Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Three Things to Do With a Giant Jar of Honey

May 26, 2010

I’m talking about the good kind of honey. Not the supermarket, squeeze-through-a-plastic-bottle kind. This is the honey you found at a farmer’s market or at a Co-op and splurged on. A rich, thick, delectable honey. Pure sweetness spun into liquid gold. It sticks to your spoon and sticks to the top of your mouth and makes you think of summer fields.

The problem was that they weren’t selling it in tiny little jelly jars. The only size available would, if empty, hold a month’s worth of coffee. So, you have your honey; now what? But fear not. A little creativity and that giant jar of honey will empty faster than you would believe. I humbly offer these tips.

1. Dip strawberries into it.

Admit it: you’ve been eyeballing those small, bright red strawberries they sell at that same Farmer’s Market, haven’t you? Well, go ahead and buy a pack. For an extra kick of sweetness, set out a small bowl of honey and dip them in. The honey is sweeter than sugar, and will wrap around the fruit like a glaze. It’s a simple, light, yet delicious summer dessert.

2. Add it to your coffee.

Want to make plain old coffee exotic? Add a teaspoon of cinnamon to your coffee grounds, and, after brewing, add honey instead of sugar. The unexpected blend of flavors will jolt you awake. It’s a good way to make your coffee special without spending extra money.

3. Make French Toast.

Get some thick slices of homemade bread and dip it in a mixture of egg, milk, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon. Fry the bread in butter until brown. Add strawberries and honey instead of maple syrup. Good bread, cinnamon, honey, and strawberries swirl around for homey-spicy-sweet-tart palette of taste. I recommend eating it on an early summer evening while listening to Ella Fitzgerald.

Golden Week: Hiroshima



May 22, 2010

Hiroshima was our last stop. We arrived by ferry on May 4th and took a street car to the center of the city. Thus far, all my cities have been obscure, but I’m sure the name Hiroshima rings a bell. The iconic Atom Bomb Dome, stripped bare and mangled, sits at the beginnings of Peace Park; follow all those paper cranes until you come to the Peace Museum detailing the horrors of the end of World War II.

Hiroshima Castle

But neither Masako nor I were in any mood to visit the Peace Park or the Peace Museum. Masako had been traumatized by the museum, and I, having seen it once before, wanted to see other aspects of the city. So, instead, we went to Hiroshima Castle and Shukkei Park.

Hiroshima Castle is, naturally, a reconstruction; it was already a wreck before the Atomic Bomb dropped and finished it off. One interesting thing I noticed was that there were ruins of former military headquarters all over the grounds of the castle. In fact, one sign said that Hiroshima Castle hosted “the partially underground strategic command control room and the communication room of the Chugoku Regional Military Headquarters” during World War II. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was one of the reasons Hiroshima was targeted for the atomic bomb. This same sign also mentioned that students from the Hijiyama Girls’ High School were working in this same communication room, and they were the first ones to report the news of Hiroshima’s destruction to the rest of Japan.

Ruins of Old Military Headquarters

Today the castle is beautiful. There are green lawns and green trees and green-blue water in the moat. The “Carp Castle” Hiroshima Castle is sometimes called, and indeed, it lived up to its name. Carp swam in the moats and carp flags blew in the wind at a shrine in the castle grounds. Inside the castle, there was good English signs, and I found out interesting things about the Lord of Hiroshima Castle.* I have to say, it was my favorite castle of the trip.

Shukkei Garden

Shukkei Garden is no one’s prize-winning garden, but it was fun and, because it happened to be Green Day, we got in free. And really, how can you not love a garden where turtles swim so close you can reach your fingers into the water and stroke their smooth shells? There were several small islands and stone bridges and huge Peony flowers shaded by artful red umbrellas.

Turtles at Shukkei

But the best part was when we stopped for a snack. Masako bought a cone of soft serve ice cream and discovered that she had gotten two cones instead of one—when she bit into the paper wrapper of the second one. She had to gnaw the edges of the first cone while pulling out the paper of the second, all the while I laughed and cruelly snapped photos.


The specialty food of Hiroshima is okonomiyaki—a kind of savory pancake. Usually it’s a mixture of batter, cabbage, and meat, but in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, or Hiroshima-yaki, they make each layer separately and add yakisoba noodles to boot. I still remembered the first time I came to Hiroshima, as an exchange student, in March of 2005. We came to the station at noon, and the smoke of okonomiyaki filled our nostrils. But time was short, and the counters were crowded. So, we went to another restaurant and passed on our one chance to eat Hiroshima-yaki.

Okonomiyaki: Phase 1

I have regretted that moment ever since.

This time, I was bound and determined to eat Hiroshima-yaki, so Masako and I hunted down a place called Okonomiyaki Mura (Village). It was actually a building with three stories crammed with cheap-looking okonomiyaki stands, none all the different than the rest. Masako and I finally decided on one run by an old man with baseball posters.

Okonomiyaki: Phase 2

Watching the okonomiyaki cook is half the fun, so I took plenty of pictures and hastily scribbled notes (which, after three weeks, no longer make sense). Here’s the gist of it: first the man ladled a thin amount of batter, like a crepe, onto the sizzling iron counter. He piled cabbage, bean sprouts, green onions, tempura bits, and pork onto the crepe, also sprinkling seasoning, and added oil to the grill. Then he flipped the whole thing over, so that the pancake was on top and the pork was directly under the heat. The pancake acted as a lid, he explained, and steamed the vegetables. The vegetables steamed for some time. In the meantime, he put yakisoba noodles (cold ramen) on the counter and fried it up with salt and oil. The pancake went down the yakisoba. The last ingredient was an egg, which he scrambled into a yellow circle. When the okonomiyaki was arranged, pancake-side first, on the plate, he cut it into four pieces with his spatulas, painted on okonomiyaki sauce, and topped it all off with bits of seaweed.

So, now I had my Hiroshima-yaki. My purpose in this vacation was complete. I could go home a happy woman.

Okonomiyaki: Final Result

* The Lord of Hiroshima: I was trying to find out the family crest of the Lord of Hiroshima, when, lo and behold, I discovered it was the exact same motif as Lord of Choshu (Yamaguchi): a bar and three dots. The Lord’s name was Mori—again, sounding familiar of Choshu. Well, it turned out that Mori Terumoto was the Lord of Choshu—and Hiroshima—and about 5 other Domains. (Makes sense; Yamaguchi and Hiroshima are neighbor prefectures.) However, Mori lost in the crucial battle of Sekigahara in 1600 to the Tokugawa family and their allies. As a result, he lost all but two Domains, and had to give up Hiroshima to the Fukushima and later Asano families. Which sort of explains why Choshu hated the Tokugawas enough to overthrow their entire 250 long reign as Shoguns by the year 1868. Oh, the hostility that battle caused. Another loser of Sekigahara, Satsuma (Kagoshima) also helped topple the Shogunate.

Golden Week: Matsuyama, Day 2



May 22, 2010

Masako really liked the business hotel. For her, sleeping on a bed was a treat. We were both too tired to play crossword puzzles, and to be honest, I was getting a little bored of them anyway, so we just went to bed early. We’d already decided to be down for breakfast by 7:00 the next morning and leave the hotel shortly thereafter. After all, the early bird gets the worm, and the early tourist avoids the crowds.

Somewhat.

Dogo Onsen

On Monday, May 3rd, just before 8:00 AM, Masako and I arrived at the historic Dogo Onsen, an old public bath house, whose special waters had its own shrine (I kid you not) just down the lane. The sun was beginning to stroke the blue-green tiles of the roof, and there was already a line coming out the door.

Fortunately, the line was only for the people wanting the deluxe bath, with tea and a yukata (bath robe) after it. Masako and I opted for the $4 regular option. Even so, we still had to wait in line for 15 minutes to use the showers. Women sat there washing their hair, rinsing, sudsy-ing, and rinsing again. I was getting annoyed. When it was my turn, I was done in about 5 minutes. (I did not wash my hair, by the way.)

Matsuyama Bathhouse

Although the bath house seemed fairly large from the outside, the bath itself was small. The women gathered around the edges, making it difficult to find an opening to step in. The water wasn’t too hot, and there was a white fountain in the center that poured streams of water soothingly on my neck and back. On the back wall, there was some kind of picture on the ceramic tiles, but as I didn’t have my glasses, I had to go right up to it and squint.

Botchan Clock Botchan Clock

Stepping out of the bath at about 15 minutes ‘til 9:00, the line into Dogo Onsen was even longer, making a maze-like formation on the side, the kind you see at amusement parks just outside the big coaster. Crowded as it had been, we were lucky we had got there early. At 9:00, the Botchan Clock played whimsical music, and characters from Natsume Soseki’s famous novel popped out and bobbed back and forth to the song.

Ishite Jizo

Our next stop was Ishite, one of the weirdest Buddhist temples I have ever been to. It seemed like people took architectural elements from all the different sects and threw them randomly together. There were several small Jizo statues for children who died in infanthood; an elephant statue and a temple that had a needle pointing up; and round Christmas-looking ornaments hanging near red-haired, blue-skinned warrior gods painted on a wall. I didn’t really know what to make of it. Neither did Masako, though her family’s not Buddhist either.

Buddhist Caves

There were also some caves, or cement tunnels if you like, which I found by following white-clad pilgrims to what looked like a door into a hill. I climbed right on in, and Masako bravely followed, despite not really liking caves. It was cool and pitch dark in there. I could make out white pictures of something on the wall and gray looking shapes, but it wasn’t until I snapped my picture, letting off an explosion of light, that I could see the old statues adorned with red cloth, just tossed near the wall in a jumble. As we made our way through the cave, I used my camera’s flash to see what was going on around me.

Then, we went to the treasure house. I normally don’t like these things, because I can never understand what all the weird random artifacts actually are. But this time, I had Masako to explain it to me. The Major Treasure of the Temple and the reason for its name was—drum roll please—a small gray pebble about the size of your thumb and forefinger joined together to make a circle.

The Treasure of the Rock

But it’s not just any pebble; of course, there’s a story behind it. Once a very miserly rich man was cruel to a famous monk who happened to be passing through. He threw a bowl at him, and it cracked into three pieces. Later, his three sons died. Repentant, the rich man decided to go on a pilgrimage all around Shikoku to find the monk. This became the basis for the Pilgrimage of 88 Temples, which still goes on to this day. The rich man died without ever meeting the monk in person, though he may have met him in a dream. Years later, the small son of a nobleman held something in his hand and would not let it go. When he finally opened his hand, they saw a small rock with the rich man’s name miraculously written on it. If you squint at the rock, you can still the characters etched into the stone. The temple took charge of this treasure, gradually earning it the name “Ishi-te” or “Rock Hand” Temple.

After visiting a shrine where scholars gave thanks for solutions to tricky math problems and also checking out the aforementioned shrine to the water of Dogo Onsen (which did make my skin feel nice and refreshed), Masako and I caught lunch. We had Tai Meshi, a specialty of the area. Tai is a kind of fish, in this case cut into sashimi and spread over rice. There was also a bowl of yama imo and soy sauce to pour over the fish for flavor. Yama imo—how do I explain this one? The name literally means “Mountain potato,” but the only time I’ve ever seen it is when it’s been grated into a kind of slimy white goop. For some reason, though, I like it, and I rather enjoyed my Tai Meshi as well.

Tai Meshi

Now, so far, I think I’ve been very good about not boring you with a long tirade on some obscure historical figure you don’t really care about. But as we come to the Shiki Memorial Museum, I ask your indulgence just one more time. Because the life of this man really moved me.

Masaoka Shiki was born into the Meiji* era, and in many ways, he was a quintessential man of the times. He enjoyed the new fad sport of baseball, even becoming the one to coin the Japanese word for it, “yakyu.” He was a journalist and went across the seas to cover the Sino-Japanese War. He took a hard look at classical Japanese poetry and made great reforms to the haiku in particular, challenging poets to drop time-worn clich├ęs and create new kinds of verse. He became friends with some of the greatest literary minds of the era, including Natsume Soseki (“Botchan,” I Am a Cat”) and Mori Ogai (“Gan”), and opened a salon of burgeoning poets. And he was dying.

Masaoka Shiki

When he was 21 years old, he spit blood for the first time. That image became his pen name. Shiki is a song bird with a red mouth, a symbol of his illness. This sickness continued until his death in his 40s. So can you imagine spending 20 years knowing your life is slowly spinning away? Can you imagine struggling to be involved in an exciting, tumultuous era of reform, while wracked with pain, immobilized at times? Often, the thought haunts me. If I were to live for only a short time, would I ever be known for anything? And if I, at 21, the pinnacle of youth, discovered that life was ending, would I give up or make the most of what I had?

All right. That’s all I will push on you. Now back to frivolous stuff.

Botchan Dango and Taruto

Masako and I did more sightseeing in the afternoon. We stopped at an old school that marked the first major effort of Matsushima to educate boys in the modern era, which was ironically sat inside an operational public high school (with high school students practicing baseball only a few feet away). We also saw the house Natsume Soseki and Masaoka Shiki shared as roommates, which eventually became Shiki’s salon. Between these two historical buildings, we sipped water at our hotel lobby and ate Botchan dango (three colored balls on a toothpick, with the texture of Playdough, that was surprisingly good) and “Taruto” (what looked like a slice of roll cake with a chestnut inside).

* The Meiji era: from 1868-1912. The era when Japan became modernized. Two important wars were fought at the time. The Sino-Japanese War, wherein Japan and China fought over Korea, ended with a decisive Japanese victory and a signal that Japan was no longer a backwater country. Later, in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan gained a victory over Russia, the first time in modern history that an Asian country defeated a “European” country, causing the West some degree of shock.

Golden Week: Matsuyama, Day 1



May 22, 2010

The next morning, bright and early, Masako and I crossed the Seto Inland Sea and entered the island of Shikoku. Our train made a satisfying noise as it swooped over the long, steel laced bridge. Shikoku, the last of the four main islands of Japan, is definitely the most rural. I could tell because when we came to Matsuyama, the largest city on the whole island, the station didn’t even have automatic ticket machines; we had to hand our tickets to the people working there.

(Incidentally, Shikoku means “Four Kingdoms.” There are four prefectures there. I had been to three—Tokushima, Kochi, and Kagawa—in summer of 2008. Ehime was the last one.)

Riding on the Seto Inland Bridge

Ehime Prefecture, where Matsuyama City is located, is best known for oranges. But I didn’t want oranges for lunch, so we (and by we, I mean Masako) asked the receptionist at our hotel what was good to eat and where we could eat it. She mentioned Go-shiki Somen, or 5-colored noodles, and also Tai Meshi, Tai being a kind of fish. The restaurant she pointed out had curtains of straw in alternating colors, mimicking the appearance of the somen noodles. Our noodles, however, were primarily white, with a dash of green, pink, and yellow. (What was the fifth color, I wonder?) Even so, the cold somen was delicious, and there was a piece of Tai fish and orange-flavored Inari-zushi (sushi wrapped in sweet tofu).

(Supposedly) 5-Colored Noodles

By now, we were well into Golden Week and it showed. Crowds were everywhere. We had to stand in line just to buy a ticket for the lift that took us up the hill, where Matsuyama Castle was. And when we got there, we were greeted with this announcement: the castle was full, and they weren’t letting people in at this time. Masako and I chilled with some shaved ice (mine had pieces of orange and gelatin at the bottom) and enjoyed the amazing view of the old castle, the city, and the bay.

Matsuyama Vista

Once we finally did get in, we battled more crowds. People, people everywhere, ruining the experience. It was kind of sad because Matsuyama Castle was an original castle, not a reconstructed one, and had lots of English signs, neat tidbits of history, and some cool artifacts. While reviewing my pictures, I stumbled upon a tea caddy with the Tokugawa crest on it (signifying the close relationship between Lord Matsudaira of Matsuyama and the Shogun) and old graffiti of a samurai’s head. But when I think back to the castle, all I can actually recollect is lines of people shuffling around the displays and waiting to go up and down all those steep, dark, narrow staircases.

Golden Week: Kurashiki



May 22, 2010

Me In Front of Ohara Museum

On May 1st, a Saturday, we visited Kurashiki, a small city a half hour away from Okayama. Fat carp swam in green canals, ivy grew on brick buildings, and vendors spread jewelry over black fabric on the road in the sun. Masako and I went from museum to museum. In the Ohara Museum, the classic Roman build, hid a maze of room, up and down, stuffed with classic Western paintings. Across from that, a very old and traditional house had been bedecked in models of space men and lantern-eyed cats, with a whole dragon’s erupting from the top window. A small private museum housed scarred statues of warriors and crows.

Kojima's Painting

At the Kojima Museum, Masako and I discussed what it meant for art to truly be Japanese. Mr. Kojima was born in the late Meiji era, a time when Japan was borrowing liberally from the West while still trying to maintain their own Japanese soul. One of the main works of Mr. Kojima was a large Impressionistic painting in soft pastels of a Japanese woman in a kimono surrounded by flowers in full bloom. Masako and I both agreed: we didn’t like it. It just didn’t seem Japanese. The flowers exploded every which way, crowding out the empty space, and losing some the simplicity and austerity of the Japanese heart. Another work, done in a realistic “Western style” showed a mother with a child asleep at her breast and a young girl near her sharing a quiet moment in the dark of a water mill. We both loved this painting.


Tea at a Pottery Shop

The day slipped into afternoon. We had frothy green tea and snacks in a pottery shop. Our table was an old stone well with a sheet of glass covering the top. When I looked down, I could see weeds poking out of the cracks and darkness. Around us, sweet-smelling pink orchids brushed against the shelves and shelves of brown bowls and cups. Just above were several beautiful photographs of humming birds, one bird perched on a branch of pink plum blossoms, another hovering above a lucid spear. The shop owner, while whipping up our tea, told us he took the pictures and explained how he arranged the props, lured the birds with honey, and waited hours and hours just to get that one perfect picture.

Shrine at Twilight

The afternoon slipped to twilight. We visited a shrine. At top, a strong wing blew my hair, and we could see all of Kurashiki displayed below us. But I was more fascinated with the way the sinking sun’s golden rays sifted through the purple blossoms dangling from a Wisteria vine.

Golden Week: Okayama



May 22, 2010

For seven days the weather was perfect. Golden warm, sunny, with blue skies and a light breeze. Now, I consider a seven days without rain in Japan a small miracle. That those seven days just happened to align with Golden Week was something like divine intervention—or perhaps good karma after my disastrous Yokohama trip.

On April 29th, I rode the bullet train up to Okayama with Masako. Masako is a friend who volunteers as a guide at San Gan’en, the main tourist attraction in Kagoshima City. Her English is excellent. After a half hour or so, I completely gave up trying to speak Japanese. My bumbling attempts seemed pathetic next to her very polished English. I asked if she knew what the specialty food of Okayama was. Kibidango, she said. She was planning to take some home to her kids as a souvenir.

Okayama, as it turned out, has many specialty foods. Muscat grapes and giant peaches were famous, too. I asked someone how big these giant peaches grew, and he held up his hands to indicate the size of a small pumpkin. Incidentally, this probably explains why the legend of Momotaro, the Peach Boy, hails from this area.

A Statue of Momotaro and Friends

Long ago, an old man saw a huge peach floating down a river. He brought it home to his wife to eat for supper, when, lo and behold, the peach split and out popped a healthy baby boy. The childless old couple adopted him and named him Momotaro. (“Momo” means peach in Japanese.) When Momotaro grew up, he decided to seek his fortune. Along the way, he met a dog, a pheasant, and a monkey, and gained their valuable services by sharing some kibidango with them. Together they traveled to Oni Island and defeated the demon that lived there. (“Oni” means demon in Japanese.) The four companions shared the demon’s treasure hoard, and they all lived happily ever after.

The statue of Momotaro just outside Okayama Station was a little smaller than I expected, but cute nonetheless. The station itself was a maze of small shops: places selling honey water and fresh waffles and all the kibidango you could hope for. (No giant peaches though; they were out of season.) But toward the back of the station, where our hotel was, it was surprisingly quiet. As soon as we stepped outside, the crowds melted away.

That first night, Masako and I spread our futons on the tatami mat floor and did crossword puzzles from a book Masako had bought. This became a tradition all the while we were in Okayama. These puzzles were both easy for me and hard at the same time. For instance, I knew the name for a prehistoric flying dinosaur, but can anyone spell the word “pterodactyl” off the top of their head with 100 % confidence?

Goraku-En

The main tourist attraction in Okayama was Goraku-en, a garden ranked as one of the three most beautiful in all of Japan. I’ve said it before, but honestly, I don’t understand the ranking system. There so are many beautiful gardens in Japan. Why did this one deserve a medal?

Masako and I came to Goraku-en bright and early the next morning. I remember the long, sweeping green lawns, much like the quad at my college, and the clever use of “borrowed” scenery: Okayama Castle, which appeared pleasingly miniature in the background. An old rest house was uniquely designed with a stream splitting the building in half; people sitting on the floor could dip their toes into the water. There were small rice fields gone fallow, tea bushes, and cages filled with peacocks. And there were flowers, too.

Peach Soft Serve and Wisteria

I swear, every time I go on vacation in Japan, I become obsessed with some flower or another. The first time I went to Kyoto (in 2005), I marveled at the Irises. I was inspired by Cherry Blossoms in Yamaguchi and enchanted by the Hydrangeas in Hokkaido. This time, it was Wisteria. Purple and sometimes white flowers that hung like bunches of grapes from the vines. The straw roof of a tea shop in Goraku-en was wreathed in Wisteria. I ate peach soft serve ice cream just underneath them, while Masako sat in the sun and sipped green tea.

After visiting a few small museums near the garden, Masako and I made our way to Okayama Castle. We crossed a bridge over a river, and the castle grew bigger and bigger. Okayama Castle has the nickname of U-jo or “Crow Castle,” so named for its black color. The name is also a deliberate contrast to the white “Heron Castle” of Himeji. Unlike Himeji Castle, U-jo is a reconstruction; I liked it nonetheless. Black castles are cool!

Okayama Castle

Coincidently, U-jo was hosting an exhibition on my favorite historical era: the Bakumatsu*. It was called “Aizu, Choshu… and Okayama.” But I have to say that the exhibition contained precious little on Okayama, and I already knew about Choshu (Yamaguchi) and Aizu, having visited them before. Even more disappointingly, the signs were mostly in Japanese and no pictures were allowed. However, I did snap an illegal photo of the one English sign that actually explained Okayama’s role in this turbulent era.

Basically, the lord of Okayama was actually the brother (or at least half-brother) of the last Shogun in Japan, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. This, as you might imagine, made them enemies of Choshu. There was also one local hero who made great political gains in Aizu—which came to naught when Aizu was conquered by Choshu. Eventually, however, this man became governor of Okayama.

Kibidango and Waffles

Masako and I visited another museum, but by 2:00 we had run out of things to see. So, we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the clean, pretty town and did some shopping. Masako bought cups of clear gelatin with fruit in it. I bought kibidango in peach, Muscat, and yuzu (citrone) flavors. We shared our feast for dessert that evening.

*Bakumatsu: the time from approximately 1853-1868, wherein an alliance between Choshu (Yamaguchi) and Satsuma (Kagoshima) succeeded in toppling the Tokugawa Shogunate. Plenty more detail in my blog. Just follow the link.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Translation: Katsura Kogoro: Chapter 1, Part 5



Hagi Stories: Katsura Kogoro. By: Issaki, Taro. This book was given to me by Osaki Yoko, a kind lady at Hagi Museum.

Chapter 1: From Hagi to Kyoto

Page 13-14

The Joi Policy

In June 1858, the Shogunate approved the main part of the Japan-America Treaty of Amity and Commerce (The Harris Treaty), which dealt with the issue of free trade. This was done, again, without receiving Imperial permission, and Emperor Komei, a fierce hater of foreigners and a die-hard believer in the principal of Joi (“Expel the Barbarians!”), was indignant. A deep fissure appeared between the warriors of the Shogunate and the nobles of the Imperial Court.

Wishing to mediate between the Shogunate and the Court, Choshu samurai Nagai Uta put forward his “Policy of Expansion Across the Seas” in March 1861, backed by the support of Choshu Domain. Although it recognized “open country” as an established fact, nevertheless, Nagai’s policy was favorably received by both the Shogunate and the Court.

The students of the Shoka Sonjuku School, however, in following their teacher Shoin’s beliefs, thought that Choshu should instead unite around a policy of Sonno Joi (“Revere the Emperor!” “Expel the Barabarians!”). This soon developed into a violent political movement. The believers in Sonno Joi insisted upon a Japan centered around the Emperor, which resisted foreign pressure and took action to push back foreign intrusion.



The Imperial Court rallied; they disdained the proposed mediation they had initially agreed to. Choshu retracted its proposal, and Nagai, who had so incurred the Emperor’s wrath, was forced to commit suicide.

On July 6, 1862, in order to decide which policy Choshu should adopt hereafter, Lord Mori invited lower-ranked samurai to his Kyoto mansion in the Kawahara District and held a strategy meeting. Kogoro, who was by now a diplomat to the Court and to other domains, attended this meeting, as did Sufu Masanosuke and Nakamura Kuro. As a result, Choshu decided to completely rescind upon Nagai’s policy and instead dedicate themselves to obeying the Emperor’s will and doing all in their power to expel the barbarians.