Attributed to Katsukawa Shunshō (勝川 春章; 1726 – 1793): Ehon Haikai yobuko-dori, woodblock print circa 1788.
BLUE & RED DRAGON
GARRY RIGBY © 2020
HMS Bacchante 1881 VOLII; compiled from the private journals, letters and note-books of Prince George of Wales (George V) :: OCTOBER 28 1881 TOKYO ~ JAPAN
Back to breakfast at 9.30 and then the tattooer finished our arms. He does a large dragon in blue and red writhing all down the arm in about three hours. The man who did most of our party was beautifully tattooed over the whole of his body, and the effect of these Japanese drawings in various colours and curves on his glistening skin was like so much embroidered silk.
浮世絵 ~ The Floating World. [Choki 猪牙 (river taxi). Sumida river, Shitamachi, Tokyo October 29 1881]
“It’s just like the bordello Papa described” chirped up Georgy. “For the last time, it is a fucking bordello. Now shut up and paddle” suggests Louis. Stealing through the night like common thieves, Georgy ‘Sprat’ and Eddy ‘Herring’, along with their chums Princes Louis1, Higashifushimi2 and Tokugawa3 and avoiding the ever watchful eye of Rev Dalton, our quintet make the arduous journey back from the Yoshiwara and its most precious delight ~ The Tea House Of The Floating World. Moated and walled, the rapture and ravishment offered a teenage midshipman were beyond the dreams of most, but not uncle Louis, who at 27 already sported the massive dragon across his chest and legs and had devoured the entire menu of Yoshiwara’s finest cat house.
“Eddy… Eddy, if you’re going to chunder, over the side. What the hell is wrong with that boy” asks Louis. “I love her; like really. I want…” says Georgy. “For Christs sake we all have” says Louis. Wind stops, rain takes a break: I’m talking stone cold silence, pin drop, massive elephant, Oh my God. “Drop dead Louis” says Georgy. Louis has never seen such hate and desperation in Georgy before. Never seen Georgy really care about anything. “Please, Louis-san” says Prince Higashifushimi : École Navale, Dartmouth and endless Chiswick garden parties, Higgy knew his manners. “Higgy, shut the fuck up” replies Louis. “Gentleman, can we please refrain from this nonsense for the moment” asks Holly (ホリー) ~ Prince Tokugawa Iesato (the Tokugawa mon/crest is the triple hollyhock. His mum calls him Leslie; no one quite knows why). “Eddy, put that fucking bottle down… Ow; what the…” Georgy has lept up and wacked Louis across the shoulders with his paddle and is now reaching for Louis’ throat teeth bared.“Who the hell do you think payed for all that” shouts Louis. Nothing but rage in his whole being, a shuriken (dart) pierces Georgy’s arm who loses his balance and falls from the choki into the Sumida river. The shock is exhilarating, anything to distract from Louis. There is a marvellous comfort in the water as he slowly floats towards the bottom and into the arms of the Morning Star ~ Asa no Hoshi (朝の星), Venus, light-bringer, fille fatale, Messalina with bells; the devil herself.
Darts are now striking the choki from all directions. Holly turns to Louis drawing his sword… “I’m sorry Louis-san”. A loud bang and Holly arches his back. Louis tilts his head revealing Eddy, vomit stained frock coat, smoking derringer in hand; he raises his eyebrows as Holly follows Georgy into the river. “Higgy, take that gun of him before he shoots someone else, I’ll get Georgy boy. How the fuck did I get myself into this”
Sandringham House. Norfolk; Letter from Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Empress of India to His Serene Highness Prince Louis of Battenberg :: May 29 1881
Dearest Louis, how pleased we are to discover you will be in Japan with Princes Eddy and George and what great care you will take with their well being…
[En-rio-kwan, the Mikado’s Palace. October 29 1881]
A bedraggled Eddy (whistling), Georgy, Higgy and Louis are being chastised by an irate Rev Dalton4 – Chaplain to Queen Victoria and tutor to Sprat and Herring, Dalton had convinced Queen Vic not to send the boys to school as… ‘the evil associations of school life presented risks too serious to take’. Dalton would later produce such blockbusters as ‘Sermons to Naval Cadets’ warning… ‘resist the foul fiend and he will flee from you!’ Advice to cast a gloom over anyone’s day. “When her Majesty is made aware of this most disgraceful…” continues Dalton. “Your Reverence, may I have a word” Louis gently guides Dalton backwards and leans in. “This ain’t Windsor ship-mate. When you fall overboard, which you will, can we find you. NO. It will be dark and stormy like my fucking brow”. Big smile and louder voiced… “Thank you Reverend. Invaluable guidance, invaluable. Goodbye for now and see you in chapel”. Louis turns his wrath on Eddy. “You’re not as stupid as you look so, either shoot yourself with that gun of yours, or assist in this right royal – fucked up run-in”. “Ah” intones Eddy “Tokyo tussle, Asian altercation, uh Japanese japes, Samurai skirmish…” “No fuck it, I’ll shoot you myself” says Louis. “Meiji mayhem” shouts Eddy.
Not one day earlier the Mikado (Emperor Meiji ~ 明治天皇) had accepted, with much appreciation I might add, two wallabies…
1.1st Marquess of Milford Haven (1854–1921), formerly Prince Louis of Battenberg; Senior Warden ‘Order of the Blue and Red Dragon’. 2. Prince Higashifushimi Yorihito (東伏見宮依仁親王 1867–1922) was the second and last head of the Higashifushimi-no-miya, an ōke cadet branch of the Japanese imperial family. 3. Tokugawa Iesato (徳川 家達, 1863 – 1940) first head of the Tokugawa clan after the overthrow of the Tokugawa bakufu (shogunate) : Edo period 1603-1867. 4. Canon John Neale Dalton KCVO CMG (1839-1931).
Prince George of Wales (Sprat) 1881 Aged 16. The Royal Archives ©
HMS Bacchante 1881 VOLII; compiled from the private journals, letters and note-books of Prince George of Wales (George V) :: OCTOBER 27 1881 TOKYO ~ JAPAN
The Empress in cheerful and genial manner then tried to begin a conversation. Eddy asked her to accept two wallabies which we had brought in the Bacchante from Australia. These were great pets with all on board, as they went hopping and frisking and booming about at meal hours all over the decks.
What the fuck Eddy imagined the Mikado would do with a couple of wallabies shitting everywhere is anyone’s guess. His mummy Alexandra, later Queen of the United Kingdom her Dominions and Empress of India, had actually given him a lovely portrait of herself and Bertie to present, but naughty Georgy had flogged the beastly thing to pay for his nights in Tokyo’s fleshpots. Anyway, the Mikado in turn graciously presented the two boys with an exquisite Toyoharu woodblock print and tachi by Japan’s finest swordsmith Masamune3, so that turned out very well indeed. And great mounds of exotic foods; mostly raw and fishy but some lovely plain boiled rice which we all tucked into.
3. Gorō Nyūdō Masamune (五郎入道正宗 1264–1343) ~ The “Honjo Masamune”, a symbol of the Tokugawa bakufu, is the best known Masamune sword – reported missing 1946.
En-rio-kwan, the Mikado’s Palace, Tokyo 1881. Includes (not all identified), left to right: Captain Matsumora, Captain Durrant, Kenzo Suzuki, Prince George of Wales (later King George V), Prince Kotihito (naval cadet), Kuwangi Marioka, Prince Higashi Fushimi, Prince Yamashima (naval cadet), Prince Albert Victor of Wales, Reverend Dalton, and Petch. © Royal Collection Trust.
HMS Bacchante 1881 VOLII; compiled from the private journals, letters and note-books of Prince George of Wales (George V) :: OCTOBER 30 1881 TOKYO ~ JAPAN
My darling Motherdear, I miss you so very much & can’t forget how so so sorry I felt in saying goodbye to you and sisters & it was dreadfully hard saying goodbye to dear Papa & Uncle Hans. My very best love and kisses. I remain your very loving son Georgy.
Royal Archives 1881; private letters of HRH The Princess of Wales (Queen Alexandra) :: OCTOBER 29 1881 MARLBOROUGH HOUSE ~ LONDON. “My darling little Georgy boy, I must say it is good of you to have resisted all temptations so far and it is the greatest proof you could possibly give of how much you wish to please me”.
Real things in the darkness seem no realer than dreams. You are here to remind me of someone I long for, and what is it you long for yourself? We must have been together in an earlier life, you and I. ― Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji4.
4. The Tale of Genji (源氏物) 11th century; classic work of Japanese literature by Murasaki Shikibu. Considered the first modern novel.
Baron Raimund von Stillfried ~ Yoshiwara girls 1881 (J. Paul Getty Museum)
Drunken life ~ dreamy death
黒い雪の夜 ~ Night of the black snow. [Operation Meetinghouse ~ United States Army Air Forces ~ XXI Bomber Command. Guam. March 9 1945. (1500 miles south of Tokyo)]
“I’m not going” says Louis. “Do you see my name on these orders, DO YOU” asks Higgy. “Yes”. “OK, I had to counter sign didn’t I. Why give me the grief. Fly in, fly out. Whats the big deal”. “You’ve stripped my guns and left a man with a screw-driver”. “Well no, we’ve taken him and the screw-driver… for the weight. Look, one last job. You’ll be light. And fast”. “I don’t want fast”. “Come on. They’ll never know you were there, who needs guns”. “Jesus, take the parachutes…” Higgy holds up his hands “The old man told me to put them back”. “You’re shitting me”. “No seriously, he thought it looked really bad and…” “That you thought to take them ASSHOLE. Higgy, stop crying”. “They won’t see you. Its at night” he whispers. “Three hundred B-29s – they will” (Higgy can see he is thinking about it). “Louis, please (nonchalantly wipes the tears from his moony eyes), it’s a cinch. You’re going to deliver the biggest firecracker the Japanese have ever seen”.
“You’re going to deliver the biggest firecracker the Japanese have ever seen,” said US. General Curtis Emerson LeMay1. “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting. And gentlemen – Any crew that takes off will go over the target, or be court-martialed. Any plane you break, you will pay for. (LeMay stuffs the cigar deeper into his face) Savvy. Get me Ike2.”
“You’re not going” says Ike. “Please Ike, they’re my boys” Curtis LeMay stands his ground. “They’re my boys general and you’re not going. NO. Listen”. Ike contemplates. “I hope you’re right Curtis”. “I am. You know it. We bomb them into the Stone Age and… no you listen. How many more letters will you write home Ike; you’ll run out of ink man”. “Don’t get smart general. Alright. I’ll advise our masters. And the other…” “Ah come on Ike”. “I know, you know, we all know it’s hokum. But it means something to them so best we have it eh. They’ll rally, but around my choosing. And Curtis”. “Ike”. “Stay on the ground or you’ll be cleaning latrines at West Point. Do you understand me. Say it”. “Ok, I understand”.
“OK is my plane ready” asks LeMay. “Yes sir”. “Lets go before that SOB grounds it”. “Is it grounded” asks the SOB. “Yes sir”.
1. General Curtis Emerson (Iron Ass) LeMay. XXI Bomber Command. “He spoke through teeth that had obviously been pried open only with effort, an effort with which the speaker had no real sympathy.” St. Clair McKelway The New Yorker. “In one night,” LeMay remembered, “we killed—what—one hundred thousand people… This seemed to be acceptable to everybody; but to kill a few people at the start right away, no, we can’t seem to stomach that.” 2. General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. Allied Supreme Commander. 34th president of the United States, Army Chief of Staff, 5 star General. President at Columbia University and NATO Supreme Commander. An overachiever you’re thinking; a smart alec, smarty pants perhaps. Granted, his soviet summit collapsed with the U-2 spy plane and he did approve the Bay of Pigs… but then all political lives end in tears.
[Mayfair, London. March 9 1945]
“Does he know”. “He knows of it”. “The driver3 is in place”. “Yes”. “Good. Where he goes we go. And the girl”. “We can’t find her”. “She’s survived before”. “Not this”. “What can I do”. “Bugger all as usual. Who do you think she hates most eh… perhaps she’s coming for you”.
3. Kay Summersby was a member of the British Mechanised Transport Corps serving as a chauffeur and later personal secretary to Dwight D. Eisenhower.
[B-29 Superfortress, XXI Bomber Command. 5000 feet above Tokyo. October 10 1945. 01:00.]
Rising heat from the inferno below is causing massive turbulence; the target obscured by smoke or illuminated by waves of flame. “Can you see it” asks Higgy. “Of course I fucking can” says Louis, “there’s an enormous burning X… get back in your seat”. “Ha, I told you it would be a cinch”. “Crackle crackle” over the intercom. “Sit down… what”. “Crackle hiss”. “I can’t hear you”. “Crackle… FLAK4“ screams the Radar operator. “FLAK” screams Louis, “up you stupid bastard, get us up”. The first wave of bombers were pathfinders – target indicators; approaching at right angles to each other and dropping their weapons to form an enormous, burning X. Tears swell at the corner of Louis’ eyes…“We’re all going to die”. Listening for local Japanese stations, the radio operator broadcasts ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’. 334 B-29s took off for Operation Meetinghouse, dropping 1,666 tons of bombs on what would become the deadliest air raid in history. Mostly M-69 incendiary bombs – perfect for the paper and wooden houses of Tokyo (The Bat bomb programme5 – “Die Fledermaus Farce” – had closed by mid-1944). Once the flames came, there was no escape. In 30 minutes, the fires were out of control.
4. Anti-aircraft fire 5. Project X-Ray: a bomb-shaped casing with over a thousand compartments, each containing a hibernating Mexican free-tailed bat with a timed incendiary bomb attached. Dropped at dawn, the casings would deploy a parachute, release the bats, which would then disperse and roost in eaves and attics. During simulations, many bats had failed to wake from hibernation and simply crashed to the ground; others just flew away, never to be seen again. At Carlsbad auxiliary airfield, six live-loaded bats burned the base to the ground.
[Sumida river, Shitamachi, Tokyo. March 10 1945]
Uzume takes a breath and the heat sears her lungs. “Mamma”… And her mother bursts into flames – everything is on fire. And then she runs. Everyone runs. Even when they burst into flames they keep running. She falls over, someone falls over her and drifting in and out of consciousness, Uzume feels the press of bodies all around her, squeezing the last air from her lungs; then nothing. Before shops, roads, people. Just nothing; rubbing her eyes, spitting black dust… choking on the bodies around her. Uzume is covered from head to foot and takes six, sharp intakes of breath, one for each year of her life. The raid lasted slightly longer than three hours. In the Sumida river, countless bodies were floating, clothed, naked, all black as charcoal. Over one hundred thousand dead – mostly women, children and the elderly – one million homeless and sixteen square miles of Tokyo obliterated. “There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders6” General Curtis LeMay.
6 Sherry, Michael (September 10, 1989). The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon, p. 287. Yale University Press. ISBN-13: 978-0300044140.
Order Of The Blue And Red Dragon. Copperplate engraving; Nuremberg circa 1500. (Ethnologisches Museum Berlin)
チーズハットの女の子 ~ The Girl in a cheese hat. [An elevator. Asakusa (浅草) Tokyo 2020]
“What are you doing in a cheese hat” repeated our lady. Already exasperated by the intolerable metal cube thundering as if towards the bowls of hell, the last thing our lady needs is an unresponsive and seemingly dullard companion. Massive intake of breath and SHE opens her eyes. “What are you the fucking FBI”. “I beg your pardon”. “Enough with the questions Inspector… nosy. Who the hell are you”. Our lady bows her head “Fujiwara no Kaoruko. You may call me Lady Murasaki”. She whistles. “Yeah really… you have long hair, is that real. And whats with the black teeth”. “I’m sorry…” “You will be…” A dart (shuriken) pierces the lift door. “Get back, back”. She frantically waves our lady from the opening elevator doors and peeks around the corner. Twelve Ninja She counts. Annoyed that our lady is peeking too, She angrily waves her back AGAIN and points to the bag at our lady’s feet. Push me the bag She mimes. Our lady complies and retrieving the One Stop Saki, She downs it in one (revealing the blue and red dragon tattoo on her arm) and approaches our lady with the cheese hat. “Hold this… Please”.
Walking towards the lead Ninja and pulling out the tanto (short sword) with her left hand, She slits the throat, cutting the head clean off with the tachi in her right ~ the Honjo Masamune1. The severed head rolls into the elevator as our lady sniffs the cheese hat with some disgust. One minute later, She cleans her blade on the nearest body – it wriggles, so a quick kick to the head (practical not psychopathic) and She returns to our lady – “Asa no Hoshi (Morning Star)… you may call me Uzume2. Come on”.
1. Whoever wields the Honjo Masamune, wields power over Japan. And more to the point – when you see this blade drawn, it is the last thing you will ever see. 2. Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto (天宇受売命, 天鈿女命) is the goddess of dawn, mirth and revelry in Shinto; The Great Persuader and The Heavenly Alarming Female. She is the one who lured the sun Goddess Amaterasu out of her self-imposed exile, returning sunlight to the world. Overturning a tub near the cave entrance, Uzume began a dance and tore of her clothes.
[Taxi, Asakusa, Tokyo 2020]
The lace-curtained door opens automatically. “Irezumi Hakase3, Bunkyō” directs Uzume. “Look, it’s Fan Bingbing” the driver says excitedly to our lady, jabbing his finger towards the girl in the cheese hat. The vulgarity of the situation is almost too much for our lady. Her fan4 raised, she glances from Uzume to the now – not so excited driver, the sword pressing gently against his throat. “Yeah – turn around. You do the driving”. “Rila Fukushima” shouts back the driver undaunted. Uzume raises her shoulders and pushes the blade deeper into the driver’s throat…“Irezumi Hakase” – Dr. Tattoo, Fukushi Masaichi, pathologist and Emeritus Professor of Nippon Medical School and founder of a unique collection of tattooed and prepared skin; many of them so-called ‘full body suits’. “Bunkyō” repeats Uzume, and huffing and puffing she falls into a troubled sleep. Straight backed and clear eyed, Lady Murasaki suffers the further indignity of the cheese hat tumbling to the floor and the girl’s head sinking deeper into her shoulder… slight snore and dribble, onto the exquisite and priceless kimono. “Silence” says our lady.
3. Fukushi Masaichi and his son Fukushi Katsunari are known in Japan as Irezumi Hakase ~ Dr. Tattoo. Fukushi Masaichi (福士 政一, 1878 – 1956) collected an archive of 2000 “hides” and 3000 photographs, most of which were lost in the bombing of Tokyo in march 1945, Night of the Black Snow. His son Fukushi Katsunari (b.1917 ~) graduated from Nippon Medical School in 1943 and took over the collection on the death of his father in 1956. 4. Tessen (鉄扇) folding fan with outer spokes of iron designed to look harmless; also used for fending off knives, darts and as a throwing, cutting weapon.
[Nippon Medical School, Bunkyō, Tokyo 2020]
Exactly 185 degrees the professor likes his tea and Kinji Kameda likes precise. Eight years Kinji has trained, worked three jobs blah blah. To assist Dr Fukushi is almost too much joy. Just be yourself. Take a deep breath and Kinji enters the laboratory for the first and last time. “Fuck me” declares Kinji as the tray smashes to the floor.
Our lady sits neatly in the corner, Uzume however has her sword to Fukushi’s throat. Tears run down the Dr’s cheeks (surprisingly smooth considering the old goat’s age – 102) not from fear, but joy. “The dragon” he whispers. “I would like some tea” says Lady Murasaki. “Yeah, get her some tea… go on” says Uzume. Kinji scuttles from the room a career in tatters. Uzume returns her full attention to the doc… “Now, what the fuck is going on”. “Asa no Hoshi” says Fukushi. “What. I wake up in an elevator with Madam here, and the only thing I am sure of – why, fuck knows – is, I must see you.” Lady Murasaki lowers her fan and addresses Fukushi, “She is a Kami5“. Fukushi Katsunari would have liked some tea, and a nap to be honest but… the sword and dragon – together. The tattoo Fukushi knows intimately; his arm and that of his father bear the same. The hat and Lady Murasaki was not expected; however, what could be more proof than this remarkable young woman… Morning Star and the Order of the Blue and Red Dragon6 – 青と赤のドラゴンの順序… The lights cut, smashing glass and the tear gas cylinder rolls to a stop at Fukushi’s feet.
“Lower your weapons – this is the police”. “Arrest the waiter” shouts Uzume “He dropped the tea”.
5. Kami (神) are the spirits or phenomena in Shinto. Not separate from nature, but of nature, possessing positive and negative. Kami may, at its root, simply mean spirit and may be compared to the Sanskrit Deva and the Hebrew Elohim. Ame-no-Uzume-no-mikoto is a notable kami. 6. Order of the Blue and Red Dragon (青と赤のドラゴンの順序) ~ global, secret society. Origin unknown; first mentioned Bath curse tablets dating from the second to fourth centuries A.D; Japanese origin the Kojiki (古事記); oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century; Japan post 1400, retainers of the Honjo Masamune and later guardian of the progeny Asa no Hoshi. The order was destroyed in 1945. Former grand masters redacted.
[Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. 2020]
“Asa no Hoshi”. “Contained”. “She has it”. “Hai”. “Dispose of her”. “The woman and old man”. “Bring me the Honjo Masamune”.
[Tomisaka Police Station. Bunkyo, Tokyo. 2020]
Inspector Higashifushimi takes a deep breath…“Please, young lady, explain yourself”. The girl; well, virtually feral. I’m almost certain he is an Emeritus Professor but who the hell is she. Someone, looking at her kimono. Damn it; best step lightly with this one. “Fukushi-sama, your assistant claims the girl assaulted you – we have his statement”. “He was distraught Inspector-san”. “My officers saw it”. “So much smoke, who can see”. “Madam”, Higgy snaps and turns to our lady “Have you nothing to say”. Lady Murasaki waves her fan in agitation, appalled by his loutish behaviour. “I have informed Fukushi-sensei, the girl is a Kami. Her concerns are not ours. You may not approach me again”. If Higgy were a violent man, this would be the time to role up his sleeves. Swallowing a mounting rage, Inspector Higashifushimi of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department offers his most patient smile, “Uzume–chan…” Shackled and seriously vexed, Uzume rears up and head-butts Higashifushimi in the face. “Kami” confirms Lady Murasaki. Falling back, broken nose and mouth filling with blood… “Get that… out of here” spits Higgy. “Inspector-san”. “WHAT”. “CIRO7 are coming”. “Christ, what do they want”. “Your suspects”. “My suspects”. “Your suspects; and Inspector-san – you are to desist all questioning and lock down the station“. “WHAT”. Higgy presses the cloth to his bloody nose, the blue and red dragon glistening on his forearm like so much embroidered silk.