A Tall Ship Tale #78: Maiden Japan

Paul DeAnguera continues.

Upon reaching the island kingdom of Japan, the frigate H.M.S. Legume docked at Aji Marine for repairs and the crew went on liberty. “Now I want you men to be careful out there,” the First Mate warned. “This is a nice town but it has a wild side. The Red Lantern district is particularly notorious for trouble!” But despite his warnings the men were intrigued by the chance to meet some geishas, renowned for their skill at singing, dancing and playing the samisen.

Ian Vilcorus, the ship’s blacksmith, wandered through the city until he came upon a beautiful garden. Intrigued, he followed an immaculate gravel path around ponds of immense goldfish and across tiny moss-edged streams to the door of a tea-house. He went inside and was deliciously entertained by a geisha of consummate skills and beauty.

When it was time to leave, she told him “Now I must live on knowing that I will never see you again, Ian! But at least something of mine can always be with you. Please take this fan to cool yourself as you sail about the tropics.” Blissfully he retraced his way back to the harbor, carefully holding the delicately-painted fan. But as he entered a narrow lane the woman’s jealous husband dropped a roofing-tile on his head.

Not long afterwards, Effayaid di’Amir, the ship’s carpenter, discovered the same garden. He too entered the tea-house and spent a delightful time within. As he took his leave the geisha said “Please take this vase to hold the exotic flowers you will find as you sail about the tropics.” Bemused, he walked back toward the ship, cradling the elegant long-necked vase under one arm. But as he turned into the same narrow lane he too was felled by a roofing-tile on the head.

Later that evening, the First Mate came upon the same garden, went inside the tea-house and was fabulously entertained. When at last he reluctantly rose to leave, the geisha looked about for something to give him. But it had been a busy day and the shelves of the tea-house were almost bare. Finally she selected a large curved skillet and handed it to him. “Please take this to cook the marvelous fish you will catch as you sail about the tropics,” she said.

The pan was round-bottomed and quite wide, and he could not make up his mind about how to carry it. After trying one or two other arrangements, he settled it over his head and made his way back toward the ship. When he stepped into a narrow lane he was startled by a loud CLANG! as a roofing-tile shattered over his head. He chased down the malefactor and turned him over to the police. They escorted the First Mate back to the Legume, carrying his disabled shipmates.

As they were bringing the two stretchers up the gangplank, he saw another shore party preparing to go on liberty. “As you can see, the Red Lantern district is a dangerous place!” he told them. “So, my advice to you is: …”

“…Take a wok on the wild side!”

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