Beyond Illusions: Love and Hope in the Kingdom of Ryukyu (Gen-ei no Kariyushi: Makishi Chochu to Chiru), by Hyogo Kurouchi (Shinya Murase), (Tokyo: Shinzansha, 2016, 314 pages, in Japanese).
Makishi (Itarashiki) Chochu 牧志（板良敷）朝忠 (1818-1862?, Studied at国子監 Imperial University in Beijing during the Opium War, interpreter, diplomat, later, State Minister of the Ryukyu Royal Government)
Sumiya Chiru 染谷チル (born in Kume-jima in 1835, a Traditional Ryukyu dancer)
Lord Mabuni Ken-Yu 摩文仁親方賢由(High-Ranking Official of the Royal Ryukyu Court, Leader of the Conservative “Black Party”, Chochu’s life-long enemy)
Lord Onga Choko 恩河親方朝恒 (High-Ranking Official of the Ryukyu Court, Leader of the Progressive “White Party”, Chochu’s ally)
Lin Ying-Qi 林英奇 (Professor at 国子監 Imperial University in Beijing)
Lin Jun-Ying 林俊英 (Son of Professor Lin)
Lin Shan-Ying 林珊英 (Daughter of Professor Lin; Chochu’s first love in Beijing)
Jan de Jong (Chochu’s classmate from the Netherlands at国子監 Imperial University in Beijing, later negotiated with Chochu a treaty of friendship between the Netherlands and Ryukyu)
Aniya Seiho 安仁屋政輔 (Chochu’s Teacher of English, later Lord Yoseyama与世山親方 Judge of the Supreme Court)
Aniya Seisho 安仁屋政正 (Seiho’s son, Chochu’s life-long friend, later Lord Tsuwako 津波古親方, Lecturer to the Last King of Ryukyu)
Sir Kishaba Choken 喜捨場親雲上朝賢 (Tsuwako’s disciple, Lecturer to the Last King of Ryukyu, Author of 琉球見聞録 Records of Ryukyu of its Last Years as Witnessed by the Author, 1914)
Itarashiki Chosho 板良敷朝昭 (Chochu’s second son)
Beyond Illusions: Love and Hope in the Kingdom of Ryukyu
The Kingdom of Ryukyu, as a trading nation with China, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaya and Indonesia, had enjoyed its prosperity for many centuries under the protection of the Chinese Emperor, until it came under the control of the Satsuma Clan of Japan in 1609. As a tiny kingdom under the dual subjugation of China and Japan, Ryukyu nevertheless tried hard and managed effectively to maintain its integrity as an independent nation. Chochu and Chiru were among those who tried desperately to maintain the pride of its people.
Chapter 1: Silhouette of an Island
The story begins with the return of Itarashiki Chochu (hero) from China to Ryukyu after three years of study at the Imperial University 国子監 in Beijing. The royal vessel left Fuzhou. On board of the vessel, Lord Mabuni was the highest-ranking official of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, who did not bother to hide his contempt to Chochu, a young bright man who was from a low rank samurai family. It was a pleasant voyage at first, but became rough and dangerous on the high seas. After ten days, crews cried with joy pointing to an island, “That is Kume, Kume-jima 久米島!”
At Kume-jima, the Governor gave dinner and the traditional Ryukyu dance at his residence. In the dancing team, there was a shining little girl of six-years old, whose name was Chiru. The following morning, Chiru and her mother came to see him off at Maja, Kume-jima’s main harbor. Chochu was recalling his days in Beijing …
Chapter 2: A Foreign Land
When Chochu was twenty-one years old, he was selected to join the diplomatic mission sent by the King of Ryukyu to express gratitude to the Emperor of China and then to stay in Beijing to study at the Imperial University 国子監. Though Chochu was merely the third son of a lower class samurai (knight) family, he had been the best student at the National School of Ryukyu 国学, which made it possible for him to be selected to study in Beijing.
On his arrival at Beijing, he was overwhelmed by the magnitude and gloriousness of the Chinese civilization. The Palace (Forbidden City) looked several hundred times larger than the Palace in Shuri (capital) of Ryukyu. The difference was more than obvious by seeing the volumes of books collected at the library of 国子監. It seemed that what he learned in Ryukyu was something that even 12 or 13 year-olds knew in China. So, he studied very hard, day and night, in the library, trying desperately to catch up with his classmates.
One of his professors, Professor Lin Yin Qi 林英奇 was very kind, inviting Chochu to dinner at his residence. He had a son, Lin Jun Ying 林俊英, 21 years old, and a daughter, Lin Shan Ying 林珊英, 17. Both were very smart. Shan Ying was beautiful and extremely bright. Chochu fell in love with Shan Ying. The Opium War broke out and when the British fleet arrived at Tianjin, Jun Ying and Chochu decided to see it and they took Shan Ying with them, because she insisted. They were all shocked and saddened.
Jan De Jong, Chochu’s classmate from the Netherlands, told Chochu that Ryukyu should be independent both from China and Japan. Ryukyu at that time was formally an independent State, though it was under the dual control of China and Japan (Satsuma clan). Jan’s advice remained in Chochu’s mind for a long time afterwards. The day of Chochu’s return came with sad farewell with Shan Ying.
Chapter 3: Strong Wind
Three years have passed since his return from Beijing. However, to his disappointment and frustration, he was working merely as an unpaid assistant to a most incompetent official. Nonetheless, he has become a disciple of Sir Aniya Seiho from whom he has been learning English. Aniya was an interpreter when the British vessel visited Ryukyu in the 1820s. The British Captain Basil Hall had written about Aniya as a bright and proud intellectual in his book.
Chochu lived with his family in Shuri, the capital of Ryukyu. One early morning, with a strong westerly wind blowing across the city, Chochu was awakened by the visit of Aniya’s son, Seisho, who asked Chochu to come to his house as soon as possible for an urgent business matter of his father. Aniya told Chochu that a foreign ship was coming toward Ryukyu, as had been communicated by a signal smoke from Kume-jima. Chochu was asked to go down to the Tomari Harbor and check whether it was a merchant ship or a warship.
It was a French warship carrying ten cannons and 250 armed sailors. Chochu reported back to Aniya, who told Chochu to accompany him the next day for a conference on this issue with the Resident Governor of Satsuma and the highest-ranking officials of the Ryukyu government.
Chapter 4: Ordeal
The Satsuma clan, acting as the “Protector” of Ryukyu, demanded an explanation from the Ryukyu government about the French warship’s surprise visit. Since nobody from the Ryukyu government was able to answer the question of Satsuma’s Resident Governor about the country of France, Aniya asked permission to let Chochu answer, which the Governor permitted. Chochu’s answer was straightforward, which pleased the Governor but apparently offended the Ryukyu officials, most notably Lord Mabuni. Chochu had to realize that his hope of obtaining a job in the Ryukyu government had withered away.
Grossly disappointed, he came to the Tomari Harbor again the following morning, but this time, only as a spectator of the French ship. A girl of some ten years old with two poor fishermen sat near him. One of the men said to the other two, “Wait here and I will negotiate with the house.” Apparently, the girl was being sold to a brothel. The girl did not look sorry. She started talking to Chochu, and asked about the ship. Chochu explained about France, about Jeanne D’Arc and about French red wine. The man came back. The other man, the girl’s father, said to her, “We don’t have to go …” But the daughter said resolutely, “I will go.” Chochu knew that he could not help her. He gave her a piece of black sugar. She turned back to Chochu, “So sweet!”
A few days later, Chochu was again awaken by Seisho, who asked him to see his father immediately. Chochu was told by his teacher, Aniya Seiho, that Satsuma’s Governor had praised Chochu and scolded Lord Mabuni as the French warship’s demanded exactly what Chochu had predicted. It was decided that Chochu would be recruited as an official interpreter by the Royal Ryukyu government. He was overwhelmed with joy. His memory about the little girl he met at the Harbor quickly faded away.
Chapter 5: Interpreter
From the following day, Chochu was occupied day and night with the French warship affair. In response to the French demand to open Ryukyu and conclude a treaty, there was no strategy on the side of Ryukyu but to simply “defer” the negotiation. The French captain, Duplin, was furious with the Ryukyu representatives’ tactics. At the negotiation table, he ordered his soldiers to encircle the Ryukyu delegates with drawn swords. Chochu seemed to have anticipated such a situation and had a bunch of crinum flowers with him. He handed each French soldier a crinum, saying: “Ryukyu is a small island country without weapons. Our elders have told us that if anyone ever threatens us with a weapon, we should give him a flower.” Duplin was perhaps a meek person, who seemed to have regretted his rudeness. His warship left Ryukyu without a treaty.
Asked by his superior, Chochu said that he had been sure that the French captain would try to demonstrate his force in the negotiations, because that was exactly what the British had done to the Chinese delegation in the course of negotiating a treaty in the aftermath of the Opium War. His superiors all praised Chochu’s skillful diplomatic tactics. Within Ryukyu’s Royal Government he instantly became an indispensable person for external affairs, especially as foreign warships started visiting Ryukyu frequently with increasing colonialist demands.
Chapter 6: His Surroundings
Hearing about Chochu’s assumption of a position as an official interpreter of the Royal Government, the Kameyama family sent a person to congratulate Chochu’s promotion. This person further communicated the Kameyama family’s strong hope, actually a demand, that the engagement of Chochu with their daughter Nabe that had been made some ten years before between the two families be implemented immediately. Chochu had never had a chance to see Nabe, and he was far from enthusiastic about the marriage, as he was still caught up in the memories of beautiful Lin Shan Ying林珊英 in Beijing. However, since Chochu’s family had received financial help from the Kameyama family during the period of his study in Beijing, he was not able to reject this engagement of marriage.
Nabe never smiled, though it did not seemingly mean that she was unhappy. She was a hard worker, managing the household very well. Chochu was extremely busy at Tomari Harbor, some two ri (eight kilometers) from Shuri, dealing with foreign affairs. He often stayed at a small room given to him at Tomari. He needed a retainer to help him, but his salary was not enough to pay for hiring one. One day, however, Nabe brought a man named Jiro who was willing to work for Chochu at a low salary. Thus Jiro started working for Chochu. Jiro was a faithful assistant, who also took care of the chores of Chochu’s family. Chochu did not have to go back to his home in Shuri so frequently except on a few occasions. Nonetheless, Chochu and Nabe had three boys in the following years.
One of Chochu’s duties was to take care of the Frenchman named Forcard, who had been left behind by Captain Duplin’s warship, and also the family of John Bettelheim, a medical missionary from Britain who had landed in Ryukyu without permission. Foreigners were not allowed to stay in Ryukyu, and Chochu’s job was to watch the family so that they would not engage in missionary activities to spread Christianity, which was banned in Ryukyu. However, Chochu taught Japanese (of the Ryukyu dialect) to John who taught Chochu English in exchange. As a missionary, John Bettelheim was not able to find anybody to be a Christian, but his contribution was immense as a medical doctor, saving many people from smallpox.
Chapter 7: Inn Sumiya
Chochu has now worked for six years as an official interpreter for the Ryukyu Royal Government. He is now 33 years old. Since Ryukyu was a “protectorate” of the Satsuma clan of Japan, he often had to have consultations with Satsuma samurais at a township called Tsuji, located right next to Tomari Harbor. There were many inns in Tsuji, which were actually houses of prostitution. It is said that there were some three hundred inns and three thousand prostitutes. The town has for centuries been under the protection of the King of Ryukyu as the place to entertain diplomats visiting from the Ming and Qing dynasties and also samurai officials of the ruling Satsuma, since Ryukyu has been under the dual subjugation of Japan and China.
What is unique about this town Tsuji is that everything is managed and controlled by women. There are no men here, except the guests. Each inn is maintained by the “Anmar” (Mother) who really takes care of the girls called “juri” as if she were their real mother. Many of the juris are those who were sold to the inn when they were infants by their poor families, but they get the best education and the best training in music and dance. A juri normally serves as a mistress rather than a prostitute for one person, either a high-ranking official of Ryukyu or a samurai of Satsuma. Tsuji is entirely different from Yoshiwara of Edo (Tokyo) where the prostitutes had to undergo a miserable life.
One day, Chochu went to the Inn Sumiya to have an informal consultation with Satsuma officials. When he arrived at the inn, a drunken Satsuma samurai was trying to enter the inn forcibly by yelling that he would take a young maid, Chiru, who had happened to be outside the inn, as a hostage. Chochu tried to stop him. The drunkard pulled his sword and attacked Chochu, who in turn skillfully avoided the assault and gave him a strong counterattack by karate the next moment. The Satsuma officials, with whom Chochu had an appointment, came out from the inn, thanked Chochu and apologized to him, and took back the drunkard with them.
Chochu has become an instant hero at the Inn Sumiya. The “Mother” insisted that Chochu should watch the traditional Ryukyu dance of Chiru, who is still a trainee maid at Sumiya. The Mother said that Chiru was the best dancer in Ryukyu. She danced, to the sanshin (three stringed traditional instrument) played by her “sisters” of the inn, two pieces of dance, one “Flower Blossom Viewing” and another “Moon Light Watching”. Chiru was radiant in the dance. To Chochu, she looked exactly like Lin Shan Ying林珊英 whom Chochu had fallen in love with in Beijing.
That evening, the Mother Sumiya asked Chochu if he could be Chiru’s patron, as she would soon be sixteen and old enough to serve him as a juri. Chochu declined, as he was just a poor bureaucrat of the lowest rank unfit for having a mistress at Tsuji and unable to pay for the high expenses. The Mother told him that money was not an issue as Chiru would support herself as a professional dancer. She also indicated that Lord Mabuni Ken-Yu, a powerful man in the Royal Court, was interested in becoming Chiru’s patron, which the Mother would not be able to turn down unless Chiru had already been engaged with somebody else.
That night, Chochu had a bad dream, in which Lord Mabuni was chasing after a fleeing Chiru. Awakened from the dream, Chochu finally changed his mind and decided to accept the Mother’s proposal.
Chapter 8: Dancing Princess
On the following day, Chochu went to Sumiya again and asked the Mother Sumiya to explain about Chiru. Chiru was not at the inn as she had been sent to another inn to help for cooking that evening, as, having been brought up in a fisherman’s home, she was an excellent cook of fish.
The Mother Sumiya tells how she was raised and how she came to Sumiya: Her father was a fisherman in Kume-jima and he had a small boat with which to fish, while her mother was a weaver of Kume silk. Chiru had a brother who was helping his father with fishing. Her younger sister Suye was born when Chiru was seven years old. Her mother wanted Chiru to be a professional dancer, and spent a lot of money for her daughter’s dancing costumes and training fee. The family was not rich, but it was a happy family.
Chochu recalled that he had met a six-year-old sunny dancing girl, when he had visited Kume-jima on his way from China back to Ryukyu. The girl and her mother came to see us at the harbor. He thought, of course, that was certainly a different girl, who would not have been a juri here in Tsuji.
The Mother Sumiya said that it might have been Chiru. She continued: When Chiru was ten years old, however, her family faced miseries one after another. Her mother died from overwork. Her brother died in a storm at sea, and her father was wounded. There was nobody to help her family. One night, her father tried to kill himself and his two daughters Chiru and Suye. Chiru told her father that she had a plan, that was, to sell herself to a prostitutes house in Tsuji, Mainland Ryukyu. Her father said, “you are just a child, and you don’t know what the prostitutes house was.” Chiru replied: “I know it well, because in any opera I once played the role of a girl sold to a prostitutes house. I have a letter of reference that my dance teacher wrote for me to the Mother of Inn Sumiya.”
The Mother Sumiya explained, “this is how Chiru came here.” At that time, Chiru came home and joined the Mother and Chochu. They found that Chiru was the girl whom Chochu had met ten years ago in Kume-jima. Chochu and Chiru felt that their relation had indeed been “predetermined”.
Chapter 9: A Red Thread
On her sixteenth birthday, Chiru became a full-fledged “juri”. The Mother said to her that she could leave Sumiya to be a daughter of the dance instructor who wanted to adopt her. Chiru however said that she wanted to stay on in Sumiya with the Mother and her sisters who had been so kind. So, the Mother invited Chochu for this occasion of celebration. Chiru danced to the sanshin (three stringed instrument) music “Cherry Blossoms of the Shirase Hai River of Kume-jima”. Chochu gave a big banquet inviting all the members of the Sumiya Inn.
After the memorable dinner, the Mother said to Chochu that Chiru, now as a juri, had a chamber of her own, and suggested to Chiru to take him to her chamber. Chiru thanked everybody again, and took Chochu to her room.
Chochu praised Chiru for having overcome all the difficulties in her life. He asked when Chiru had left Kume-jima. She said it was some six years ago that she came to mainland Ryukyu. She said that on the first day she landed at the Tomari Harbor, she met a young man who was very kind, giving her a piece of black sugar. Chochu cried: “Oh my God, it was you!! You looked like a boy, so different from you today!” Chiru was also surprised: “You did not have any beard at that time!” Both Chochu and Chiru realized that they were indeed “predetermined” to be partners, as they had first met ten years ago at Kume-jima and six years ago at Tomari Harbor. They talked and talked, and at midnight, Chiru was sound asleep besides Chochu. He left her room quietly, saying that he would take care of her for life.
The next day when Chochu came to the Inn, Chiru apologized in tears for having fallen asleep. She said she was severely scolded by the Mother, who said to her that she had never heard of a juri who let her patron leave without having served him, especially the first night. Chochu laughed and said: “Listen Chiru, I have known you since you were six years old. You are like my daughter. I have no intention to hold you until you become an independent adult.” Chiru said: “I am already sixteen. I am old enough to be a juri.” Chochu: “No, you are not mature yet, and I will wait until you become an adult.” Chiru: “When do you say I have become an adult?” Chochu: “I will recognize you as an adult when you have paid all the debts that you owe to the Mother Sumiya and when you have successfully become a shihan, a title of a dancing instructor. Chiru: “It will take ages to achieve both…” Chochu: “It doesn’t matter. I will come here as often as possible to support you, and to teach you as much as I can until you become a perfect adult.” Chiru: “Will you promise that you will hold me then?” Chochu: “Yes, I promise.”
Chochu came to visit Chiru frequently. He taught her poetry, history and Chinese classics, using 紅楼夢 (Dreams of the Red Mansion) and 三国志 (Story of Three Kingdoms) as textbooks. Chiru’s chamber came to be full of books like a scholar’s study. Chiru’s sister juris also attended his “lectures”. Chochu invited intellectuals and high-ranking officials of Ryukyu Court to Chiru’s chamber where they had heated discussions. Chiru was always radiant in her salon, showing traditional Ryukyu dances to the guests. “Salon Chiru” became a small center of culture in the Kingdom of Ryukyu.
Chapter 10: Freedom
One morning in January 1851, a boat carrying three Japanese fishermen was released from a US merchant vessel off the coast of Onaga Village and landed in Onaga. They were the fishermen rescued by a US whaling vessel some ten years before. Chochu was assigned to investigate them. He found that one of the crewmen was (Nakahama) “John” Manjiro. He was 14 years old when the fishing boat fell into distress, and he was taken to the United States to be educated there. Through this contact, Chochu was able to learn a great deal about the political system of the United States. He was particularly impressed by the method of electing the “President” and the ideas of “Democracy”, “Equality” and “Individual Freedom” as the basic principles of the State. After six months in Ryukyu, John Manjiro was taken to Satsuma (Kagoshima) and then to Edo (Tokyo) to serve the Shogunate Government as a negotiator with Commodore Perry of the United States.
In Satsuma, John Manjiro had an audience with Shimazu Nariakira, an enlightened ruler who has now succeeded the lordship of the Satsuma clan. John talked about his high esteem for Chochu. Nariakira decided to send two of his men to Ryukyu to be Chochu’s students of English and world affairs. Chochu learned a lot about Nariakira from these two young Satsuma samurais, who mentioned that Nariakira considered Chochu a highly important figure in Ryukyu. Nariakira also awarded Chochu a gift of thirty ryo, with which he was able to pay for the debts that he had owed to Sumiya.
When Chiru became twenty years old, she was finally able to pay back her debts and also to obtain the license to be an instructor of the traditional Ryukyu dance. To celebrate the occasion, the Mother of the Sumiya Inn gave a big banquet for Chiru. Chiru danced Kasekake (Weaving) of Kume-jima’s traditional dance. It was a song of a working woman of Kume sitting at the handloom weaving all day and repeating the same action with thoughts of her loved one. She was recalling her mother back in Kume-jima who had died so young.
After the banquet, Chiru asked Chochu: “Now that I have become an adult, independent and free, may I ask you to hold me? You are the only person in my life who may take off this red cord fastener of my night ware.” [Bed scenes follow, Rated PG, omitted!].
Chapter 11: Flying High
Chochu has now been promoted to chief interpreter of the Ryukyu Royal Government. Western States continued sending vessels to Ryukyu and demanded the opening of Ryukyu. Chochu had to work day and night to cope with the situation, which required frequent consultations with Satsuma officials at Sumiya. Chiru was untiring in devoting herself to help him for his official duties.
In 1851, the British warship under the command of Admiral Shadwell came; and in 1853 and 54, Commodore Perry’s US fleet came. The latter was the most difficult negotiation, in which Ryukyu’s Royal Government was represented by Lord Mabuni Kenyu, who had been appointed temporarily as Prime Minister, and by Chochu who served as the chief interpreter. However, Mabuni made a serious mistake in the course of the negotiation, which gave Commodore Perry a good excuse to enter the Palace of Ryukyu. Negotiations are normally conducted by the double translation, as the Chinese was the common language between Ryukyu and Western countries. At one point, Chochu suddenly spoke in English, which surprised Perry’s delegation (Perry recorded Chochu’s contribution in his book with a portrait drawn by the official artist of his delegation).
While Chochu was extremely busy, he took one day off to see the traditional Juri-Horse Festival held on 20th of January. This was the festival to celebrate juris who are highly appreciated and supported by the Royal Government. It is said that the relation between the patron and the juri is reversed only in the night of this day when the juri can ask her patron whatever she wants. [Bed scenes follow, Rated PG, omitted!].
Chapter 12: Governor
In 1855, Chochu was promoted to a Governor for the Village called Ohwan. This was an unprecedented promotion for a low-class samurai like Chochu. There were only seventy or so Governors in the kingdom, and they received a huge income from the village in addition to the stipend to be paid for his duties as a high-ranking official of the Government. Chochu was also given a big residence near the Palace. While his whole family with several maids and male assistants moved to the new house, Jiro, who had been Chochu’s assistant for the past seven years, tendered his resignation, which was not understandable to Chochu. Chochu asked Jiro to continue helping him, but Jiro declined.
Chochu became burdened heavily by his duties both as the chief interpreter and as the Governor. He had to go to Ohwan Village every month with his administrative assistants. One week, he decided to visit the Village only with Chiru. They left Tomari Harbor on horsebacks. When they arrived at the village, some villagers informed him that some gangs were trying to attack him. Chochu was successful in capturing the bandits with a trap leading them to a hole covered by tree branches and grass. It was clear that the bandits had been sent by Lord Mabuni, who had felt threatened by and wanted to kill Chochu as Chochu had become so popular in the Royal Government. But, Chochu was not able to bring the case to the Prosecutorial Office for lack of sound evidence.
Chiru said: “Let us forget everything. Let’s enjoy the short vacation we have together.” She said she was happiest now. Her younger sister, Suye was getting married soon in Kume-Jima. Chiru was recalling that her mother once told her that she had been taken to the sea in her husband’s fishing boat and had looked up at the sky with him together at night. The next day, Chochu and Chiru rented a boat and sailed out to the sea. Chiru swam with dugongs as she used to do during her childhood.
Chochu said that he wanted to have a peaceful time with Chiru. He had heard from an American that Hawaii was a very nice place, like a paradise, and he would take Chiru to Hawaii sometime. He said that she should learn English. She said she would like to learn English. He gave her the first lesson on the boat.
Chochu: “Umi” 海 is “Sea”.
Chochu: “Sora” 空 is “Sky”.
Chochu: “Watashi” 我 is “I”.
Chochu: Yes, “Anata” 你 is “You”.
Chochu: “Watashi wa Anata ga Suki da” 我愛你 is “I love you”.
Chiru: “I love you?”
Chiru: “I Love You, I Love You, I Love You!”
[Bed scenes on the boat follow, Rated PG, omitted!].
Chapter 13: Secret Agent
One day in late October 1857, a Satsuma samurai named Ichiki Shoyemon, known to have been the right-hand man to Lord Shimazu Nariakira of Satuma Clan, arrived at Ryukyu. He was sent as a secret agent of Nariakira to “clean up” the Ryukyu Government. Nariakira considered the Ryukyu leaders too conservative and weak to deal with the imminent threats of colonization by Western powers. He thought that Chochu was one of the very few officials in Ryukyu who could be trusted for modernizing and strengthening the Government. Ichiki apologized to Chochu that Satsuma had colonized Ryukyu and conveyed Nariakira’s intention to make Ryukyu a strong and independent State. Ichiki stayed at Chochu’s residence for about half a month and discussed with him in detail about Nariakira’s plan of reform. Chochu was determined to commit himself to this plan for the sake of Ryukyu.
Chochu often invited Ichiki to Chiru’s chamber. Ichiki was surprised to see Chiru’s book collection that included not only the Chinese and Japanese classics but also a textbook of English Conversation edited by Chochu.
After detailed consultation with Chochu, Ichiki was no longer a secret agent but became an official Satsuma envoy and transmitted to the Ryukyu Government three “orders” of Satsuma as the “protector” of Ryukyu. One was to promote Chochu to a position of one of the Cabinet Ministers. Another was to remove one of the Prime Ministers, who was most conservative (there were three prime ministers in the Ryukyu Government who took turns every month). The third was to purchase a battleship from France through Ryukyu, as Satsuma itself was not able to conduct foreign trade. Though there was strong resistance from the conservative factions of Ryukyu, Ichiki managed to realize all these objectives. Chochu congratulated Ichiki for his successful “cleanup” of the Ryukyu Government.
Chapter 14: Blackout
Six months afterwards, however, there was an entirely unexpected turn of events. Nariakira died of dysentery suddenly in July 1858. Ichiki was ordered to cancel the contract of the purchase of the warship and to come back to Satsuma. Ichiki said that he would commit hara-kiri to apologize to the French negotiators. Chochu said that the Westerners would consider suicide as a sinful act and would not value it. He informed the French that Ichiki had died of accidental fall from a horse, and erected a tomb. By paying some penalty for the cancelation of the contract, Ichiki was able to go back to Satsuma.
The news of Nariakira’s death put Ryukyu in a complete turmoil like a huge tsunami, leading to a fierce revenge by the conservative group called the “Black Party” against the liberal “White Party”. Lord Mabuni Ken-yu was the leader of the Black Party. Chochu’s senior colleagues of the White Party were arrested and tortured. Lord Onga Choko died in jail after being tortured for months. The Royal family itself was divided. The King had three brothers, and one of the Royal Prices who was on Chochu’s side committed suicide because he had been severely condemned by his brother Princes.
In 1859, while the struggle between the two Parties was intensifying, Chochu was meeting with the delegation of the Netherlands who was visiting Ryukyu for a treaty negotiation. On the first day he got on board of the Dutch vessel, he found his long-time friend from his Peking days, Jan De Jong, who was serving as an interpreter of his delegation. Chochu quickly explained to Jan about his situation and asked him to pretend that they had not met before. The negotiation went very smoothly, because similar treaties had already been concluded by Ryukyu with the U.S. and France. At the end of the negotiation, Chochu had an occasion to speak at the farewell party: “I have read about Hugo Grotius, the great founding father of the law of nations, who was caught by the struggle between the two hostile religious groups and was detained in a fortress. He was rescued from the fortress by his courageous wife after two years of detention. He wrote afterwards the famous book, the Law of War and Peace. I know that many of his friends supported him in exile. We Ryukyuans also value our friendship.” In return, Jan De Yong made a speech: “I have read a book written by a British Captain, Basil Hall, who came to Ryukyu in 1816. He praised the people of Ryukyu for being extremely well educated, proud and friendly. We will remain as your friends forever.”
Realizing that his arrest was imminent, Chochu came to see Chiru, who asked him to stay alive no matter what might happen to him. A few days later, Chochu was put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment. He admitted all of the Prosecution’s accusations, as he thought that the trial was a political trial and not worth fighting. The sentence might have been the death penalty, but Chochu’s teacher Lord Aniya and his son Seisho tried hard to save Chochu’s life and they succeeded in reducing the sentence to life imprisonment.
One night, he noticed that the key of his cell was broken, and he quietly went out from the jail. He went back to his home in the dark. His wife Nabe strongly condemned Chochu for not having fought bravely as a samurai in the trial like his senior colleagues had done. She demanded a divorce, saying that, having come from a samurai family herself, she was no longer able to live as his wife. Jiro who had been Chochu’s assistant had been back to help the family. He asked Jiro to look after his family. He quietly returned to the jail. To Chochu’s surprise, no jail guards had noticed his fleeing from the jail, by which he thought that now the entire Government was not functioning properly.
Chapter 15: Prison Cell
For the following three years, Chochu lived in the jail. Chiru kept sending him books to read. Chiru put secret codes in the books by which Chochu was able to communicate with her. Chochu conducted physical training everyday by practicing karate patterns in his small cell, trying to keep himself strong both mentally and physically.
In June 1862, Satsuma’s Resident Governor ordered the Ryukyu Government to release Chochu from the prison, because Satsuma needed an English interpreter. Ryukyu politely declined the request, offering instead that Ryukyu could provide a different interpreter. The Governor in turn sent several samurais to rescue Chochu from the cell. The Ryukyu officials demanded the return of Chochu to prison, which the Governor refused. Chochu was finally set free.
Chapter 16: Waiting for the Wind
Meeting with the Governor, Chochu learned that it was Chiru and Ichiki Shoyemon who had informed Satsuma of Chochu’s imprisonment, and planned the rescue operation. The Governor also said that Ichiki was his nephew and that he was grateful to Chochu for having saved his life. Chochu was informed that he would be taken to Satsuma (Kagoshima) together with the Governor whose term was ending. The Governor agreed that Chochu be accompanied by Jiro to Satsuma.
It was customary that, on the previous night of their departure, juri dancers were invited to the Governor’s residence. The Black Party officials tried to arrest Chiru when she was coming out of Tsuji. The Sumiya’s Mother, who was now the Chief of Tsuji Village, asked some five hundred juris to come out of Tsuji in the same uniform used for the Juri-Horse Festival. They came out of the Gate of the Village dancing and chanting with music, protecting Chiru inside the file and arriving at the Governor’s Residence safely. Chochu and Chiru were able to meet again after three years.
Final Chapter: From the Note of Kishaba Choken
The official Satsuma vessel left the Tomari Harbor on the morning of 19 July 1862. Many people came to see the vessel off, including the agents of the Ryukyu Government. On the deck, there was the outgoing Governor of Satsuma, and standing next to him a man with a braided hat who was thought to be Chochu. The Black Party politicians, especially Lord Mabuni, were particularly concerned of the possibility that Chochu might seek revenge against them after coming back from Satsuma.
Soon afterwards, however, the shocking news reached from Satsuma that Chochu had killed himself by jumping off the ship when it left the territorial waters of Ryukyu later in the evening of 19 July. Satsuma’s official record noted: “When the ship crossed the Iheya Strait of Ryukyu at the sunset, Makishi Chochu asked his servant Jiro to get something to eat. While Jiro went to the kitchen of the ship for supper, Makishi Chochu appeared to have jumped into the sea, leaving his sandals and half coat on the deck. He seemed to have suffered from neurasthenia.”
Aniya Seisho, Chochu’s lifelong friend, who was now the King’s advisor, had a serious doubt about this report, because he and his father had met Chochu a few days before Chochu’s departure, finding him to be in very good spirit, without any sign of being “neurotic”. He asked one of his young assistants, Kishaba Choken to investigate. Kishaba interviewed a number people, but did not find any solid evidence about the death of Chochu.
A few years passed. One day, Kishaba went to see, with his wife, a traditional Ryukyu operetta, a one-man show, in which a male character played both roles of a seller and a buyer of a kitchen tool in a comical manner. He laughed like everybody else in the audience, but a moment later, he cried in a loud voice: “That was it! A one-man show!”
Last time when he conducted the investigation, he did not find the whereabouts of Chochu’s family. This time, after a laborious search, he was finally able to locate the family. He met Nabe, Chochu’s former wife, and Chochu’s second and third sons, as well as Jiro, who were living together in a remote village as farmers. Chochu’s first son, who had been selected to study abroad but was later prevented from doing so due to his father’s indictment, had died in despair a year before. He was surprised to see that, while the second son looked like Chochu, the third son looked like Jiro. Kishaba was happy that Nabe now had a happy life with Jiro and her sons.
Kishaba asked Jiro how Chochu died on the ship. Jiro reiterated the incident just as the official records had concluded. So, Kishaba mentioned to him that he had seen the one-man-show operetta and suggested that Jiro also played a one-man-show on the ship. Jiro did not say anything, but Kishaba noticed that his fingers were trembling. Kishaba concluded that Chochu was not even on board the ship. Jiro played a dual role of the master Chochu and of the servant Jiro himself. Chochu did not die. The man of the braided hat on the deck of the departing ship was not Chochu but was Jiro in disguise. Chochu and Chiru must have left Ryukyu in the darkness of night, perhaps to Kume-jima, where Chiru originally came from.
Kishaba’s last position in the Ryukyu Government was the advisor to the King, and in that capacity, he witnessed the fall of the Kingdom by Japan’s annexation in 1875. Thousands of samurais became jobless, and in order to save them, Kishaba organized a farming project in Kume-jima in the 1880s. During that time, he met with Chiru’s younger sister, Suye, who had been raised with Chiru’s financial support over the years and now was married to a wealthy owner of a factory for Kume silk costumes.
Suye confirmed that Chochu and Chiru had come to Kume-jima in secret in July 1862. Fortunately, a Dutch commercial vessel stopped over at the Maja Harbor of Kume-jima later that summer. Chochu went to the harbor to negotiate with the captain of the vessel, and there he met with Jan De Jong again who was an officer on board the vessel. Thanks to Jan’s help, Chochu and Chiru went to Fuzhou, China, by the Dutch vessel, and there they got on a U.S. ship, by which they went to Hawaii. They lived there happily. Chochu died there in 1882.
Note: The story is based on historical records as far as Chochu’s official activities are concerned, except his life in the post-1862 period. Chiru is entirely a fictional figure.