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Emory Women Writers Resource Project

A Japanese Blossom, an electronic edition

by Onoto Watanna [Watanna, Onoto, 1879-1954]

date: 1906
source publisher: Harper & Brothers
collection: Genre Fiction

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LIFE would be delightful were it made up entirely of flower picnics. But even in the land of sunrise storms must come.

The little family of Kurukawa, idling and playing in the small inland town, for the nonce seemed to put behind them all thought of care. Even the father, in the first few weeks of his return, refused utterly to do otherwise than enjoy what he termed his "honeymoon" with his wife and children. But the honeymoon season began to wane. It was not possible for any Japanese, however optimistic and cheerful in tem- | | 106 page image : 106     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM perament, at such a crisis in his nation's history to be free from care. Then, was not Gozo at the front? Mr. Kurukawa might laugh and play all day with the children, but at night, when, worn out, they slept soundly and well, he would lie awake thinking and worrying. At first it was his boy Gozo who occupied his night thoughts to the exclusion of all else. After all, he was a true Japanese at heart, for, although father-like, he scarcely dared to think of the possible death of his son, yet he was glad that Gozo was serving the Mikado. All the papers, local and foreign, he could get he read with avidity. Because he knew it would give his wife pain, he read them at night when she was asleep. After a time the father-love was slowly pushed aside for a greater, deeper emotion, the longing to help his country. | | 107 page image : 107     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM He was of samurai ancestry, and patriotism was as natural and deep-rooted in him as life itself. Yet he had married a woman belonging to a country that believed that the men of his age did their duty best by remaining at home, the protectors of the weak. So she had told him many times. Often he had believed himself convinced of its truth.

But reading and hearing of his countrymen's sacrifices, struggles, splendid heroism and victories, a wavering, an aching grew within him to emulate their example and give himself to the glorious service of his nation.

A Japanese wife would have shared in his confidence at this time, would have understood his feelings and suffered with him. More, she would have been the first to urge him, command him to leave her.

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Mr. Kurukawa thought he understood completely the character of the American woman who was his wife. Hence he hid from her his feelings.

But his wife was more sensitive than he knew. Her husband's evident depression began to be noticed by her. She sought the cause, and attributed it to the absence of Gozo. She, too, suffered because she was the innocent cause of his exile. One night there was a moon festival in the little town. The people gathered in the river booths and drank their sake and tea in the moonlight. She remarked to her husband that more than three-quarters of the festival-makers were women. He had turned about with a sudden movement; then answered in an almost hoarse voice:

"That is as it should be."

So silent and taciturn was he during the rest of the evening that for | | 109 page image : 109     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM her the festival was spoiled; but even the moon gave not enough light to show her tears. Restless that night, she could not sleep, or slept so lightly that she waked at intervals. It must have been almost morning, when, waking from a restless sleep, she saw the dim light of an andon shining through the paper shoji that divided their chamber from an adjoining room; clearly outlined by the light on the shoji was the silhouette of her husband. His bed was empty. She went to him quickly and pushed the shoji apart. Then she saw the papers about him on all sides. He had not time to hide them. His startled face betrayed him.

She sank down on the floor beside him, terror in her eyes.

"Kiyo!" she cried. "Oh, Kiyo! I understand--everything. Why did you not tell me before?"

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He spoke with difficulty. His hands trembled as he folded up the papers.

"It is all right. I read the news--of the victories. What Japanese could help himself?"

"Oh, but you read it in secret; you hide your feelings from me. Why do you not confide in me?"

He took her hands and stroked them very gently.

"If you were a Japanese woman--" he began, when she interrupted:

"It ought to make no difference what I am. I am your wife. Do not treat me as an alien--a stranger."

He drew her warmly to him at that.

"No, I will not," he said. "I will tell you everything--all my thoughts. You know, Ellen, I am of samurai ancestry, and as a young man I was brought up in that school. When I | | 111 page image : 111     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM became old enough I served for a time in the army. I hold a commission. Later, my father, who was one of the most enlightened of the men of old Japan, was imbued with the new thought. He put aside old traditions and pride. I was forced, so to speak, into a commercial life. Conditions changed for the samurai then. We were desperately poor for a time. They looked to me to redeem the family fortunes. And to do it I had to be taken from one school of thought and put into another from samurai to tradesman. It was a strange transformation for a Japanese of such ancestry as mine. But I learned to like the work. I succeeded. You know of my long sojourn in America, till I could almost believe that I thought as your people think, and saw things as you in America see them. I seemed to | | 112 page image : 112      A JAPANESE BLOSSOM be a living example of the evolution of an Oriental mind long swayed by Occidental environment. I called myself American many times, as you know. We came back here. The war, with all it meant to Japan, and the old patriotic feeling aroused, began a struggle with my acquired Occidental sense. Now I know that I never can he other than what I am by every inherent instinct--a true Japanese! I loved you, so I feared to tell you. You married me thinking possibly I was other than I am, Japanese only by birth, but of thought the same as you. That is why I have not confided in you."

"But I knew it all the time," she said. "I never thought you other than you were. Because you wore our dress, it did not make you of our country, nor did I love you for that, Kiyo. I did not require that you | | 113 page image : 113     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM should become like my people. I, as your wife, was willing to become one of you, if you would let me."

For a long time he was silent. Then with a sudden impulse he held the light before her face.

"Let me see your face then," he said, "when I tell you of my resolve."

"Tell me," she whispered; "I am not afraid."

"I must give you up for one who has a larger claim upon me--for beloved Ten-shi-sama!"

He saw her face whitening in the dim light. She tried to part her lips to speak, but no words came. Then she smiled, a smile so full of bravery and love that he almost dropped the light.

"Now I know," he said, "that you are my own true wife--not foreign to me, but as my wife should be."

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Then she spoke: "Yes, as a Japanese wife would be. Oh, Kiyo, I have understood them. It is not because they do not love their husbands that they do not weep and protest when they must lose them for a glorious cause. It is brave to give up the loved ones freely, willingly."

He began rapidly to discuss plans for his going, watching her face closely. She bore it all with that brave cheerfulness peculiar to the Japanese woman. Only when he planned the disposition of his fortune in case of his death, did she protest.

"We will not anticipate the worst, Kiyo."

"Is it not best to do so?" he gently interposed.

"I know it is Japanese," she said, wistfully, "but I will always look for | | [115] page image : [115]     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM you to return. In that you can't make me Japanese."

"A Japanese soldier never expects to return. His wife gives him up forever. But I, like you, will have the better hope, my wife. I will come back to you."

"It is a promise," she said, and for the first time her eyes were full of tears. He took her in his arms and held her closely.

"It is a promise," he said, solemnly. He wiped the tears away from her eyes.

"There must he no more of these," he said. "else how can I have the strength to go?"

"I have shed my last tear, Kiyo," was her answer. "You have promised me!"

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