Butterfly in the Wind
A wrenching, beautifully written true tragic story of a beautiful woman scorned by the townsfolk for being a "Tojin", a foreigner's concubine
a book worth reading.
This is the true story of the tragic life of Okichi Saito who became the pawn to placate Townsend Harris, the first American Consul to Japan in the turbulent mid 1800’s. This poignant story takes place during a period in history when the "Black Ships" arrived in Japan and changed many lives, especially those of Okichi and her fiancé and lover, Tsurumatsu. Like a butterfly, Okichi was beautiful but fragile, easily tossed about and bruised by the stronger forces of political wheeling and dealing.
The story takes the readers on a journey from the wild windswept fishing village of Shimoda to the colorful world of the geishas Okichi was literally sold into, then onto the awesome stage of politics and power and finally to a lonely outcast who walked into the icy waters of the Shimoda Bay one cold grey March morning….
Okichi Saito was the daughter of a ship carpenter from Shimoda, Japan, born December 1841. Endowed with too much beauty to live a normal life, her father destined her for the geisha house. Nevertheless she fell in love with a carpenter and her father consented in a marriage.
1856 American ships appeared before the coast of Shimoda. The town became crowded with red-haired devils (gaijins) demanding the opening of Japan. The envoy Townsend Harris spotted Okichi walking from a bathhouse, and he wanted her. As a gesture of goodwill the local governor gave Okichi as a present to Harris. It would ruin her life. Five years she nursed the American politician and she had to satisfy his sexual needs. When Harris returned home, she was free, but she never got rid of the stigma of being a concubine.
She tried to make a living, first by running a hair and beauty saloon. Later, after the dead of her old fiancé, she ran an inn, called the Anchoku-Ro, which is still there to treasure her memory. There she drank more sake than she sold. She poured her heart in songs and played the samisen.
She lived in the small room you see on the picture for about twenty years before she ended her life by drowning herself in the sea in 1891.
Shimoda 1856. Okichi Saito is engaged with the carpenter Tsurumatsu, when menacing shapes of black ships appear in the bay: the US demand the opening of the Japanese market. The envoy, Townsend Harris, the later Consul General, is enticed by Okichi's beauty as he spots her walking from a bathhouse.
Japanese officials, who consider the 15 year old girl only as a pawn in their negotiations, deliver her to "Old Man Harris" to perform "personal services". Five years later Harris returns home because of ill health. Okichi is free now, but a wounded person, scorned by the townsfolk, forever a "Tojin", a foreigner's concubine.
In the circumstances her reunion with Tsurumatsu ends as a tragic love story, one of the most touching ever.
About the Author
Rei Kimura is a lawyer with a passion for writing about unique events and personalities. This interest led her to write a book about Alberto Fujimoro, the controversial former president of Peru. She also wrote on the Aumshinrikyo sect, responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo underground, that made many victims.She considers her writing as part of the perennial quest for truth, challenge and fulfillment.
Butterfly In the Wind" has been released by Horizon Books and is available at Kinokuniya Bookstore, Jakarta. The Indonesian translated version is also available from:
Yayasan Obor Indonesia
Jl. Plaju No. 10,
Tel. 62-21-3920114, 62-21-31926978
Rei Kimura Books
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