should have been of much greater concern to them than trivia regarding the leader of a temporarily defeated country who had been forced to flee for her life.

Irina wore no glasses that day. She’d memorized her speech. Her red and white embroidered silk kimono would have been a museum piece had she not been wearing it at the moment. Her long hair had been tied up with simple but pretty combs. She was a carefully constructed image of “Japan,” a show piece, but more modest and simple than a “geisha.”

Certainly the audience also realized that the minister who took their questions had much more political power than she. Her quick removal should have answered any question in their minds about that. They were apt to speculate who the real Japanese powers-that-be actually were, few realizing that it wasn’t an individual “decider” but a system functioning with input from many sources. From what she knew of American politics, Irina realized the people here would expect someone among the elite of her country to be the ultimate authority, the person responsible, where “buck stops,” and if it wasn’t she, then who was it?

The next morning in front of the pond again, Irina sighed and smiled down at the brilliant reflection of the sun, her ancestor from so many eons ago. Amaterasu arose swathed in the scanty mists of another November morning, with no promises of rain for the day ahead. Irina’s prayers now called for rain in Cascadia and throughout the former United States, which were also undergoing a prolonged drought. Heavy rains seemed to work to the advantage of Japan’s defenders, so her request for more rain extended there as well, and finally to China. After all, the desperation that had driven their invasion had stemmed from severe drought there too.

Irina received updates on the war in Japan each day, which were worked into her prayers, but Irina wondered how realistic the reports were. Probably wildly optimistic. Negative thoughts, she knew, were taboo.

“Oh what do I do?” sighed Irina, seeking some sign from her warm and loving ancestor, even just a hint. Perhaps Amaterasu heard her young descendent, surely her pride and joy. She winked and disappeared briefly behind a cloud, then reemerged shining even more brightly than before.

Of all the myths in the Records of Ancient Matters, that told of Japan’s origins and had been written at the request of an empress who had preceded Irina more than 1900 years before, one of the best known, and Irina’s favorite, was the story of a feud between the shining, sensible Amaterasu and her impetuous bombastic little brother, Susano-o, god of summer storms and the ocean.

Their father Izanagi had not only been the original husband, but by the time Amaterasu, Susano-o and their brother, the moon god Ninigi, came along, he was also the original widower and original sinner, for having looked upon his putrefying wife, Izanami, down in Yomi, the land of the dead. During his subsequent atonement through the purification ritual known as misogi, he fathered his three finest children, Amaterasu from his left eye, Ninigi from his right, and Susano-o from his nose.

Given Susano-o’s origin, it should probably come as no surprise what a nasty little booger he could be. (Like most little brothers, he did outgrow that phase.)

Susano-o pestered his father with so many complaints that he finally got banished off to Yomi. Susano-o claimed to be resigned to this, but said he first had to settle certain matters, and sent notice to his sister that he was on his way up to the High Plain of Heaven for a visit. She said, “What for?” He said, “To say goodbye.” Knowing her brother as she did, Amaterasu dressed in armor for the battle of her life and went out to meet him. On her back was a quivver with a thousand golden arrows. (Irina imagined she could see them spread in a shining array all around the goddess.)

Not willing to take her brother’s word, Amaterasu proposed a contest for proof of his sincerity. The challenge was who could produce more divine children. Amaterasu produced three goddesses from Susano-o’s sword, but Susano-o produced five gods from Amaterasu’s sacred necklace. Then they both went about claiming to be victorious, because it was from her necklace that five male gods had appeared, clearly superior, but Susano-o who had produced them. That was the beginning of a really monumental feud.

“I don’t have an impetuous little brother,” noted Irina sadly to the great goddess before her, “Or he would be Emperor, and I would be a mere university student settling in nearby, after that long oceanic voyage, with lots of friends and our professors.
“I do have a little cousin, but he probably never will be ‘impetuous.’ His duties will weigh him down too much for that. All I have now is the slow steady pace and certainty of tradition. The era of Maruhito will arrive, and that will be my time too, finally.
“In the meantime, though, what do I do?”

Irina knew she needed more information.


Current Mood: suppressed
7:05 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.8
8  Girls Will Be Girls

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

Among the misunderstandings that lead to friction between groups of people of vastly different cultures, language accounts for some, ignorance of normal expectations for others. Still others may be the result of childish pranks, the consequences of which had not been thought out very well. Thus a group of wealthy refugee girls not only managed to blunder into a men-only bar, but had no idea what the issue was until their lives were in danger. This, as you might imagine, set the keys of Georgianna Notewright’s typewriter flying again. Here is an excerpt.Read more...Collapse )
“What a classic cultural clash awaited five of our young invaders at a bar in central Rock Hills, an area that has been noted for its particularly heavy, um, concentration? Yeh’d think the girls had conquered China with their bare hands the way they took over the joint in these prostrate but once proud ex-United States—well! The strutting swordsguys of their ilk are pretty hard to outdo, yeh must admit. But girls, c’mon! Girls!

“They are said to have ‘roosted’ there. Pretty darn impressive for a gaggle of chicks. And with their phones a-jangling, they took to screeching like an aviary. Yeh know what I mean.

“There are various accounts of what happened next, but because some of it is not the sort of behavior of which people would normally be proud, I’ll just leave it at that. In essence, they were notified that loud, high-pitched speech was inappropriate at such a refined venue, and they were asked to be a little more thoughtful toward the other distinguished patrons.

“Perhaps the girls did not understand the polite speech of the bartender, Mr. Rick Watson, or perhaps they just did not understand English at all. They reacted to the bouncer’s somewhat less equivocating tactics with even louder shrieking, combined with a certain amount of physical resistance, and since there were five gals up against one poor fellow (who shall remain unnamed, poor guy), they had a momentary advantage, which they used to phone in reinforcements before the other patrons could come to the bouncer’s rescue.

“So then well, who should show up like about two seconds later, but five or six of the swordsguys, and let’s just say there was a sort of stand-off that lasted oh about ten minutes until one of the patrons ran out and fetched the police, who broke it all up.

Now the speed with which our fine sam-yoo-rai arrived suggests to yoo and me and every other thinking citizen of the Puget Sound region that the royal family must have been involved in some way (such high-class citizens are they—tho’ not of our country—too bad for them!). But probably not the Pink Princess herself from what my sources have been able to discern. (Certain people among us will think any oriental lady they see is ‘Er ‘Ighness.) Shame! Poor girl’s missing so much fun!

“The queen bee has got to stay home and do all the housework, and just hope that her workers are keeping out of trouble. Shucks, folks. Life ain’t fair. But the rest of our invaders got things figured out pretty well, and as our friends down the road and to the right say, ‘Shouldn’t we emulate them?’

“But not at a men’s bar, ladies! Have a sense of pride for heaven’s sake! Oh well, I guess it was an educational opportunity for them.”
Josh was sipping a beer with Tom and Henry at The Red Man near the latter’s shop in Neverwet. “Read Georgianna’s latest?” he asked.
“Oh good grief!” said Henry. “No I don’t follow her. She’s like a walking, talking wastebasket, a veritable vomitorium of every emotion travelling through the towns and countryside. Is she harping on about the Japanese immigrants again?”
“That’d be an unnerstatement,” said Josh. “She’s picking on the girls who innocently wandered into the all-guys bar out in Rock Hills, thinking it was the roast chicken place. Did ‘Er ‘Ighness have anything to say about that incident, by the way?”
“I don’t know if she is even aware of it,” said Henry with a helpless look.
“Oh c’mon, she ‘ad to say something about it. This is what everybody is talking about,” said Tom. “Some people are saying she ‘erself was involved.”
“Georgianna didn’t actually go that far,” noted Joshly drily, “To ‘er surprising credit.”
 “Tales that the empress was involved are to be taken with a grain of salt,” Henry said. He took a sip of his beer. “You, Tom, should know how the papers, and especially Georgianna, like to create a scandal where none exists.” Tom’s family had been on the receiving end of a few of her diatribes.
 “For one thing,” continued Henry, “I’ve read that the cell phone they used to call for help was an older model. The Japanese treat the imperial family as a treasure. Would they equip her with something that might fail? That is, if they even let her out from under heavy guard? I got to see her alright. Poor little thing’s a bird in a cage. Pretty girl. Lovely voice. She clearly practices using it.”
“Pretty?” said Tom dubiously. (His friends had had the first glimpse.)
“All look about the same if you ask me!” shrugged Josh.
“That’s the thing, see?” explained Henry, “Every time someone sees a gal with glasses chattering in Japanese, it’s ‘Her Highness’ again. She wasn’t even wearing glasses at the press conference, and you’ll see her photo in print soon enough for what it’s worth. Her speech was simply, beautifully…scripted and touched upon nothing serious at all. She mentioned friction between our communities, but showed no signs of understanding what that meant.”
“’Ow do they find people ign’rant enough to be Empress?” sneered Tom
“A lot of hard work goes into sheltering someone that much,” shrugged Henry. “She didn’t even mention the reactor explosion, and everybody wanted to ask her about that. But they whisked her away before anyone had a chance, and the foreign minister took our questions. She has to have heard about it. On the other hand, though, the foreign affairs guy categorically denied it could have taken place in Japan.”
“Oh dear god!” said Tom.
“Oh well, you see all sorts of farm girls, ‘specially down the road where the Mormons reside,” said Josh, “Ign’rant as the day they were born, ‘cause their father’s taken some strange notion about what they want their destiny to be. Pretty unseemly in a monarch, though!”
“Her original dream was to be an astrophysicist,” said Henry.
Josh guffawed.
“That’s not really ign’rant as such,” joined in Tom, with a laugh “But where did she think it would land her? These folks are downright naïve!”
“Well, anything related to politics is probably filtered out pretty well by the time it reaches a physics classroom,” shrugged Josh. “Yeh reckon it was chosen for ‘er?”
“I sense folks around her trying to feed off her,” said Tom, “Take advantage of her for their own power.”
“I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that,” said Henry. “It happens, certainly, but such people are caught and removed from a successful monarchy. It is more likely that a consensus has arisen among the imperial household members on how they think a difficult situation should be handled and how much Irina needs to be involved in it. They would like Irina to focus on what is most important and leave the details for the diplomats. That doesn’t mean, however, that I am not worried about how this will turn out. There is a lot they are overlooking, I think. And she is the reigning monarch.”
“Well, the papers aren’t helping it at all,” noted Tom.
“Oh, but I loved Georgianna’s characterization of their boys as a bunch of struttin’ roosters,” laughed Josh.
“Hmph!” snorted Tom.
“Yeah, hmph!” added Henry.
“But I wondered if our gal reporter would’ve preferred to see them strut about like hens, with their leetle ‘eads a-bobbin’ back and forth.”
“Josh, you break me up!” said Henry.
“But you know she ‘as her column at the paper because that’s the kind of thing people around ‘ere want to read,” said Josh, “If she wrote realistically about things ‘ere, everyone’d be bored. Yeh ‘ave to embelsh it somehow.”
“Yes, but there are ways of embelshing that don’t involve provoking,” said Tom.
“And no one will come out well if it comes to arms,” added Henry with a worried look.
“And their kids ‘ave to strut anyhow,” said Josh. “I mean, they’re kids, and this is what kids’ gotta do.”
‘“Yes, but they are not doing it the way people do that sort of thing ‘round here,” said Tom, “And they are not adjusting to the communities in which they’ve taken to residing. Because they ‘ave money, and that cushions it, and then there are those stupid cell phones…”
“They seem to think we would like to have cell phones too,” said Henry. “Irina talked about technological progress for our communities together, and that is obviously one of the things they have in mind.”
“A tiny step forward for a community, a giant leap backwards for mankind,” smirked Josh. “The Tower of Babel makes its grand reappearance, sucking energy and time out of any town it blights, procreating like rabbits, sowing discord and is’lation in its path, mutilating the language, until we get a recreation of the Shootin’-Match 20s again, complete with gov’ment intrusion into every single thing you do and say. The be all, end all, forever and all times. Amen! Great way to conquer a country, by the way.”
“They still reminisce about technology there,” said Henry. “They had as horrific an experience with it as we, arguably more so, but they tend to put it out of their minds and try to push forward again. They never experienced real civil unrest in their country, either. Not the way we did, where cell phones—the gift of gab—became a Trojan Horse.”
“Didn’t someone say they consider technology a god?” said Tom.
“There is that aspect of it too. Not exactly a god, not the way Christians think. They don’t worship it. I had a talk with one of my customers about this the other day. They anthropomorphize things, like the sun and the moon. They don’t really believe they are ‘gods’ or goddesses’ as such, but they feel a personal connection to them.”
“But technology is recent, not like the sun and moon,” said Tom. “’Ow could they consider that a god or ‘godlike’? I mean, this is something that ‘umans clearly made. It is not divine.”
“Anything, even manmade things become objects of veneration. Things they admire. Things that make a difference to them. Things they want to associate themselves with,” explained Henry.
“They wanna assoshate ‘emselves with computers and robots and stuff like that?”
“Well, of course they do, Josh,” said Henry. “They still consider it the high point of human existence. The problems were all due to human fallibility, not to any flaw with technology per se. It is the ideal they are reaching out to, and they must be the world’s most patient people.”
“Put the Muzzlmen to shame in the strength of their faith!” said Josh.
“No, no!” said Henry, feeling some frustration. The finer points were hard to explain. “What I really think is the phones are just a security blanket to help them adjust to a bitter routing. They say this is a temporary situation until they can get their own house back in order again. Then they will leave us with all their gifts, and we will miss them—and come to their aid when China shows up at their front door again.
“They’re pining for America to come together again and return,” continued Henry. “Even the name Irina, I heard, was in honor of the west. They believe in America, and to them we are still America—never mind our break up! They are like children in a broken marriage. They believe in us even more than we believe in ourselves, even more than they believe in technology.”
“’Ow touching,” said Josh with a slight sense of sarcasm, which Henry ignored.

The tavern had fallen silent, and everyone else was listening to what Henry was saying. Murmurs arose again, with positive tones. Henry was happy to think that his efforts were having at least a small effect. But the situation was still so volatile, with misunderstandings on both sides. Any spark might set something off. He had to find a way—any way possible—to talk to Irina and tell her his concerns.

Note: I considered adding a line or two on insurgents’ use of Hanford as a threat, until their own suffering forced them to abandon it. The threat would still exist as a nightmare in people’s minds, thus the whole notion of someone proposing to revive nuclear power would horrify them. People are wondering how the elite Japanese power the cell phone tower among other luxuries. This is one of the speculations. The Japanese have found ways to reduce the power consumption, but it is still a luxury enjoyed only by a very small group. They chose to perpetuate this technology specifically for reasons of group coordination.
In Shinto I have seen torch-lit ceremonies with no electricity used, yet priestly garments now feature a chest pocket for the phone, and I know priests who have been pressured into getting one despite misgivings. It is likely to be an item elite Japanese would hang onto, with a focus on lower energy use, limited range, and efforts to minimize the health risk, such as by depolarizing the signal. See: Dimitris J. Panagopoulos et al., Polarization: A Key Difference between Man-made and Natural Electromagnetic Fields in regard to Biological Activity (October 12, 2015) at www.nature.com/scientificreports

Current Mood: mischievous
7:01 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.9
9  Cultural Crosscurrents

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

The members of the Imperial Household staff held an emergency meeting in secret to discuss how to approach the latest challenge. You cannot keep an important person—the most important person—in the dark when he or she gets hints that things are not going quite as well as planned. But how to present it? Even more senior in the Imperial Household were Irina’s mother Masae and Yori, mother of the future Emperor. Their feelings had to take precedence.Read more...Collapse )

Thus Irina received a daily digest in Japanese that focused on good news and happy events, glossing over any problems occurring as just minor issues being quickly resolved.
Irina knew, of course, they were placating her. She focused on the issues presented, and asked for further clarification. For that, she received a third-hand account concluding with “they do not understand we Japanese.” If that was how they sought to allay her concerns, it had the opposite effect.

“What on earth is going on?” she demanded of the staff one day. They all went mum and scattered off to attend other duties.

Her mother approached her and in gentle tones, asked Irina to be patient. “Ii-chan, I had the same problem with your father,” she sighed sadly. “Our experts at diplomacy are working on solutions that will be amenable to everyone, and of course the foremost among those experts is your very own political science teacher, of whom I know you are fond. He will never let you down, you know.”

Her mother had always been a bit frail. High breeding intended to produce good character had the drawback of vulnerability to environmental perturbations, of which there had been plenty. Irina gave her a hug and smile and said, “Okay!”

The day after Irina lost her temper with the staff, her political science teacher Professor Tsutsui brought her an article from the Waterproof Times of Neverwet, telling her he trusted that she wouldn’t “cut his neck” over it. He was joking of course, and yet serious. Irina knew that he was defying the consensus. That is how seriously he was taking the situation.

With a complexion resembling bacon due to his fondness for gardening on his days off, he would have looked much better in something more sporting than the coattails they always had him dressing in, thought Irina. But never mind. Outside of her own family, he was one of her best friends.

A Tokyo University professor with a popular teaching style, never known to rock the boat, he’d been assigned to Irina from the day she’d been called from high school to perform imperial duties. More than anyone else, he had been providing her a window beyond the imperial walls. Until they were forced to abandon it in the war against China, central Tokyo had still had television, primarily comedy with weather reports and public announcements, but it had a limited range, beyond which TV no longer existed for the vast majority of Japanese, and of course, Neverwet didn’t have any either. TV would have been considered beneath the dignity of Irina’s station, so she had never watched it.

Never mind the battalion of swordsmen assigned to protect the imperial family, firing Prof. Tsutsui would merely have had the effect of demoting him to full-time gardener, to be visited upon her own retirement, but a lot more was clearly at stake now.

But fire Prof. Tsutsui? Why, come to think of it, the thought had never even occurred to Irina.

Irina took the article and read through it quickly and quietly. It was part of a weekly column by someone named T. Henry Buckminster, presumably a resident of Neverwet. It was titled “Cultural Crosscurrents,” and it read,
“When two cultures as disparate as far-east Asian and far-west American are thrown together due to circumstances beyond their control, misunderstandings are inevitable. The hapless refugees are called ‘invaders,’ and it really does resemble an invasion due to their sheer numbers, but please stop and think. Those of my readers who have lost their home as our ocean rose and climate changed, or who know of others who have lost theirs can relate a little to them. When continents shrink due to rising tides, whatever land you move to will have had previous claims of some sort. You become the invader, and are lucky if your new neighbors know your family, share your culture and values, speak your language. Imagine how you would feel if you lacked those advantages.

“This week’s column will attempt to correct a few of the common misconceptions and dispel new rumors that have been brought to my attention.

“It bears repeating that Empress Irina is not a ‘princess,’ as has become normal to hear. Nor is she a queen in any sense we would recognize. Her duties are strictly ceremonial. She would more properly be considered a religious leader. In times of severe stress, people turn toward religion and become more protective of their religious symbols. Thus Irina’s absence from public affairs can best be explained by the efforts of those who care about her to protect her from danger.

“I had the great fortune of being allowed to attend her semi-public speech last week. She emphasized the eagerness of her people to share their knowledge with the people of our region and work toward the common good. That is the official stance, of course, but I believe it to be sincere.

“Empress Irina also asserted that the new refugees who have arrived here with her will be here only for the short term. They will return to their homeland after matters between China and Japan have been resolved, and it is safe for them to return home.

“What news we have been able to ascertain from that region, though, suggests continued fighting with no resolution in sight. Regarding the status of Japan’s armed forces in Honshu, Foreign Minister Yoshida declined to provide specific details, but said they continued to hold fast in the east. Reports from Shanghai, on the other hand, suggest the blockade of Tokyo Bay is taking its toll.

“Regarding the numerous chances for misunderstandings due to linguistics issues, an older Japanese acquaintance who arrived in the first wave in the 2050s related the following experience to me. He said one mistake he made initially that caused him real embarrassment was in using the word ‘my,’ as in ‘my home’ or ‘my son.’ In Japan, he says, the word indicates private property, particularly something of which one may be proud, but not necessarily the property of the person using the word. In fact, by ‘my’ they usually mean ‘your.’

“Therefore, if a grinning oriental points at your house and says, ‘My home?’ he does not intend to take it from you. He’s just hoping to give you a chance to talk about one of your finest achievements.

“Do drop by Fashions and Notions! We have newly arrived shipments of Vancouver wool and California calico.”
Irina grimaced at the word “princess,” wondering whether to feel insulted or delighted. The article confirmed her suspicion that things were going a lot worse in Japan than she’d been led to believe. To say otherwise, she knew, was strictly taboo. Every prayer she intoned each morning, noon and night, extolled the virtues of the armed forces, lending them supernatural powers. Despite the efforts to keep her hidden away in the carriage when she travelled (and the glimpses she did manage to get were really unedifying), it was impossible to hide the fact that there was more and more business going on around her, which meant the “Bei-jin” encampment was flourishing with more and more new arrivals. She saw more and more people around the shrine, where she participated in the misogi ritual once a week. She was introduced to two new priests newly arrived from Japan, who both looked harried from a growing number of requests for their services in the encampments. “Encampment” had become plural.

Feeling deeply saddened, Irina gave the article back to Prof. Tsutsui, who carefully folded it and concealed it between the pages of a large tome he carried in his briefcase. Then he sadly smiled back at his student.

“I have not had the chance to meet the author,” he said, “But he is highly regarded among the Nisei here. You see the difficulty he has in explaining your position.”
“I thought he did very well,” said Irina, frowning.
“For the limited space in his column, yes, it is a very good explanation. The problem is,” Prof. Tsutsui drew in a thoughtful breath, “The people of this region have a distinctly different perception of ‘religion’ from we Japanese. The rumor has gone around here that you, like Emperor Showa, are considered ‘a god,’ and your people worship you accordingly. But here, as you know, many people, the Christians in particular, consider God to be unitary, or perhaps a threesome, but either way, absolute. There can be no others before Him.
“This article, unfortunately and inadvertently, presents you as an affront to that belief. Others have explained that you are like the Pope or like the LDS President in being a spiritual representative of a religion, but what they miss in that explanation is that you are the spiritual representative of a nation. Of course, the average citizen here would have trouble grasping the distinction here, no matter how well it was explained.

Irina thought about this for a long time. How could she explain to Cascadians who she really was. Should she go before the public like her great-great-great grandfather and state officially that she is not a god? Did anybody actually consider her a ‘god’? Furthermore, what about the Daiippa—the first wave of Japanese refugees? What were they saying about her? How did they feel? They were the ones who had been forced to abandon their birthright on Japan’s account, and thus officially on her grandfather’s account.

Current Mood: patient
6:55 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.10
10  Insurrections

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

Thereafter, once a day, about five days a week depending on Irina’s official work, Professor Tsutsui would take a pause in the middle of his hour with Irina and hand her another article, first ascertaining that no one was looking in. Irina would lay it in her open book, read through it quickly, and pass it back again. In English, they would quietly discuss its contents for a few minutes, then resume normal class.Read more...Collapse )

Some of the articles covered the continuing impacts of the insurrections that had led to the dissolution of the United States into warring factions. Cascadia had maintained its alliance with Deseret to the east, which had been particularly hard hit by climate change, so there was a slow but steady stream of refugees from that direction as well. A couple of LDS communities had been established nearby. It was said that they had come here expressly to study the example of the Japanese settlers. Cascadia had also reestablished relations with British Columbia to the north, which, as still part of Canada, for a long time had refused to recognize the new nation. The recent war between China and Japan had made relations with California more awkward than before, but with China distracted, the war with the opportunistic Mexico to the south had intensified, and the current border was said to be located somewhere between Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Large numbers of Nisei had relocated to California over the decades, encouraged to move there as a way to bolster it against incursions. Some had returned to Oregon recently after suffering discrimination at the hands of the Chinese; others had fled after seeing their towns turn into a raging battle zone with Mexican insurgents.

Irina realized that she needed to know more about the factors that had led to the dissolution of the United States, especially the cultural characteristics of her new home, as she expected to be here a while. That was easy to arrange for through official channels. Much had been written about this in Japan.

Irina read one book after another on her way to and from functions, and discussed some of the more surprising revelations with her professor. He would give his opinion on the credibility of each author’s work. The problem with most of them was that they had not actually lived in Cascadia, but were relying on historical literature and what could be gleaned from radio transmissions. None of them tried to describe the impact of boatload after boatload of Japanese arriving in any significant detail.

“You have to understand, Irina,” smiled Prof. Tsutsui expansively, “It is probably the biggest embarrassment the Japanese government ever faced, or really, refused to face, even now with the war going so badly. Let’s put this into perspective here. Imagine if you will hundreds of huge boats full of Chinese civilians, not pirates, not marauders, not the navy, you can shoot at those, but normal people in tattered clothes with their children, and they are crying for help. And the boats keep coming aground all around you. And now where do you put all these people? There were not thousands, Irina, but millions.

“And at the same time the economy here had collapsed, most of the population was destitute, and there was a civil war—all kinds of confusion. It’s a lot like going across the street for help from a neighbor with your whole family and all of your relatives when your neighbors are almost as desperate as you. Our country unleashed that on this one.”

The words ate at Irina’s soul. She turned progressively paler at each phrase, fighting back tears and ultimately failing. “An embarrassment to the Japanese government?” Yes, and her own flight to these shores, she knew, was another embarrassment to them.

After Irina regained her composure, Prof. Tsutsui brought out a short clipping that praised the Japanese up and down, both Daiippa and newcomers, for their organizational skills and diligence, just like a beehive, concluding, “Shouldn’t we all emulate them?”

Prof. Tsutsui’s rugged face flashed a fluorescent grin. “They’re jealous of us,” he shrugged.

Irina smiled sadly, thinking, “And can we make enough honey to keep things sweet with them?”

The next day, he gave her the article he’d actually intended to give her the day before. This one expressed concern that Irina would turn out to be another Hirohito. He’d been the ill-fated emperor that had led Japan to defeat in World War II, and was known posthumously as the Showa Emperor. He’d renounced the imperial divinity and tried to take responsibility for wrongs of his country, but from the context and the tone of the article, Irina knew that’s not what they meant. People were saying that the “Pink Princess” would just sit back passively while her people went a-conquerin’ again. The article concluded, “Can we trust them?”

Irina was astounded. “Who do they think we are? The Visigoths?” she squeaked. This brought a lady attendant to the door just as Irina was about to pass the article back. Irina smiled warmly at the attendant, saying, “I’m sorry! It was just a joke.” The lady smiled gently, bowed the statutory 15 degrees and went away.

“They think we’re in some position to attack them when we’ve just fled to their arms?” whispered Irina. “Don’t they see our efforts to help them?”
“The average person,” explained Prof. Tsutsui quietly, “Doesn’t see that at all. We are safe here because the elite of this country see benefits from having us here. To the average person, though, we do not look like refugees. They have seen lots and lots of refugees, and many have experienced life as a refugee themselves.”
“Have our people misbehaved? They were ordered to show no ostentation.”
“No ostentation was the most we could ask of them, but that is a long cry from acting destitute. Furthermore,” Prof. Tsutsui wrinkled his leathery brows, “Young people have to have an outlet.”
“What are they doing?” whispered Irina.
“I’ll explain that later. Another problem is our gifts to the people of Cascadia may not have as much value to the average citizen as we had hoped. We bring technology, because to us it is a symbol of hope for the future. Many here do not see it that way.”
Irina frowned. “How could they not?” she hissed.
“It would take me an hour to explain how they once worshipped technology, very much the way we worship nature. We did too! We still do, but not exclusively. There was more balance. That’s an oversimplification, mind you.
“The LDS, who are living nearby, for example, never really worshipped it. They were always suspicious of its potential for misuse. In essence, Irina, the people of this region really suffered under the misuse of technology. So did Japan. But not quite to the extent that it happened here. So they went from one extreme of believing fervently in the power of technology to solve all problems to the other, with some of them thinking it should be banned permanently.”
“Oh, I see!” said Irina mostly to herself.

“For us, when technology disappoints, it does not mean that technology is evil, but that humans are fallible. We Japanese have the problem, on the other hand, that because embarrassment is inevitably involved, we cover up our mistakes to save face for our peers or ourselves, and then we go on creating more victims. Again and again, we wind up creating such obvious problems that no one but the totally blind can claim not to see them, yet again and again, no official admission occurs. Not even tacit acknowledgement is tolerated.
“The result is problems snowball. Even in a historical context, I have never been free to teach about certain issues. Now, addressing it in arcane terms among researchers is one thing, and you know what I am talking about, but try lecturing to children of officials who believe Japan can do no wrong. As you know, it is taboo.” The professor paused thoughtfully. “We must try to ensure that we do let that happen here. Our people forgive it. These people, though, why should they?”

Over the weekend, Irina considered the ramifications of what her teacher had told her. The people of Cascadia had absorbed wave after wave of refugees because of Japan’s tendency to push problems out of sight and pretend they do not exist. Nevertheless, they had accepted Japan’s surplus somehow. But now this time, here came the people who had caused the problem to begin with. They were being accepted, grudgingly she was sure, because they could pay their way. The few Nisei she had met thus far had been carefully screened. They knew what never to mention. She still did not know what the majority of them thought. The newcomers, of which she was a part, were clearly causing friction in multiple ways, but Irina still did not know precisely how they were making problems or what efforts were underway to prevent that.

On Monday, Prof. Tsutsui nervously handed her the sarcastic screed written by Georgianna Notewright, “Girls will be Girls.”

Note: One of the surprising things I learned in Shinto is that details such as how many degrees to bow under what circumstances in formal situations such as ceremonies are codified in law in Japan. No punishment is stipulated. Such laws are common in Japan and serve as guidelines for appropriate behavior so people won’t argue over it.

Current Mood: rebellious
6:50 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.11
 11  Penance

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

That night at seven, Irina was pacing the front sitting room, waiting for five girls to arrive. It was a comfortably large western-style room, done up with Victorian touches, such as oil paintings of preceding emperors, antique mirrors, large comfortable upholstered chairs, and low tables for coffee and tea that could be arranged to accommodate any number of guests up to thirty, enabling intimate conversations with visiting dignitaries or friendly chats with larger groups.Read more...Collapse )

The arrival of guests was announced precisely at seven, and the five girls filed in with their heads bowed, looking simply terrified.

Irina quietly indicated for them to be seated, leading them to the chairs. They obeyed like sheep, but waited to sit until Irina had sat down and urged them to do so as well. There was a cup of hot tea and a little plate with colorful sweet little rice cakes in front of each girl, but each pretended these were not meant for her.

All the girls were approximately Irina’s age and well dressed, suggesting parents of a high enough station to be able to afford their daughter at least one such outfit, who would be hoping for her marriage to one of the bushi (swordsmen), or someone of similar stature.

Irina herself was wearing a salmon kimono with an orange and white obi and red cord. Her hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail, loosely tied just below her nape. She smiled warmly at the girls, who tried to smile back, but only managed to look more terrified.

She addressed them in Japanese. “You know why I called you in here, oh, please, o-meshiagare kudasai!” she said indicating the tea and rice cakes, and she picked up her teacup. The girls all hesitantly reached for theirs. “I’m not angry with you at all. I just need to know what is going on. We have come to a new country as beggars, and misunderstandings are inevitable.”
The girls all blushed.
“Can you tell me why you went to Rock Hills?”
There was silence for an awkward moment, then one of the girls, still bowed over, said in a quiet broken voice, “We were…bored.”
“And everybody’s going to Rock Hills…well, to meet the people…” a second girl volunteered. She glanced around at her friends, nervously.
Irina knew not to ask how much English they knew. “I hear the bushi were in town too,” she offered.
“Oh, yes!” Two or three of them spoke up, nodding vigorously. “They go there practically every day. They have some friends in town. There are some shops. One man even speaks Japanese!
“Yes!” all the others asserted. “We wanted to be friends.”
“That is entirely laudable,” said Irina. “We must make friends with our neighbors, and what you are doing is good. But I won’t ask what your parents are saying.”
The girls laughed nervously and looked at each other.
“But can you tell me why you went into the Tom, Dick and Harry—a bar solely for men?”
“Oh, well, it was Nori…” said one.
“No it wasn’t!” hissed another.
“But he said they had really good grilled chicken there!”
“Nori never went.”
“Somebody had just told him, and he said he wanted to go.”
There were several possible “Nori”s among the bushi and other high-ranked youth, and Irina really did not want to know which one was at fault. “So you went into the bar on a dare, then?”
“Oh, no, no! We just didn’t know!”

Irina’s heart went out to the girls. She reached for the little fork by the rice cakes in front of her and cut off a dainty bit to enjoy. The five girls simultaneously noticed theirs, and a couple of them picked up their forks, but the others still hesitated.
“You know what?” said Irina. “I’ve never been to Rock Hills, except in the carriage, and I have to keep the door shut, so I can never see anything. Can you tell me what the Tom, Dick and Harry looks like?”

The girls described the bar in hushed excited voices, as if they were sharing a plot with a new co-conspirator. Irina listened eagerly.

The building was all wood, no paint. The signboard was engraved. Inside was dark and smelled of the cheap local tobacco. It didn’t seem like they would actually luck out on the grilled chicken. But they sat down and ordered something to drink, which turned out to be stronger than what they were accustomed to, but they drank it, and they asked for menus. They wondered if the waiter had understood their request. Given enough time, he were apt to bring them, the girls thought. So they sat back patiently and a couple of them checked their messages. Midori had gotten a message from her cousin, who had just arrived in Neverwet, and Kazue’s best friend had made it too! They were so overjoyed that they made a lot of noise, but then the other patrons were pretty noisy too.

The waiter guy came over and said something to them, but by now they were tipsy, and they just ignored him. At this point, however, they had gotten an inkling that the other patrons were men only. It was dark inside, so at first they hadn’t noticed this detail. Now, though, all the men were gathering around them. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t understand what the men wanted. A large man came up and grabbed Midori (who now had her hands up, reliving the sheer terror of the moment). Kazue kept her wits about her and quietly dialed to Nori. She didn’t have any time to say anything to him before she too was in the clutches of a man—the waiter—wondering why he was treating a customer that way.

Fortunately, Nori knew where the girls had gone, so he and his friends went straight there on a run and burst in with a war whoop. This took the men by surprise. They let go of Midori and Kazue, and Kazue grabbed Midori, who looked like she was going to feint, and they all ran to the door past the guys and got safely out of there.

“You are lucky your phones worked there,” said Irina. “Did any of the bushi draw their swords?”
“Oh, no! They didn’t have to. The men let us go.”
“Did the men try to molest you?”
“We couldn’t tell what was going on.”
“They seemed to be angry at us.”
“They probably just wanted us to leave.”
“But we hadn’t paid.”
“And they were blocking our way out.”
“Until Nori and the guys came.”
“Then they stepped back and let us go.”

The girls continued talking about how scared they had been, recalling the darkness, the smells, the unpleasant faces, the terror of being trapped there. Irina encouraged them to talk until they seemed to have exhausted the subject. Then she thanked the girls warmly for their cooperation and said she would have an advisory issued for women not to go into town without male escorts.
“And on Saturday, I invite you all to join me for a misogi,” she concluded. It was really quite an honor she was conferring on them, but it was also a soul-shaking, physically harsh ritual in which each girl would stand for a couple of frigid minutes under a waterfall. “It will help clear away the bad memories and leave you refreshed,” she smiled.

Then she stood to leave, and the girls all stood with her.

After Irina was gone, the girls sat back down for a few minutes, quietly nibbling at the rice cakes, before the palace guards came and escorted them to their ride home in a horse-driven carriage.

Current Mood: penitent
6:45 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.12
12  The Lawyer’s Advice

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

There had been no snow in the Rock Hills area for getting on to 50 years now, but a chill fog would roll in from the sound every winter morning, on rare occasions decorating the cedars with etchings of pure white rime. Today it merely moistened them and sent cold droplets shimmering down. Irina loved viewing the old photographs of men in loincloths and women in short white kimonos, of all races, standing in deep white snow with icicles like chandeliers all around the falls.Read more...Collapse )

The head priest would select a good spot under the main flow, which changed frequently. Then after initial rituals, the participants each went under the falls for a moment until signaled by the head priest, who had had much experience with this. The idea was to stay long enough to achieve the full benefits, one of which was a full sense of unity with nature.

A bird inhabited the pool at the foot of the falls, into which it would dip, as was its habit. To Irina, it always seemed like she was just borrowing the falls from the bird for a moment. Small mobs of chickadees gathered in the trees nearby. They seemed to enjoy watching, and there were also ravens commenting coarsely from higher up. When Irina made her weekly visit to the shrine, it was private, so she normally only shared these moments with the birds and a few priests and priestesses.

Thus having the five girls come join her was a particular pleasure. Afterwards, they gathered around a hot stove to drink barley tea and discuss what insights the ritual had brought them.
For Irina, with her hands clasped and breath coming short from the icy shock of the water, it was a vision of Sarutahiko, the main god worshipped at the shrine. She sought him specifically, because he had been the pioneer among gods, first to make the journey from Heaven to Earth. He had forged the way for the other gods. A wanderer, hirsute, robust, ruddy, with a long nose, said to be a giant, he was actually speculated among scholars to have been a real human in the long distant past, possibly someone of northern descent. The old tales said he’d blocked the way and would not let the other gods pass, until one clever goddesss, Ame no Uzume, came along and persuaded him to stop it. She was like a lawyer, helping resolve disputes, and was also venerated at the shrine as Sarutahiko’s wife. The “giant” and the “lawyer.”

All too soon, though, the head priest indicated to Irina that her time under the waterfall was up, so she left with her questions unanswered. If you approach the divine too closely, it can sweep you clean away into its loving embrace. That happens to each of us inevitably, sooner or later, but why hurry things?

The five girls were all very impressed with the ritual. They experienced a sense of calmness and power they had never imagined before. They all said they would learn the sacred chants, and in fact, a couple of them went on to become priestesses, but a lot was to happen in the meantime.

There had been ominous societal rumblings throughout December, with even the normally calm priests hurrying about with somber faces, whispering. The prayers Irina gave each morning and evening included a much stronger emphasis on peace and friendship.

Nori and the other bushi had not drawn their swords to rescue the girls from the Tom, Dick and Harry, but of course a lot of rumors had them doing that. It seemed like any late-night knife slaying was being pinned on the Japanese. And if you looked into the background of the victims, you would inevitably turn up some connection, direct or indirect, to recent Japanese immigrants, who might have taken offense at something or other, but then as Henry would point out, it was hard to find anybody who did not have any sort of connection to the Japanese. Furthermore long-standing citizens of Chinese descent were being lumped in together with the Japanese.

However, there were also more and more reports of the bushi being cornered and harassed, such that they felt threatened on their trips into town on various errands. They were going to town less frequently, and the ladies were staying closer to home as well. A few times now, the bushi had drawn their swords, and the attackers had subsequently fled.

Tragedy almost seemed inevitable, and then the worst did happen. A group of bushi was ambushed and robbed. Their swords were taken because they had been too hesitant to use them. One of the men was killed when he resisted. Irina was informed of this, and she paid a visit to the bereaved family.

Professor Tsutsui brought her a couple of articles after that saying fearful things about the “Japanese invaders” acting like savages and being untrustworthy, with boatloads of them continuing to arrive.

Georgianna wrote cheerfully again, dripping with sarcasm, “Why not just round ‘em all up like we did in 1942 and stick ‘em in camps out in the desert where they can’t hurt anybody—most of all, themselves.”

Prof. Tsutsui explained that no one actually knew who Georgianna really was. It was a pen name for articles submitted from someone via a trusted friend who lived in Neverwet. There were speculations that she could be a man or even several people collaborating, and her personal opinion of the Japanese was unclear. Her goal seemed to be to entertain the local citizenry.

Irina considered this all, and then she requested information on the historical relocation camps and the more recent refugee camps. It was only a matter of time before one of the natives got hurt or killed, with witnesses, and then there would be a hue and cry for protection from the Japanese, and talk of relocation was apt to come up again.

As a matter of fact, it was only a few days before Prof. Tsutsui showed up sad-faced and without even bothering with the usual charade, produced an article with headlines that screamed, “Japanese Attack 63 Year Old Woman.”

Irina felt dizzy as she scanned swimmingly through the brief but hysterical article, which failed to give any meaningful information beyond the identity of the victim, who had sustained a wound that proved fatal later on in the evening.

“Well,” said Irina, “Did they apprehend swordsmen?”
“No, the men managed to get away. Our police know who it was.”
“Will they turn them over?”
“It would be…hard to…”
“Well, why not?”
“They’d be lynched. The men were attacked in an alley by a large group that were shouting obscenities, and people were injured on both sides. We have too little information at this time. We don’t know why the woman was there. The men say they did not see her. We don’t know what happened to her—why or how she was injured. It seemed to be another hit and run attack, and our men did defend themselves with their swords.”
“Oh, I see,” said Irina pensively. “Professor Tsutsui, I really need time to think about this.”
“Our authorities are working to solve this. It’s a really dangerous situation, but we must be patient.”
“This is going nowhere very quickly. It has been escalating relentlessly for months.”
“But you cannot take this into your own hands, Your Majesty. This is beyond your sphere of duty. The people of Cascadia know this. They don’t expect you to act on these minor crises.”
“I need to think. I need to pray and meditate. My mother always told me I would have no power or control as Empress, and she was right. But she said I did have one option.”

The professor nodded. He and his student spent the rest of the hour in meditation, exchanging very few words. It would have been the wrong time to broach the subject of an apparent explosion at a nuclear plant somewhere in the Orient, more than likely Japan. Professor Tsutsui was sorely tempted to say something, but it would have been another problem worrying the Empress. He was beginning to regret having shared so much with her. Perhaps his student was actually as sensitive as her mother the Empress Dowager.

But it didn’t matter. Irina had already heard about the explosion from one of the girls after their misogi together, and the priests said they’d heard about it too, but it was too early to tell what had really happened. Well-schooled in equanimity, Irina kept a straight face as if she’d known about it all along. Well, she’d suspected such stuff.

She quietly made arrangements with the staff to undertake a private misogi the next morning, cancelling her yoga lesson and arranging her morning prayers earlier, because she needed time to be alone with the gods and really talk to them. Her official prayers were never personal. They were never about herself.

“Are you feeling okay, Ii-chan?” asked her mother at dinner. “The climate here is so different, and the food tastes different. We have to endure so much. But you know we must be grateful.”
Yori and Maruyoshi were eating separately from them because they had to attend to the colicky Maruhito. Yori would have been so disapproving, thinking how inappropriate Irina was as Empress. Maruyoshi was a complete introvert, and tolerated palace life by shutting everyone else out and focusing on his exclusive passion for entomology.

The staff themselves were largely unaware of the full situation beyond the castle walls, but they eyed each other suspiciously. Had one of them let rumors of troubles interfere with Her Majesty’s duties? In the candle-lit hallway, Irina could see them whispering together, glancing at her and then quickly looking away. They were certain it was the girls who had passed something or other on to Irina, maybe the flu, but she’d go even crazier if they kept her isolated. They shrugged helplessly.

Well at least no one suspected her political sciences professor. Not yet, at least.

The waterfall pounded on Irina’s shoulders like a massage by a proactive doctor, and she leaned back until its power hit her fully on the head. The senior priest stood nearby, his near nakedness of no note to Irina, because it was entirely appropriate. He waited, watching carefully for Irina to give her signal, because he wanted her to get the full benefit of what she had specifically requested.

Irina focused on the chant, which today was the Oh-harae no Kotoba, with its vivid imagery of her nation’s origin and of sin and salvation in the bosom of Great Nature.

“The gods conferred, oh they conferred…
And when confronted with malevolent gods,
They persuaded and persuaded,
Then they swept away the obstinate, they really did,
Bringing peace to the very bases
Of the rocks, trees and grasses,
Hushing each and every leaf.”

In her mind, Irina saw the very patient Amaterasu with tears in her eyes, just as afraid as she. Susano-o’s wrath had driven him into such violence that he’d torn up the fields of Heaven, breaking down the ridges between rice paddies and covering up the ditches. He’d defecated and strewn his feces in Heaven’s fruit-tasting hall, opened a hole in the roof of Amaterasu’s weaving hall where she was overseeing the work, and in a Godfatherly touch, flung her favorite pony, flayed backwards, into the hall, causing one of her attendants to pierce herself fatally in the genitals with her shuttle.

In shock, Amaterasu opened Heaven’s rock cavern, and shut herself inside, robbing Heaven and Earth of her light. The darkness was terrible, so all of the 800 myriad gods got together in a divine assembly and tried to think of ways they could coax her back out. Nothing worked, but then the lawyer goddess, Ame no Uzume, came up with her own idea, singing and dancing semi-naked on an overturned bucket, and everybody laughed so hard…

Irina turned to the priest, and he nodded. She left the waterfall and looked up in the sky where her ancestral goddess just happened to be hovering warmly above the tree tops. Irina laughed out loud, then turned her back on Amaterasu to go confer with Ame no Uzume about juridical details.

She spent another hour talking with the shrine’s senior priests. They had lived all their lives in Cascadia. What Irina needed to know was, what could her people give the people of Cascadia? It needed to be something they would really appreciate.

That afternoon, she called a conference of the Imperial Household.
Author’s own translation of passages from the Oh-harae no Kotoba (Great Prayer of Purification), with reference to Rev. Anne Evans’s translation. The words of what is really an epic poem are said to have a “spirit” (kotodama), which is lost in translation, especially a literal one, though Jazz musicians will know what I mean. There is a cadence, with the repetition of elements reinforcing the vivid imagery.
The original meaning of “myriad” was 10,000. So that is 8 million gods.
Story of Amaterasu’s withdrawal into the cave from the Kojiki: http://www.sp.uconn.edu/~gwang/id95.htm

Current Mood: wet
6:37 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.13
13  Garments of Steel

by Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

“I’ll be going in front of the public in Neverwet next Sunday,” announced Irina to all who had assembled.
Her mother shook her head in disbelief. Her daughter was every bit as bull-headed as her father had been.
“But there is no way to guarantee your safety,” came one timid reply.Read more...Collapse )
“I hear we still have most of our swordsmen so far, and that they’ve demonstrated their skills. I should think the people of Neverwet would be intimidated.”
“Now, who’s been talking to you?” asked the head steward petulantly. Professor Tsutsui shrugged sheepishly, but they all ignored him. Irina beamed at her cousin Yori, who frowned, “It wasn’t me!”
But she would gamely take the blame and the momentary discomfort it produced, all the while quietly calculating ways to discover which of the staff had divulged information that would impinge upon the Empress’s duties.

It took Irina a good hour of explaining and cajoling, but all the while she felt the presence of Ame no Uzume, standing by her side more than ever since or before that day. She eventually got the whole team on board, though Yori continued frowning. Can you blame her?

After that, the details had to be discussed. What was Irina to wear over her bullet-proof vest?
“Give me nibu-iro,” she commanded amiably.
“What?! You can’t do that! That’s only for funerals!” shouted one attendant.
“Well, this is a funeral of sorts, don’t you see?”
“But you can’t! You’re the Empress!”
“You wish to dispute me? We’ll be here all night. Everyone else is getting tired. I know what I’m doing.”
“But…but…what will people think?!”
“Our people will know I’m serious. And the Cascadians? They’ll probably just think it’s bullet-proof.”
“Okay,” said the head steward, shaking his head. “Asada-san, you go talk to the priests about borrowing their nibu-iro, that is if they’ll agree to it.”
“No need for that,” said Irina, “I discussed this with them already, and I have the garments already in my room.”
Yori snorted. The Empress Dowager shook her head sadly.

The plan that was announced to all of the people in Cascadia was that the entire public, including the Japanese, both newcomers and long-term residents, as well as anyone else of any age or gender was invited to hear the Empress of Japan address them at the Neverwet football stadium for 30 minutes on Sunday morning, starting at 8:30, which for the faithful, would be before church services. The facility had been designed with security in mind. The seats behind Irina would be off-limits to the public, and with folding wooden chairs brought in to the field, they figured there would be plenty of room for anyone within a day’s walk among the poor and a half-day’s horse ride among the wealthy who had any interest in Japanese affairs. The LDS were likely to come. They had a ward house about 30 minutes by carriage from the stadium. Georgianna’s readership was likely to show up as well, maybe even the gossip columnist herself, if her manicure would permit it.

As to the proposed details of her speech, it is said you could hear the howls from the Imperial Household all the way into the next county.

Current Mood: steely
6:31 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.14
14  The Neverwet Address

Sally Oh
(copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)

“Is that ‘er?” Josh nudged Henry.
“C’mon! Gimme the glasses!”
“Here. She’s too old.”
“Ah, yeah. I see.”Read more...Collapse )
“Yeh never did get yer meeting with her, I take it,” said Tom. “Sem, you saw ‘er photos, too, from the press conference. Josh, give Sem a turn with the glasses once in a while.”
The shy black youth grinned broadly and accepted the binoculars.
“No, I never got to meet her,” said Henry. “I couldn’t get beyond the first set of guards. With what has been happening, I’d have been surprised to be let through. People seem to love imagining enemies behind every tree.”
“And the result is we’re stuck out ‘ere in the wastelands of plebe city,” said Tom. “Look at all these people.”
“All of greater Neverwet seems to have a crush on ‘Er Majesty,” noted Josh.
“Well, if they keep letting ‘em in,” said Tom, “They’re gonna have a crush on us!”
“It is a bit extreme,” admitted Henry, “You’d think the Japanese could have planned for this better.”
“YIIIIIIING!” interrupted the ancient rusty public broadcast system. They’d been fiddling with it all morning trying to get it up and running again.
“It’s 29 past,” announced Henry looking at his pocket watch, “And the Japanese are punctual if anything. Hopefully the guards will stop admitting people at 8:30.”
“The only folks that got seats are the ones who camped out all night in the cold,” said Tom.
“Now that is what I call dedication,” said Sam, passing the binoculars back to Henry, while struggling to avoid getting pushed over by a large man with his wife and five complaining children in tow. Probably LDS. Tom gave them a deprecating look. The four friends had thus far managed to defend a position from which they had a view.

“Testing, testing…woooooooon,” came a quiet voice over the speakers, “Hai! Hai!... A, daijobu des ne.”
“Hey!” shouted somebody from down below, “Shush, shush, shush, everybody!”

There was a flurry on the stage below as the work crew departed and attendants in white filed onto the stage and took their positions in front of the white sheeting with golden chrysanthemum emblems that had been up all morning, with black and white vertically striped sheeting below the stage.

The bleachers had been cordoned off into three sections. The first, on the left was reserved for the Japanese, and it had swordsmen standing guard, nearly elbow to elbow, facing outward. This section was mostly full at this time, but still had a few empty seats.

The second section, on the right, extended down into the field in front of the stage and was reserved for dignitaries. It was guarded by a locally hired police force, and about half full at this time, with people arriving in pairs or small groups wearing tailored suits or fashionable dresses as if the show were meant to feature them. Since it was fashionable to be a half hour late, they risked missing Her Majesty’s speech, but you could see they had their stenographers present in prim dull suits.

The third section, any place not blocked off and guarded, was bristling with local people. No one in that section had a close enough view of the stage to present a real threat, but army personnel pushed their way through the crowd, checking, just to be sure. There were a few groups of people with placards saying things like, “Go Home, Princess!” You could see the soldiers accosting them, but ultimately allowing them to continue their protests.

Suddenly a round of applause erupted from the second section and parts of the third closer to the stage. The Japanese in the stands rose to their feet and stood with bowed heads, and the attendants standing on the stage bowed their heads too. Two swordsmen leapt into view and took up positions on either side of the dais, facing it with their heads bowed.

The whole stadium went quiet as a figure in dark gray came out and stepped up onto the dais. Her Majesty. There was a slight gasp and flurry of surprise from the Japanese. Henry grabbed his binoculars back from Josh, who’d managed to get the first look. “Armor?” smirked the latter. “Must be expectin’ a battle from us, I guess.”
“Can’t be!” said Henry.
“What can’t be?” asked Tom, who still hadn’t had a look. Sam squinted at the stage, frowning deeply.
Nibi-iro!” said Henry. “This is serious.”
“What’s ‘knee-bee-doe’? asked Tom, “Some kinda weapon?”
“No, it’s the color. Their priests use it at funerals.”
“So?” shrugged Tom.
“So much for pink!” said Josh.
“What does it signify?” asked Sam.
“I think she means to atone for the old lady that got killed.”
“Beth Henderson,” said Sam quietly, sadly. The others ignored him.

As Irina took the podium, several hecklers in the crowd taunted her. A small group above Henry and his friends held up a banner that read, “Do you think you are God?” A few people shouted “Go home, Pink Princess!” One fanatic kept shouting “Harry-Carry!” until he was wrestled to the ground.

Irina waited a polite moment and then began, “Ladies and Genterman!” in a clear, but hesitant voice, followed by a slight ying, which died down of its own accord. An attendant stepped forward in response, but then stepped back again and resumed a bowed posture.

Someone in the crowd below lobbed a tomato, which only managed to splatter in the dignitaries’ section.

“It is with great sorrow that I am addressing you today,” she continued.

Tom finally managed to get the binoculars from Henry and get them focused. What he saw did indeed resemble armor of steel, with masculine lines, as stiff as a board. Irina’s long hair was tied back and wound into a severe bun, the whole effect only slightly softened by the black lacquered diadem, a soft blush and a hint of pink lipstick. Without her glasses, she could not be considered unattractive.

“We, the people of Japan, fled to your arms when our country could no longer withstand the enemy forces gathered around our little islands. We could only survive these terrible times for Japan because of your friendship and cooperation.”

Irina enumerated the ways in which her people had been helped over the past decades, exaggerating certain points such as Cascadians’ friendship toward the newcomers, but she never lost her air of sincerity.

During this, Josh, who now had the binoculars, kept up a commentary on how masculine the “princess” looked, in contrast to her soft, halting voice, until Tom and Henry nudged him into silence.
Irina continued with a list, also somewhat exaggerated, of the ways her own people had behaved ungratefully. She paused at the end of each phrase as if to consider her word choices, but probably waiting for the echo off the loudspeakers. She topped off her list by mentioning the technology by which, “We hoped we could offset, at least a few, of the inevitable conflicts, our intrusion would engender. I hate to say, but must admit, we failed to do, our homework first!” This admission brought some sparse clapping.

“”While there are certainly, many forms of technology, that would make life easier, for the citizens of the Cascade Republic, we brought you technology of the past, that has no place in Cascadia, a young nation moving forward. I offer you my sincerest apologies.”

A smattering of clapping began, then swelled and subsided. The hecklers had quieted down, the worst of them having been removed.

“But,” continued Irina, “Apologies are not sufficient. I intend to atone, for what has happened.”
“Then go home!” shouted one lone female voice from above.
“I intend,” said Irina, ignoring the taunt, “To contribute something of value, to the people who saved our lives. The people who received so many, of our own people, to whom we ourselves could not, extend a helping hand. I thank, the people who, in their own time of severe hardship, allowed our people to enter, and reside, in their land, in their own houses and communities.”
Clapping arose again.

“I intend to be, a humble servant to you. I will labor for no pay.” There was a slight stir among the assembled Japanese, the attendants on stage maintained their bowed posture. They all knew what Irina was going to say.
“Tomorrow morning, at the break of dawn, I will shave my head.”

A murmur arose among the crowd. “But why?” shouted one woman in the dignitary section or near it. “We like you, Irina!” shouted a man somewhere to her right.
“There is historical precedence,” said Irina. “I am not Japan’s first reigning empress. There were others before me. Some famous, like Himiko; others not so famous. Some were Buddhist. They shaved their heads, and served as nuns. I will sell my hair for wigs,” declared Irina, then added with a mischievous smile, “To any of you, who would like a little piece of me.”

That earned a dirty look from the Empress Dowager. Yori just shook her head.

“But that is not all,” continued Irina, “I will give the money, to the family of Mrs. Beth Henderson. And then, I will let my hair grow again, until it is this long.” She stepped aside from the podium and turned her back so that most people could see, and removed a pin, allowing her hair to tumble and spiral down, almost reaching the dais upon which she stood. She shook her head and it touched the dais. Then she turned back to the podium.
“And during that time, I will work, as a common laborer, in a refugee camp. They still exist. I have already made arrangements. And the first task, for me and my people,” she said, indicating the others on the stage with her, will be to prepare facilities, so that other recent refugees, may join us.”
That brought silence to the whole crowd, Japanese, dignitaries and all—yea, to the very bases of the rocks, trees and grasses…

“To my countrymen,” she said, turning to the Japanese in the stands, “I encourage you all to participate, to show our sincerity.”
“She’s serious!” gasped Josh, “Look!”
“The swordsmen!” said Henry.
“Are all facing inward now!” added Tom.
Sam stood by, slack-jawed, “What in Heaven’s name?”
“And we will work, for the benefit, of the people, of Cascadia!” declared Irina.

Her speech continued with praise for the beauty of the region and the efforts that had gone into preserving it. In the refugee camp, she’d been told, she could see ospreys and eagles. “We never see those in Tokyo,” she quipped, “Despite our city’s recent return, to coastal habitat.”

But the people were not really listening any more. They were sitting in stunned amazement or whispering to each other.

When historians look back, they define this as the moment when Cascadia became “Ni’onjin.” There was never any official declaration, but the people began to adopt more and more of the habits of the newcomers, eventually shunning outsiders as “uncouth.” Japanese became a second official language, but blended with English until there was nothing but annotations in dictionaries to distinguish them. The language that arose adopted Japanese grammar and phonetics, with certain changes such a richer assortment of vowels and consonants from English. The latter subsequently had to be learned as a foreign language, just as Spanish, Chinese and Russian, by people working in international trade.

By the time Irina closed her speech with the words, “Rest assured, Ladies and Genterman, boys and garls, Cascadia will see a bright future,” the whispers had become a buzz, but everyone recognized the tone of finality and Irina’s step back from the podium for a deep bow, and erupted into cheers and applause. If there’d been seat cushions, they’d have been thrown, I suppose, though that may have become the custom later on.
The Japanese, both in the stands and on the stage, clapped politely, though they all looked a bit stunned. Professor Tsutsui suppressed a grin.

Irina’s hair sold by the strand, and the grieving Hendersons became well-to-do, but in the spirit of the times, they donated most of the proceeds to the local grange for helping others in more dire need.

Irina performed one last misogi at the shrine, with her newly shaved head shining in the sun, then waited out an especially intense winter hurricane before departing for the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula with forty carefully chosen male and female attendants. Her mother insisted on coming along, so six of more bushi were also dispatched to ensure the frail lady’s safety. That brought the total to 48.

Midori stayed behind with Yori, the new reigning empress, who would perform all official duties at the palace until Yoshihito was of sufficient age to toddle through them. Professor Tsutsui argued successfully against announcing that Irina was no longer reigning empress, so that remained a quietly acknowledged secret for the rest of her life.

She had become the People’s Empress.

Current Mood: sacrificial
Sunday, February 14th, 2016
9:32 pm
Empress of the Sun, Ch.15
15 Irina's Rock Cavern

Sally Oh
(Copyright 2016, Patricia Ormsby)
September 2116
In her subsequent column, Georgianna lambasted anyone who had ever doubted the sincerity of the “Japanese invaders,” feigning total innocence of such a shocking crime herself. She said she would dispatch her spies to the old refugee camp, rumored to be not much more than concrete and stone foundations with a few hunters’ shacks. “Folks, from there, it is said our Pink Princess is going to be building up a refugee camp for her people with her bare hands.” Of course, owing to her manicure and hairdo, Georgianna could not allow herself to dream of visiting. Yet, in summer, maybe, just maybe she could splurge.
Read more...Collapse )

It soon became clear, too, that her readership would decline until she managed to overcome her aversion to hardship enough to make that trip.

The relocation camp, where Irina and her retinue were now living, was in a side canyon with a small stream on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, and was then about 200 yards from the encroaching ocean. To reach it they had to wait for low tide and then scramble across slippery rocks. Its isolation was the main reason for its abandonment. Many other of the original relocation camps were still inhabited by the original Japanese occupants and their descendants. The area still received a lot of rain, though not as much as in the past, and setting up stone bulwarks against winter storms became the first task. Far from an authentic relocation camp experience, this was much more of an exciting group effort within a tightknit community. The work was backbreaking, but they had so many proud young bushi insisting on doing all the hard work themselves, that Irina finally got angry and insisted the ladies be allowed to help aside from kitchen duty and cleaning. She encouraged the bushi to teach everyone safe work techniques. With the arrival later that spring of Professor Tsutsui, the community initiated a sincere effort to grow its own food so that the bushi wouldn’t have to go on trips for supplies so often.

Nevertheless, Irina only managed to accomplish a modest amount of the hard work, because as the winter gales died down, visitors started showing up, asking if they could join the camp.
Irina turned them down, but took them around to show them how the effort was progressing. She explained that they had limited space for growing food, but there were similar canyons nearby if anyone was inclined to try it. Thus the visitors returned to their homes, but they did so with inspiring stories, and the stream of new visitors swelled as warmer weather made the journey pleasant. Ultimately, Irina had to designate guards at the gate, and have them turn people away. Camp Irina, as everyone dubbed it, could become a museum later. (What remains of it as of 2545 is underwater, but further up the canyon there is a temple/shrine dedicated to the Heiyo Empress and Camp Irina.)

It was early May, and Irina had already delegated visitor duty to a rotating list of English-speaking “shuujin” (“prisoners,” as they were calling themselves) so she could take on more physical tasks such as breaking rocks, when one of them approached her in the field, bowing and hissing through his teeth and described a persistent gentleman at the gate who had come back every day for a week, well-dressed and polite. “Shikashi, Nihongo dekiru kata desu!” he said, “Sore de, joozu desu!

Irina went with him in her dirty prisoner outfit to see this oddball gentleman who spoke Japanese fluently. At first, she thought she would turn him away too, but the kneeling, fully bowing supplicant provided her a name card, which said, “T. Henry Buckminster, Tailor and Writer.” That rang a bell. In fact, hadn’t she seen his face somewhere? Oh yes! One of the people at her speech to the press who appeared to want to tell her something. Well, finally he’d have a chance!

She had one of the guards go fetch Professor Tsutsui, and she pulled a few wooden chairs together, insisting that Henry sit with her. In Japanese she asked, “What is it that you need, Buckminster-san?”

“I want to help your effort,” he replied, haltingly, “It was the most brilliant idea!”

“You have already done a lot of good for us as a writer,” said Irina. “There are many people who are keen on emulating us. I wish we had room to take in more people.” She saw a look of disappointment travel across Henry’s brow. “Don’t worry! Here is what you can do. Come here once a week, and I will tell you about our progress and provide you advice on how to make a ‘relocation camp’ work. I hear church groups are making plans to run mini-camps. I will also provide you with our handiwork. If you can find a merchant to sell it, please give as many of the proceeds as you can to charity.”

“I’ll be happy to be of service,” said Henry, then he frowned again, “But how can I describe your work if I have no chance to see it beyond what you have shown visitors already?”

Professor Tsutsui arrived sweating and grinning, his rugged face browner than it had ever been.

Henry stood and bowed.

Irina got a mischievous grin, suppressed it, and in all seriousness said, “Tsutsui-sensei, please find this man a chore to handle. He is now officially a shuujin here.” Turning to Henry, she said, “You have demonstrated your skill and understanding of Japanese language and culture, and therefore your equivalence to wareware Nihonjin. Therefore I deem you in need of an edifying relocation experience.” Then she laughed. “Besides which, you are using archaic Japanese terms you learned from the Nisei. You have a lot of learning to do. Now get to work!” She picked up a stone and made a pretense of throwing it at him.

Fortunately, Henry had made arrangements for a nephew of Tom’s to run his shop in his absence.

Henry served the camp as a tailor, crafting simple, practical but attractive shuujin uniforms. He had the additional tasks of farmer and PR director.

Every time a person takes a bold action, as Irina had been warned all her life, there will be repercussions spreading like waves, affecting people unknown, and bouncing back to affect those close by. Irina’s mother, the Empress Dowager, kept insisting on working with everyone, though she was physically very weak. She collapsed in the middle of the potato harvest in June. The doctor on hand managed to revive her, and he called in specialists, but by the time they arrived, it was too late. The news was greeted with public mourning throughout Cascadia.

In August, Irina was alerted to the presence of an angry group of Cascadians of Chinese descent outside the gates. She and Henry went out to talk to them with a small contingent of the bushi for protection. The protesters claimed to have been thrown out of their town by vigilantes who had mistaken them for Japanese and told them they should forfeit their assets and live in a relocation camp. Irina wanted to promise them compensation, but Henry cautioned her that this was his first time to hear of such an incident, so Irina promised to examine their case. This case and others like it never got fully resolved because of too many conflicting claims being made by different people involved. Scandals occurred at a few of the other camps that sprung up on the Olympic Peninsula and in other areas. These included abductions and other serious crimes. Some of these camps had received official recognition from Irina. When a Chinese vessel was spied near the coast not very far from Camp Irina that autumn, Irina and her contingent transferred to Camp Happi, which was being built further inland. So many problems sprung up that Irina sometimes wondered if the effort had been a waste of time. Nevertheless, she forged ahead as promised, with help from the single most amazing citizen of the Puget Sound area.

It was July of the first summer of the relocation camps when Irina was told about shy young man, black as the night, who knew Henry was there, claiming to be a friend of his, but insisted that he wanted to talk to Irina. He’d been turned away and had gone back in the direction he’d arrived from. Informed about him, Henry said, “Sam? What on Earth would he be doing here? I’ve never seen him more than three blocks from his home, unless someone gave him a lift. He would be interested in meeting Irina. That I can see. But coming all the way out here for it?”

Sam was persistent enough to return the next day, and this time, Irina spotted him from afar and decided to go ahead and meet with him.

At Henry’s suggestion Irina had by then adopted a modest but lovely calico kimono with a sash that she could throw on for visitors, replacing her work cap with a simple lacquered diadem, which really did not go well with her short hair, but she was still, after all, Her Majesty. She kept these items, white tabi and clean straw sandals in a woven box in the guardhouse by the gate.

Her visitor in simple woolen clothing was obviously not wealthy, nor did he seem to be very strong. He’d probably stayed the night at camp Roger, the second relocation camp, which was being organized in the next valley to the north. He must have hiked back over in the morning. The effort had exhausted him, and he was sitting in the shade across from the gate, fanning himself, but rose awkwardly to his feet when he saw Irina coming.

He stepped forward extending his hand and in his quiet, husky voice said, “Sam Pickens, at your command.”

Irina accepted his hand and shook it lightly. “What can I do for you, Mr. Pickens?” she asked with a look of concern for Henry’s friend.

“Oh,” said Sam, shaking his head mournfully, “First let me offer you an apology.”

“An apology?”

“Here,” said Sam, fumbling through his shirt pocket. He withdrew a name card and handed it to her. It said, “Sam Pickens, Gossip Monger”.

“Gossip monger!?”

“Yes,” said Sam sadly, “That’s what I am. A gossip monger.”

Irina was perplexed. She’d never heard of this job title before. “Well, what do you do?” she asked, turning over the card. It said “Georgianna Notewright” on the back. Irina quickly pretended she hadn’t seen it.

“I write a gossip column for the Waterproof Times,” sighed Sam sadly.

“But why do you do that?”

“Well, it puts food on the table, and buys medicine for my Aunt Clara.”

Feeling far more sympathy than revulsion, Irina led Sam inside the gates and started pulling chairs over to the shady side of the guard house. “But isn’t there anything else you can do?”

“No,” said Sam. “You can tell that I don’t have a singing voice, and I can’t act—except stupid. My heart murmur means I cannot work at any job that does not offer me a desk. My Aunt Clara and I are all that is left of my family. The only thing I was ever any good at was gossip.”

Irina suppressed a laugh at the memory of Georgianna’s “manicure” and “hairdo.” She held his hands and said, “You’re a brilliant writer. Did you know that, Sam?”

And that is how the Empress of Japan met and befriended her former nemesis and future trusted team member, whose identity she guarded, crushing the name card in her hand and insisting on introducing him to everyone in Camp Irina as Sam Pickens, a respected writer. She quickly cautioned Henry not to reveal what he knew about Sam, explaining what she had discovered. Henry was genuinely surprised. He’d never imagined Sam as anything resembling the consummate gossip monger Georgianna.

And to the end of his days, Sam was known to the public only as “Georgianna.”

Note: They got Cascadia’s grammar school kids to think of names for the camps, based on the Japanese “Iroha” alphabet.

Current Mood: gossipy
Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
9:57 pm
The Bastion (Albert Comes of Age)
by Sally Oh

(Copyright Patricia Ormsby, 2015)
August 3015
Northwest shore
Colorado River

              I stopped around noon, pulling my raft out of the river on a sand bar along the sunny northern shore and unrolled my bed roll to dry out. Normally, I would have continued on until mid-afternoon. That day, however, I stopped almost three hours earlier than planned because of an unusual white rock that had come into view ahead. At first it looked like yet another fascinating geological formation, like many I’d seen among the colorful shady glens recently, but as I rounded a bend, it presented a different aspect, downright terrifying in its dimensions, with neat vertical and horizontal lines, jutting from the natural pink and red clefted sandstone of the canyon walls.Read more...Collapse )

Current Mood: One of those moods
Saturday, August 9th, 2014
11:11 am
Unity, Chapter 1
Copyright 2014 Sally Oh (Patricia Ormsby)

Chapter 1  Albert                                                                               August 2044

“It is better to run away than to carry out thirty-six strategies.”—Japanese proverb

In the blinding white light and exhausting heat of a desert afternoon sat a weather-beaten waif of indeterminate teen years, sprawled out in the scanty shade of a wind-polished, gnarled juniper. Her clothing was faded and tattered to match her surroundings. Her light brown hair, of a shade once known as “dishwater,” and currently called “dark blonde,” had been sun-bleached back to its childhood hue of sandy where it protruded from under her faded blue baseball cap in ratted wisps.Read more...Collapse )

Current Mood: Irreverent
10:48 am
Unity, Chapter 2
Copyright 2014 Sally Oh (Patricia Ormsby)

Chapter 2  Thomas                                                                            August 2032

“With nothing to attain, the bodhisattvas rely on prajna-paramita and their heart is free from obstruction, and because there is no obstruction, they have no fear, and they pass beyond all confused imagination.” –from the Heart Sutra

Thomas Sanchez was a large clumsy boy of 18, the third son of one of the wealthier families of the Catholic half of Unity, Texas. His status assured that he was basically ignored, free from pressure, and entirely bypassed socially, with the sole exception of being the butt of whatever jokes the bristling rivalry of the town’s youths produced. His one aspiration (also derided) had been college, somewhere back east preferably. All those late lonely nights under a single LED lamp, plus God’s will, had granted him Harvard, where he planned to major in chemistry.Read more...Collapse )
10:31 am
Unity, Chapter 3
Copyright 2008 Sally Oh (Patricia Ormsby)

Chapter 3  Constance                                                                          August 2027

“Even a thousand mile journey begins with the first step.”—Japanese proverb

At 7:30 a.m. four construction workers arrived at the corner of Pine and Cherry to begin work on a sewer line that had been damaged in a recent storm. At 8:00 sharp, they commenced drilling with a jackhammer, waking up the sleepy denizens of Ponderosa Hills, a shady, genteel suburb of the quiet northern California town of Truckee. They hadn’t been at it for fifteen minutes, when along came a little old lady wearing a demure purple and white cotton kimono, with her long gray hair tied back in a pony tail. She had sandals and a cane that had a jade dragon head as its handle. She edged up close to where they were making the din and peered down the hole they were opening up. Read more...Collapse )
Thursday, December 12th, 2013
5:19 pm
The Realization of Human Happiness
The Realization of Human “Happiness”         Antony F.F. Boys  http://www9.ocn.ne.jp/~aslan

Societies based on the competitive principle have not created widespread human “happiness,” nor are there prospects for greater happiness simply by continuing along the lines of the present economic and social policies. Resource constraints are emerging that will force a transition to a low-energy society, characterized by decentralization, localization, especially of production and consumption, and environmental coexistence. In pursuing this necessary transition, it is time to start asking “what is happiness?” Bhutan (and in Japan, the Mottainai Society) has tackled the issue, with a focus on the political, social, and economic elements necessary for an environment in which happiness is possible. Optimization of these elements, however, does not guarantee happiness. Something else is needed, which may be hard to express in words, but appears to be found in human relationships, in particular, the human relationship with nature. The development of this idea in the context of Japan’s food and energy issues is the main thesis of this paper, but it would apply just as well to other advanced industrialized nations facing an increasingly global crisis.
Part 1 discusses Japan’s food and energy problems. Japan’s current food self-sufficiency ratio is about 39%, and could be much lower under several likely scenarios, such as loss of fossil fuel inputs. There is a high likelihood of a severe crisis unless steps are taken, and soon, to reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers; increase farmland area and the number of people working in farming; begin to provide draft animals; ensure sustainable management of forests, not only for wood, but also for leaf humus for fertilization; produce biofuels to smooth the transition; reduce the need to transport food; and find less energy-intensive modes of food retailing and preparation, including less processing.  A food shortage, needless to say, would not promote happiness.
Part 2 defines “happiness” as “a long-lasting sense of inner contentment and security,” and discusses how that might be achieved. The factors that should aid in the creation of a “happy” society are well known, but it has also been noted that the more materially affluent societies are, the more difficult it appears for those societies to be happy. The author explored the subject of human happiness more broadly, and came to see that happiness also relied on appropriate human relationships with nature as much as it did on appropriate human social and economic relationships. “Nature” refers to non-urbanized areas where people can come into contact with wild or domesticated animals and plants. Carlos Casteneda in The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge brought up the idea of a “separate reality,” a non-verbal mode of perception that could be achieved by stopping the internal dialog, an idea also familiar to Zen Buddhism.  The “tonal” world accessible to verbal description is quite limited compared to the “nagual” world Castaneda described, of non-verbal perception.
Of particular interest here is perception with the human heart in the literal sense. Research has brought to light that the heart is not merely a pump, but a “brain” in its own right, with high sensitivity to electric charges, an ability to transmit electromagnetic radiation. It is an aggregation of cells that, as will electrical detection arrays in fish, makes it possible for this organ to sense extremely weak electric fields. Our society trains people to ignore these sensory clues and “colonizes” the mind with linear/verbal/analytic/reductionist styles of cognition, so this ability to perceive and communicate with the heart may atrophy, thus information from the heart is processed by most people below the conscious level of cognition. To the calculating mind, “love” is mere madness. Stephen Harrod Buhner’s The Secret Teachings of Plants provides exercises for refining the heart as an organ of perception. The first step is to find a good natural area that one enjoys and spend time there, and the second is to stop the inner dialog, feeling rather than thinking, abandoning preconceptions.
Part 3 describes people who are already applying these principles, including pioneers in biodynamic and other agricultural techniques, indigenous tribes who use plants as medicine, and people seeking spiritual advancement. Of note are Cleve Backster’s experiments with plants that demonstrated their ability to perceive human intentions. The world that is opened up by this widely ignored mode of perception provides new relationships between humans and their environment, opening up the possibility for greater fulfillment and happiness.
In summary, people will never find "real happiness" until they regain their "correct" relationship with Nature, which is the perception of Nature with the heart. This means "redoing" human civilization till we get the "right" heart-brain balance.

Current Mood: happy
[ << Previous 20 ]
About LiveJournal.com