A cool autumn wind was blowing in from the sea when I reached the Christ Church in Yokohama.
"They say Hiro was one tough woman," Dad began. "Well, this Japanese warlord's retinue was passing in front of Julius's house. The warlord was being carried in one of those kago, you know, those sedan chairs enclosed in bamboo shades. Samurai guards walked at his side. Julius's gardener was clipping the camellia bush that hung over the compound wall when one of the branches fell at the foot of a samurai guard. The samurai, furious at the insult to his lord, pulled out his sword, kicked down the gate and ran into the compound to chase down the gardener." (...) "The gardener clambered down the tree and fell to his knees. Touching his forehead to the ground, he begged forgiveness. The samurai raised his sword and was about to cut off the poor bastard's head when Hiro jumped in front of the gardener and put out her hand." (...) "The samurai was bringing his sword down on the gardener when suddenly he saw this little woman standing in front of him." "'Stop!' she shouted. Well, the samurai stopped his sword just as it sliced through Hiro's little finger."
I was on my way to meet with a yakuza boss to do a story on Japan's mafia-like gangsters. As the driver navigated his big car through the narrow streets, I noticed something odd about his right hand as it rested on the steering wheel - his pinky was a short stub. It reminded me of a scene from a Japanese movie about yakuza in which a gangster chopped off his own pinky with a butcher's knife as a way of making amends to his boss for botching an important job. I shuddered. Gangsters could turn violent if they believed someone was impugning their honor. Yet I had to ask. Screwing up my courage, I leaned forward. "So what happened to your finger?" When the driver turned his head, his pale face flushed a bright red. "I wrecked the Boss's car," he said, embarrassed. I sank back into the plush leather seats, feeling a mixture of amusement and relief. Perhaps he was a gangster, but he seemed like a sweet kid.
They have their own journeys to take, their own stories to write.
Leslie D. Helm's decision to adopt Japanese children launches him on a personal journey through his family's 140 years in Japan, beginning with his great-grandfather, who worked as a military advisor in 1870 and defied custom to marry his Japanese mistress. The family's poignant experiences of love and war help Helm overcome his cynicism and embrace his Japanese and American heritage.
This is the first book to look at Japan across five generations, with perspective that is both from the inside and through foreign eyes. Helm draws on his great-grandfather's unpublished memoir and a wealth of primary source material to bring his family history to life.
Leslie D. Helm is a veteran foreign correspondent, having served eight years in Tokyo for Business Week and the Los Angeles Times. Currently, he is editor of Seattle Business, a monthly magazine that has won multiple first place excellence in journalism awards in the Pacific Northwest. Helm earned a master's degree in journalism from the Columbia University School of Journalism and in Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley. He was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, where his family has lived since 1868.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:50 -0400)
"Yokohama Yankee is the first book to look at Japan across five generations with perspective that is both from the inside and through foreign eyes. Helm draws on his great grandfather's unpublished memoir and a wealth of primary source material to bring his family history to life."--Publisher's website.… (more)