Reciter: A haiku: A gift unearned, and unexpected, often has a hidden price.
Reciter: Nippon - the Floating Kingdom. There was a time when foreigners were not welcome here, but that was long ago. A hundred and twenty years. Welcome to Japan.
Company: Next! Next! Brilliant notions! Still improving! Next! Next! Make the motions! Keep it moving! Next! Next! Next!
Reciter: Nippon! The floating kingdom! An island empire, which for centuries has lived in perfect peace, undisturbed by intruders from across the sea. Here, in the month of July, Eighteen hundred and fifty three, there is nothing to threaten the serene, and changeless cycle of our days.
Reciter: [sung] In the middle of the world we float/ in the middle of the sea/ The realities remain remote/ in the middle of the sea. Kings are burning somewhere/ Wheels are turning somewhere/ Trains are being run, wars are being won, things are being done/ Somewhere out there - not here. Here we paint screens; Yes! The arrangement of the screens.
Reciter: We sit inside the screens/ and contemplate the view/ that's painted on the screens/ more beautiful than true/ And no one presses in/ and no one glances out. And kings are burning somewhere - not here!
Reciter: Yes! The arrangement of the bows. First, for the Emperor, descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, all-knowing and all-powerful, ruler absolute! One year old. Second, for the Shogun, protector of the kingdom, keeper of the peace. Seldom seen. Third, for the Lords of the South, vassals to the Shogun, loyal to their master. Not for long.
Fisherman: I was standing on the beach, near the cliffs of Oshima/ I was spreading out the nets for the morning sun/ It was early in July, and the day was getting hot, so I stopped to wipe my eyes, and by accident I turned - and looked out to sea... And there came, breaking through the mist... roaring through the sea... four black dragons! Spitting fire! And I ran/ cursing through the fields/ calling the alarm/ shouting to the world/ Four black dragons! Spitting fire! And the earth trembled, and the sky cracked, and I thought it was the end of the world!
Reciter: They come from a land of mystery, behind the setting sun - Barbarians with hooked noses, like mountain imps, giants with coarse hair and faces gray as the dead. Americans! Look how they glare! Look how they aim their sorcerer's weapons directly at us. Oh look! Their leader, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry! Surely he is the king of the demons, come to strike us blind and devour our children! In this desperate hour, who will save Japan?
Shogun's Mother: It's the day of the rat, my lord. There are four days remaining, and I see you're entertaining, but we should have a chat, my lord. To begin, if I may, my lord; I've no wish to remind you, but you'll notice just behind you there are ships in the bay, they've been sitting there all day with a letter to convey and they haven't gone away, and there's every indication that they're planning to stay my lord. Have some tea my Lord, some chrysanthemum tea, it's an herb that's superb for disturbances at sea. Is the shogun feeling better? Good, now what about this letter? Is it wise to delay my lord? With the days disappearing might we benefit from hearing what the soothsayers say, my lord?
Shogun's Mother: It's the day of the ox, my lord. Only two days remaining, and today already waning, I've a few further shocks my lord. To begin, let me say, at the risk of repetition, there are ships in the bay, and they didn't ask permission but they sit there all day in contemptuous array, with a letter to convey, and they haven't gone away, and there's every indication that they still plan to stay, and you look a little gray, my lord... Have some tea, my lord, some chrysanthemum tea, while we plan if we can what our answer ought to be. If the tea the shogun drank will serve to keep the shogun tranquil I suggest, if I may, my lord, we consult the confucians, they have mystical solutions, there are none wise as they my lord.
Shogun's Mother: It's the day of the tiger, my lord. Only two days remaining, and I'm tired of explaining, there are ships in the bay, with a letter to convey, they're on permanent display, and we must take some position, or the southern coalition will be soon holding sway my lord, and we'll all have to pay, my lord. Have some tea, my lord, some chrysanthemum tea, it's a tangled situation as your father would agree. And it mightn't be so tangled if you hadn't had him strangled, but I fear that I stray my lord. I've a nagging suspicion that in view of your condition what we should do is pray, my lord.
Shogun's Mother: It's the day of the rabbit, my lord. There's but one day remaining, and besides the fact it's raining, there are ships in the bay, which are sitting there today, just exactly where they sat, on the day of the rat - Oh, and speaking of that my lord... my lord?
[the Shogun dies]
Shogun's Mother: The blossom falls on the mountain/ the mountain falls on the blossom/ all things fall...
[the Shoguns stirs]
Shogun's Mother: Sometimes. As I started to say, my lord. When the ships came our way on that first disturbing day, and I gave consideration to this letter they convey, I decided if there weren't any shogun to receive it, it would act as a deterrent, since they'd have no place to leave it, and they might go away, my lord. Do you see what I say, my lord?
[the shogun gasps]
Shogun's Mother: [nods] In the tea, my lord, the chrysanthemum tea, an informal variation on the normal recipe. Though i know my plan had merit it was slow in execution, if there's one thing you inherit, it's your father's constitution, and you're taking so long, my lord. Do you think I was wrong, my lord?
[the Shogun gasps for air]
Shogun's Mother: No, you must let me speak, when the shogun is weak, then the tea must be strong my lord... My lord?
[the Shogun dies]
Shogun's Mother: The blossom falls on the mountain/ The mountain falls on the blossom/ all things fall.
Madam: I own a small commercial venture, with a modest clientele - In Kanagawa.
Girls: I think I see one over there behind the trees...
Madam: Shh! It's been my family's for centuries, and doing very well. For Kanagawa.
Girls: I hear they're covered all with hair like some disease...
Girls: Except their knees.
Madam: Sh! The arrival of these giants, out of the blue, bringing panic to my clients, alters my view. With so many of them fleeing, conferring, decreeing, I find myself agreeing with the ancient haiku...
Reciter: The nest building bird/ Seeing the tree without twigs/ Looks for new forests.
Reciter: No one knows what was said behind the shutters of the Treaty House. The Shogun's councilors kept their story secret, and though the westerners have their own official version, I would not believe a word of it. What a shame there is no authentic Japanese account of what took place on that historic day.
Old Man: Pardon me, I was there.
Reciter: You were where?
Old Man: At the treaty house.
Reciter: At the treaty house.
Old Man: There was a tree...
Reciter: Which was were?
Old Man: Over here. Maybe over there, but there were trees then everywhere... may I show you?
Reciter: If you please.
Old Man: There were trees then everywhere!
Reciter: But you were there?
Old Man: And I was there! May I show you?
Reciter: If you please.
Old Man: I was younger then... I was good at climbing trees... I was younger then... I saw everything! I was hidden all the time... it was easier to climb. I was younger then. I saw everything - where they came, and where they went; I was part of the event; I was someone in a tree. I was younger then...
Boy: [the tree appears, and the Old Man's younger self runs on]
Boy: Tell him what I see!
Old Man: I am hiding in a tree...
Boy: I'm a fragment of the day.
Old Man: I was there then... It's the pebble not the stream.
Boy: It's the fragment not the day... I am here still.
Boy: Someone reads a list from a box.
Samurai: Someone talks of laws.
Old Man: Then they fan a bit.
Boy: Someone bangs a fist!
Samurai: Someone knocks.
Old Man: Now there was a pause.
Samurai: 'But we want, no you can't, and we won't, but we need it, and we want, will you grant, if you don't we concede it,' I can hear them...
Old Man: And they sat through the night and they lit yellow tapers, I was there then...
Boy: And they chat, and they light, and they sit signing papers, I am there still - If I weren't whose to say, that they're happening?
Reciter , Samurai , Old Man , Boy: It's the fragment not the day/ It's the pebble, not the stream/ It's the ripple not the sea/ That is happening/ Not the building but the beam/ Not the garden but the stone/ Only cups of tea/ And history/ And someone in a tree!
American Admiral: Please hello! America back! Commodore Perry send hello. Also comes memorial plaque, President Fillmore wish bestow! Emperor read our letter? If no, Commodore Perry very sad. Emperor like our letter? If so, Commodore Perry very merry, President Fillmore still more glad! Last time we visit, too short. This time we visit for slow. Last time we come, come with warships, now with more ships, say hello! This time request use of port. Port for commercial intention, harbor with ample dimension!
Abe - First Councillor: But you can't...
American Admiral: Only one little port for a freighter.
American Admiral: But you can't...
American Admiral: Just for fun, be a sport!
Abe - First Councillor: Maybe later...
American Admiral: But we bring many recent invention! Kerosene and cement and a grain elevator, a machine you can rent called a 'train.'
Abe - First Councillor: Maybe later...
American Admiral: Also cannon to shoot, big loud salute, like so!
American Admiral: Say hello!
[cannon fires again]
American Admiral: [Abe signs the treaty]
American Admiral: Treaty meet approval? If no, Commodore Perry very fierce - Disregard confusion below, President Fillmore now name Pierce. Good, at last agreement is made! Letter will let us come again. First result of mutual trade, Commodore getting letter letting, counselor getting fancy pen!
British Admiral: Please, hello I come with letters from her Majesty Victoria, who learning how you're trading now sang Hallelujah Gloria, and sent me to convey to you her positive euphoria, as well as little gifts from Britain's various emporia.
Reciter: The man has come with letters from her Majesty Victoria, as well as little gifts from Britain's various emporia.
Abe - First Councillor: Tea?
British Admiral: For drink.
Abe - First Councillor: I see. I thank you...
British Admiral: I think, her letters do contain a few proposals to your emperor, which if of course he won't endorse will put her in a temper, or more happily should he agree would serve to keep her placid, or at least till I am followed by a permanent ambassador!
Reciter: A treaty port and from the court a permanent ambassador, A treaty port and from the court a permanent ambassador, A treaty port and from the court a permanent ambassador and more!
British Admiral: Her Majesty considers the arrangement to be tentative, until we ship a proper diplomatic representative. We don't foresee that you will be the least bit argumentative, so please ignore the man-of-war we've brought as a preventative.
Reciter: Yes, please ignore the man-of-war that's anchored rather near to shore, it's nothing but a metaphor that acts as a preventative.
Dutch Admiral: Wait, please! Hello! Don't forget the Dutch! Like to keep in touch, thank you very much! Tell them to go, button up the lips. What do little Nips want with battleships? Hold everything, we gonna bring chocolate! Wouldn' you like to lease a beautiful little piece of chocolate? Listen, that's not to mention wonderful - pay attention! - Windmills! Und tulips, und wouldn' you like a wooden shoe? There - can you read? Good! We will need two ports! One of them not too rocky, how about Nagasaki? Two ports! One of them for the cocoa, what do you call it? Yokohama! Ja! Und Nagasaki! Ja! Sign here!
Russian Admiral: Please hello - Is bringing Czar's request/ Braving snow, with letter to protest/ Since we know, you trading with the west, you might at least - Don't touch the coat! - Start looking east, or closer west, well, farther north - Are we the fourth? I feel depressed - Don't touch the coat! Coming next, is extraterritoriality! Noting text, say 'Extraterritoriality -' You perplexed, by extraterritoriality? Just noting clause - don't touch the coat! Which say your laws do not apply - don't touch the coat! - When we drop by, not getting shot no matter what/ A minor scrape, a major rape and we escape/ Don't touch the cape! That's what is extraterritoriality. Fair is fair/ You wish perhaps to vote? What we care you liking what we wrote? Ha ha ha. Sitting there, is finest fleet afloat! Observing boat?
Russian Admiral: Don't touch the coat. Just sign the note.
French Admiral: I bring word, I bring word, from Napoleon the third/ He had heard what have occurred here from the little bird/ Undeterred, we conferred, though we felt that we'd been slurred, and the verdict was he spurred me here to bring the word/ Would you like to know the word? From Napoleon the Third? It's détente - Oui, detente! That's the only thing we want! Just detente, ah detente! No agreement could be more fair, signing pacts, passing acts, there's no time to make the warfare when you're always making busy with the mutual detente! A detente, a detente, is the only thing we wish, same as them except, additional the rights to fish! You'll be paid, you'll be paid/ And we'll have the big parade, if we somehow can persuade you to accept our aid/ It is not to be afraid/ As we merely wish to trade!
French Admiral: Aaaah, detente! Ah detente! That's the only thing we want! Leave the grain, leave the train, put champagne among your imports/ Tell each man/ that Japan can't be bothered giving him ports while she's in a tizzy, dizzy with the mutual detente!
American Admiral , British Admiral , Dutch Admiral , Russian Admiral , French Admiral: Ah detente! A detente! That's what everybody wants/ You should want/ a detente/ makes a nation like a brother/ We'll be here/ every year/ to protect you from each other, and to see you aren't signing foreign treaties and detentes! Please hello, we must go, but our intercourse will grow/ through detentes/ as detente/ brings complete cooperation/ By the way, me we say, we adore your little nation, and with heavy cannon wish you an unending Please Hello!
Samurai: The Americans insisted that their mission was a peaceful one. But because we did not know if we could trust them, we chose a samurai whose task it was to muster our defenses. And that samurai was me. I ordered canvas screens to be stretched across the cliffs at Kanagawa. Behind the screens I was able to conceal five thousand armored swordsmen, carrying enormous bows, all of them on horseback. A most impressive force. And with the canvas masking them, our enemy might think that twice as many warriors were assembled. But when the Americans saw our screens they called out from the ships, 'Pull down those drapes! What kind of army hides behind a parlor curtain?' And then they roared with laughter. Most discouraging. I mean, what are you going to do with people like that?
Kayama: It's called a bowler hat. I have no wife. The swallow flying through the sky, is not as swift as I am, flying through my life. You pour the milk before the tea. The Dutch ambassador is no fool - I must remember that.
Kayama: It's called a monocle... I've left my wife. No bird exploring in the sky explores as well as I the corners of my life. One must keep moving with the times; the Dutch ambassador is a fool - he wears a bowler hat.
Reciter: [as Emperor Meiji] The day when others speak for me is past! From now on, my word shall be law, and mine alone. I am the Emperor Meijii! Rise and listen - rise! No more will we draw sword, one Japanese against another. Those who have committed murder in my name have been misguided. In the future they will be restrained - along with those who have encouraged them! Rise! From this day forth, all Samurai will put aside their swords, and cease to wear their crested robes. They will take up useful trades. Rise! Yes - in the name of progress, we will turn our backs on ancient ways, cast aside our feudal forms, eliminate all obstacles which hinder our development! We will organize an army and a navy, equipped with the most modern weapons. And when the time is right, we will send forth expeditions to visit with our less enlightened neighbors. We will open up Formosa, Korea, Manchuria, and China. We will do for the rest of Asia what America has done for us!
Company: Streams are flowing/ See what's coming/ Next!
Reciter: We will build railroads, foundries, telegraphs, steamships!
Company: Winds are blowing/ See what's coming/ see what's going/ Next!
Reciter: Factories will spring up all across our land!
Company: Roads are turning/ Journey with them/ A little learning/ Next!
Reciter: Foreign architects will reconstruct our cities!
Company: Waters churning/ lightning flashes/ Kings are burning/ sift the ashes/ Next!
Reciter: The day will come when the western powers will acknowledge us as their undisputed equals!
Company: Tower tumbles, tower rises/ Next!
Reciter: And all of this will be achieved sooner than you think.
Company: Tower crumbles/ Man revises/ Motor rumbles/ Civilizes/ More surprises/ Next! Learn the lesson from the master/ Add the sugar, spread the plaster/ Do it nicer, do it faster! Next!
Reciter: The practical bird, having no tree of it's own, borrows another's.
Company: Streams are roaring/ Overspilling/ Next! Old is boring, new is thrilling/ Keep exploring/ Next! First the thunder/ Just a murmur/ A little blunder/ Next! Then the wonder, see how pretty/ Going under, what a pity! Next! Streams are flying/ Use the motion/ Next! Streams are flying/ mix a potion/ Streams are dying/ Try the ocean/ Brilliant notion! Next! Never mind a small disaster/ Who's the stronger, who's the faster/ Let the pupil show the master! Next! Next!