Monday, March 12, 2012
The Teahouse of the August Moon
By Vern Sneider
It's the end of World War II, and the US military is occupying the island of Okinawa, part of the Japanese empire. Most of the people of the island live in small villages and their lives have been nearly completely disrupted by the war and the subsequent occupation. For the occupying military, their job is to maintain order and get the locals back to work and self-supporting. With a view to this, the commanding officer, Colonel Purdy, has drawn up an extensive plan designed to get the villages back into production and brought up to date with modern methods. He expects his officers to follow his plan to the letter.
But Captain Fisby was not so successful at following the plan. In fact, in a moment of weakness and ignorance, he allowed two Geishas to set up shop in his area of command, Tobiki Village. And things will never be the same, as the whole village falls under the spell of these two intelligent, skillful and beautiful women. And when the Colonel finds out what has been going on, Fisby may be in the worse trouble of his career. Or maybe not...
I loved this story. For one thing, although it seems at first to treat the natives as ignorant savages, as it goes along it becomes very apparent that the writer does not think like that at all, in fact, the story has tremendous respect for the Japanese way of doing things and includes many interesting and charming details about their way of life, as the Americans are introduced more fully to Japanese culture. Spoiler here, but in the end the Japanese way not only triumphs but also sweeps the Americans along with it. It seems like a true glimpse into the can-do spirit that has made Japan one of the most successful nations there is, despite their recent troubles and economic problems. This was a funny and sweet story which I enjoyed greatly.