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日本語(Japanese)Francaise (French)ภาษาไทย (Thai)한국어(Korean) ~Italiano (Italian)עברית (Hebrew)हिन्दी(Hindi)中文 (Chinese) ~
Deutsch (German)Español (Spanish)Português (Portuguese) ~
Россию (Russian)العربية (Arabic)Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) ~
Melayu (Malay)Ελληνικά (Greek)


Memoirs of a Woman

2nd Edition

As told to David Gerritsan


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日本語(Japanese)Francaise (French)ภาษาไทย (Thai) ~한국어(Korean) ~Italiano (Italian)עברית (Hebrew)हिन्दी(Hindi)中文 (Chinese) ~
Deutsch (German)Español (Spanish)Português (Portuguese) ~
Россию (Russian)العربية (Arabic)Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) ~
Melayu (Malay)Ελληνικά (Greek)

One doesn’t become enlightened

by imagining figures of light,

but by making the darkness conscious.

The latter is disagreeable and therefore unpopular.

Carl G. Jung


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Dawn (Chapter 1)

日本語 (Japanese)Francaise (French)ภาษาไทย (Thai)한국어(Korean) ~Italiano (Italian)עברית (Hebrew)हिन्दी(Hindi)中文 (Chinese) ~
Deutsch (German)Español (Spanish)Português (Portuguese) ~
Россию (Russian)العربية (Arabic)Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) ~
Melayu (Malay)Ελληνικά (Greek)

The black Toyota Crown with black smoked glass windows rolled through town like a primeval menace.  Some people in the street turned away, pretending not to notice.  Others bowed very low, as their ancestors had done for a thousand years.  The black car’s pace was slow and quiet this morning, its color silhouetted against the patches of snow along the sides of the road.  Long time residents knew what kind of day it would be from the demeanor of the car.   This was a morning to visit the shrine and pray for anonymity.

Meiko cried the whole night before they came.  Her father had sold her to pay the debt.  It wasn’t a big debt.  The money had paid for only one planting of two hectares of rice.  It was the early winter of 1961.  No one controlled the moneylenders in this town near Sendai.  The interest was too high, more than one hundred percent per year.  Her father couldn’t pay.

It could be worse, she mused in the twilight of dawn.  She could return in five years with her freedom and a dowry.  Still, she was not sure she knew what it meant, and what she knew was sinister.  Last year Ishihara couldn’t pay, but he refused to trade his daughter.  The next day he was gone.  There was the washerwoman from the village.  “She was gone five years,” Akiko told Meiko at school one day.  “She came back two years ago.  Yes, she had a dowry, but no man would touch her.  She doesn’t talk to anyone.  She just scrubs.  She has no dignity.”

Meiko would keep her dignity, she thought.  And she would not return to this place to live.  Meiko had plans.  The dowry would educate her so her family could climb beyond the chains of centuries.

By the time her mother slid back the door to the large room, the room where she had been permitted to sleep on her last night in this house, Meiko’s face was tearless and composed.  Meiko was already wearing her plum blossom kimono.  She stood with dignity when she heard the door move.

Her mother knelt in the hallway, just beside the door, with tears streaming down her face.  There was nothing left to say.  In fact, nothing much had been said.  Only that it was Meiko’s duty to go away tomorrow with some men.  She must do exactly as she was instructed in order to avoid a great shame befalling their house. In five years she would be free to return, and she would have money for a dowry.

In the genkan were two men with Meiko’s father.  They wore black hats, black suits, black gloves, and sunglasses.   There was not much to discern from their features.  Only their mouths and cheeks were visible, and those were hard.

Meiko stiffened her back, to display her studied dignity, and stepped into her traveling geta.  She picked up a small furushiki, bowed slightly to her mother, and clacked out the door.  Her last memory of her father, ever, was a stoic grimace.

Another pair of black gloves held the back door open for Meiko.  She stepped in and quickly found herself between the two men from the door.  Space was tight so her thighs touched their’s on both sides.  They had steel hard muscular thighs.  Meiko held her air of dignity.


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The Ghost Writer (Chapter 2)

日本語(Japanese)Francaise (French)ภาษาไทย (Thai)한국어(Korean) ~Italiano (Italian)עברית (Hebrew)हिन्दी(Hindi)中文 (Chinese) ~
Deutsch (German)Español (Spanish)Português (Portuguese) ~
Россию (Russian)العربية (Arabic)Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) ~
Melayu (Malay)Ελληνικά (Greek)

The atmosphere of the little noodle shop was charged from the moment Noriko walked in the door.  The gaze of the chef was drawn up from a vat of boiling noodles to the attractive young woman with shoulder length hair over a grey business suit.

Irasshaimase!” He shouted, “Welcome!”   His white cap flopped to the other side of his head, as steam obscured his face.  The electricity caused Akio to look around his newspaper for the first time since arrival, then quickly fold it up and stuff it down into the open topped briefcase at his side as his fiancé crossed the room to the table.  Two women, intent on their noodles in the corner, looked up to see the little vignette of arrival and greeting between lovers.

Akio ordered deep bowls of ramen with chunky vegetables and flowers of white and purple bean curd.  When they were delivered the savory steam filled their nostrils with the culinary perfection of millennia.  They snapped their chopsticks apart, and began lifting the noodles into the air to cool them.

“She’s much more vivacious that I expected!”  Noriko leaped to respond when Akio finally asked about the meeting.  Her face was colored by the heat of the noodles and the animation of her response.  She scooped a bite of noodles into her mouth.

“Why does that surprise you?”  He asked, taking more interest in the meal than the conversation.

“After all those bruising battles?  Are you kidding?”

Irashaimase!”  The chef shouted another welcome as the automatic door rolled open, and a burst of cool, acrid air from the train station beyond mixed unfavorably with the aroma of the menu.  Two hassled businessmen hurried in, making one point landings on the stools at the counter.

“But she always showed her inner strength; her dignity,” Akio said, oblivious to the interruption.

“Dignity is one thing.”  Noriko sipped a little broth directly from the bowl, then glanced up and waited for Akio’s attention to cycle back from his bowl.

“This is more than dignity. This is a seventy-five year old woman still full of life; full of fight.”

“But Noriko-san, she always burned with an inner fire.  Just ask any of those old Liberal Democrats she singed.”

“You have no idea what I’m talking about, Akio-san,” Noriko said, letting her irritation show through her more formal speech. She let her bowl clank on the tabletop.  “Sometimes I wonder about you so-called ‘modern’ men.  You still don’t pay attention to what we women are saying.”  She intentionally shoved the ends of her chopsticks down into the bowl and left them, symbolizing death, rather than politely resting them on the fish shaped ceramic holders designed of the purpose.

Akio beat a quick retreat.  “Excuse me,” he said with an abject bow of his head.  “You are right!”  Akio was no fool.  He knew how to handle women.

“Tell me what you mean.”

“I’m talking about dynamite,” Noriko said, finally warming again and taking another bite of noodles from the bowl with her chopsticks.  “I mean this little, supposedly retired old lady wants to start throwing Molotov cocktails all over Japanese society.  She wants to cause a revolution between men and women.”

“Why is that so surprising?  Her whole political career was founded just so.”  Akio drank the broth from the bottom of his bowl.

“But she wants me to be explicit about how she was abused as a young woman, about how women are seduced into accepting the status quo by the ruse of an expensive wedding ceremony, and how, finally, most women are still excluded from positions of power, even in politics.  She knows her election to Prime Minister was a fluke; that it can never happen again that way.  She wants women to know what they must do to gain equality.”  Noriko finished off the broth in the bottom of her bowl, obscuring her face with the blue ceramic dish.

Akio watched Noriko’s animation with vague amusement.

“She wants to be remembered for leading the revolution.  And she wants to continue to lead it now,” Noriko continued.

“All very admirable,”  Akio replied without warming to the subject,  “but the media has forgotten her.  Or at least they’re ignoring her.”  He signaled to the chef for two coffees.

“They won’t after this is published!  This book will be a sensation.  It will be the equivalent of a cultural big bang, from which there is no turning back.”

“So Noriko, that means you will be a famous journalist,” Akio said, half razzing, half serious.

“Don’t kid yourself!  My career cannot stand what this will do.  I will be dead as a newspaper reporter.”  Noriko picked up a long paper cylinder of sugar and dumped it into the coffee just delivered to the table by a white apron.  She noticed no more of the waiter, using her studied concentration to blot out all of the commotion of the crowded noodle shop and focus completely on the conversation.

“If it’s a success, why do you care?  You’d have the freedom to write about anything you want.”  Akio’s concentration was not as strong as Noriko’s.  He noticed two bouncy office girls passing through the door to the “Irashaimase!” refrain.

“And if it’s not a success?  What then?”  She took a sip of coffee.

Akio looked back at Noriko.  “I see what you mean,” he said pensively.  “So are you going to turn down her offer?”

“I don’t know.  It’s something that needs to be said.  No man would write this book for her.  It would be the end.  She said she admires my work, and I’m the only one with the courage to write it. She was convinced from my story on the Kagoshima nuclear power scandal.  But this is different.  Even I am not this strong.”

Akio doubted this last assertion, but didn’t protest.  “What about a western man?”  He asked innocently, the tease boiling through the corners of his eyes and his cheeks.

“What do you mean?”  Noriko said, looking up from another sip of coffee with a start.

“Suppose you wrote it under a pseudonym.  The name of a western man,” he pushed the tangent to its limits.  “Surely anyone could believe that one of them would write such a thing.  Few will think it’s really a Japanese woman.”

Noriko’s eyes went far away.  “I see what you mean,” she said, missing his irony entirely.   She mentally weighed the scene of asking the old woman.  “She might agree.  I’ll have to ask her.”

Surprised by her serious response, Akio picked up the check, and they clumsily maneuvered their brief cases through the crowded tables toward the door.


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Noriko Visits Meiko (Chapter 3)

日本語(Japanese)Francaise (French)ภาษาไทย (Thai)한국어(Korean) ~Italiano (Italian)עברית (Hebrew)हिन्दी(Hindi)中文 (Chinese) ~
Deutsch (German)Español (Spanish)Português (Portuguese) ~
Россию (Russian)العربية (Arabic)Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) ~
Melayu (Malay)Ελληνικά (Greek)

Noriko let herself through the massive wooden gate and into the wondrous garden in Nanpeidai.  She supposed a bell sounded in the house.  The old woman slid the door open with a rattle, as if the panes of glass might fall to the cobble.  They didn’t.   She was again shown to the bright western style sitting room with the wall of glass doors looking out into Meiko’s private garden.  They sat in two wooden armchairs with upholstered cushions, facing one another over a low tea table.

“So, you have decided,” the old woman asserted after the interminable ritual of the weather and tea.

“No, not yet,” Noriko replied in her most professional tone.

The old woman raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“I am interested in working with you, of course; flattered even, for having been asked.”   Noriko’s demeanor was still almost imperious, in the manner of reporters who recognize their importance to politicians.  “But this is a very dangerous undertaking for a writer’s career.”

“Yes, I suppose it can be.”  The old woman spoke like a wizened grandmother.

“But I have an idea,” Noriko said.

A smile of foreknowledge crinkled in the wrinkles next to the timeless eyes.

“How would you feel if I wrote this book under a pseudonym; a nom de plume?”  Noriko’s sudden animation betrayed her enthusiasm for the project.

“The work does not need my name to carry it.

Certainly the memoirs of Japan’s first woman Prime Minister will command an audience no matter who writes it.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” the old woman cackled like a witch from Macbeth.  “I have no objection to a pseudonym.

“But there’s more.”

“What is it?”

“I propose to use the name of a western man.”

The old forehead narrowed for a moment.  Then a smile spread below and Meiko’s voice almost laughed.  “What a good idea!  Yes, no need to impugn the respectability of a Japanese man, or risk the professional reputation of a Japanese woman.  A western man is just right.  Everyone will believe one would be so bold as to write what I want to say.”

“There’s one more thing.”

“Yes, what is it?”  Meiko’s voice disclosed a little stress.

“I’m worried about the explicit descriptions contained in these manuscripts you gave me.”  Noriko spoke earnestly now, pulling the pages from her attaché case.  “We cannot include most of these or your memoirs will be labeled pornographic.”

“Pornographic!”  The old woman spoke with mock surprise.

“This is not pornographic!  This is my life!  And these matters will be treated or I must find another writer,” she said adamantly. “No girl, anywhere in the world, should have to go through what I went through.  And many suffer worse!  If my life is to stand for something among women, let it stand for that.  It still happens! Here in Japan as well as around the world.  Let my story be a testament to this inhumanity.  Oh, I agree that true equality for all women is a long way away, centuries perhaps, but we can take the first step now.  I will not rest until this is done.  Am I very clear on this point?”

“Yes, Prime Minister.”  Noriko felt her buttocks relax as she recovered from the onslaught.  It wasn’t over.

“We women, especially we Japanese, have too long collaborated in a conspiracy of silence about these matters.  No one will speak out.  But I will!  I am old now, and I have a lesson to teach the daughters of Japan.  That is my purpose.”  Meiko sat back in her chair, breathing easier again.  “Shall we go on together?”

“Yes, Prime Minister,” Noriko said, tensely bowing from the waist.

“Call me Meiko,” she said kindly, knowing she had won.  “That is my name.  I was once Prime Minister, but not now.  My time in politics will never end, mind you, but that kind of politics is dead for me now.

“Very well, Prime ….”  Noriko examined the face of her mother.  Or was it the timeless face of all women?  She gave her head a jerky bow of compliance.  “Very well, Meiko-sama.”

“Noriko-san, if we are to work together for many months, perhaps years, you must learn to be less formal.

“Very well, Meiko-san.”  Noriko’s hesitation still carried through her voice.

Meiko gave a little devilish grin, and the wrinkles by her eyes crinkled again.  She always won now.

“So, have you selected a pen name?”  Meiko asked with her customary mischievousness, trying to ease the tension.

“If you approve, Meiko-san.  My fiancé, Akio, suggested Gerritsan as a family name.   He thinks we should use a name that sounds real, but probably is not used any longer.  Gerritsan is an ancient family name which, according to Akio, has been changed to something completely different in modern times.”

“That sounds like a good idea.  And for the given name?”

“David.  I’ve always loved that name since I saw Michelangelo’s ‘David’ in Rome.”

Meiko grinned, remembering Hayama, as she always did when the name David was mentioned.  “I knew a David once,” she said wistfully, staring past Noriko’s face at a pine tree in the garden.

“It’s David Gerritsan then,” Meiko said.  “That’s fine.  I like the name.”

“Perhaps we should go back to events in the manuscript then,” Noriko said tentatively.

Meiko nodded her assent.

“Is it true that after you were taken you never saw your parents again?”

“Yes, it is true.  Of course, when I was fifteen I hoped to return someday and be with my mother again.  Perhaps I was unusually naive.  But somehow I knew, I think.  It was a long time ago.”

“Were you afraid of what was to come?”

“Assuredly not!  Others had disappeared from our village. And it was said they had gone to Tokyo to earn their dowry.  Some came back; not all.  They lived their lives, but …”  Meiko trailed off, a tear forming in her eye as the pain of six decades washed through her mind.


“But I knew I would never return.  My life as I had known it was gone.  The day before I left I bought a kokeshi doll.  It must have been a very humble thing.  I only had a few yen.  I spent much of the night before I left painting its face to look like me.  You know the custom of my region?”

“No,” Noriko responded delicately, hoping not to slow the flow of precious remembrance.

“We paint the face of a dead child on a kokeshi doll, as a remembrance.  I don’t know why I did it.”  A tear ran down her cheek and her voice cracked, “I intended to go home.”

“You never had further contact with your parents?”

“Things were very different then.  Telephones barely worked at all, and I was not given access to one in any case.  It was unthinkable to travel back to Sendai in my circumstances.  By the time I could, it was too late.”


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