Have you ever laid eyes on someone and just knew, in your heart of hearts, that one day that asshole was going to ruin your life?
For two-hundred years, Japan had her doors closed to the outside world. She’d grown comfortably accustomed to her reclusive life and saw no reason why her blissful introversion should end.
The United States thought otherwise.
July 8, 1853
Paint strokes glided along paper as a masterful hand swiped, dabbed, and pivoted. The masterpiece—a wall-sized mural drawn entirely of cats—was nearly complete.
Urgent banging on the door startled Japan so badly that she jumped. This caused her hand to jerk suddenly. The poor bobtail she was working on was left with a giant smudge across its fluffy white body.
She didn’t have long to gape before she was startled once again. This time, the door itself was violently pushed open and she heard a low, ominous voice.
Heart pounding, Japan turned around only to immediately bring her arms up to shield her eyes.
“What is that?” She shrieked.
“That is the the sun,” America said, stepping inside.
Thankfully the intruder closed the door behind him, giving her a chance to lower her arms. “Oh, America! What are you doing here?” She asked, squinting at him and trying to make out his figure over the spots flashing in her vision.
“Oh, hey, did you paint that?” He asked, ignoring her question and pointing to the mural. She nodded. “Looks good.”
America then began pacing the room, examining the painting supplies, the canvases, the scrolls of Japanese text along the walls. Her eyes followed him.
“Excuse me for having to ask twice but…”
“I’m here to do you a favor.”
“Yeah! Aren’t you lonely? Bored? Sad?”
“Don’t you yearn to experience the world in all its vibrant beauty?”
“Don’t you want friends?”
“Dude, you’re messed up.”
America stopped pacing and stood by the window, pulling back the screen so he could look out. “Come here a sec.” She obliged, cautiously walking over. Once again the harsh sun stung her eyes. “You gotta get out there, man. There’s a world outside this window and it’s full of opportunity and hopes and dreams and stuff.”
“Yes, but it is also full of people. America, I do not mean to be difficult, but I have lived this way for a long time and I am happy with…” Her voice trailed off when she spotted the giant, menacing American ships docked at Tokyo Harbor.
“Oh, yeah…” America said, and she heard something in his tone—a shrug? “That’s the other thing I wanted to show you.” He pulled an official looking piece of parchment from his breast pocket. “You kind of have to sign this.”
She looked once again at the threatening vessels, then back to America. “What does it say?”
“It’s an agreement. You’ll open your ports to trade and restocking from foreign ships. Mainly, mine, Russia’s, and Britain’s. In return, you get your hands on incredible Western technology. Seriously, our weapons are awesome.”
“I see…” Japan took the contract in her hands, which now felt so much more unsteady than they had when she was painting. She began skimming the conditions. “And if I refuse?”
America half-laughed. “Well, the way me and my 200 troops on those ships see it… You can say yes, or you can surrender then say yes.” He reached into his back pocket, pulling out a white handkerchief and waving it around in front of her. “What’s it gonna be?”
Japan stared at the “surrender flag.” She knew well that putting up a fight wouldn’t end well. That left only one option.
With a heavy sigh, she signed her isolationism away.
America suggested they celebrate with drinks and Japan agreed because she knew she really needed some alcohol. They made a toast.
He raised his cup. “To new best friends.”
She grumbled, “To new best friends.”
Daily Prompt: Open
After Matthew Perry rolled up to Tokyo Harbor in 1953, Japan got swept up in westernization. Some researchers believe this modernization, although resisted at first, was incredibly important to Japan’s survival as a nation. You can read more about it here.
The US really did give Japan a white flag as the ultimate douche bag gesture: “In the meantime, Perry began a campaign of intimidation, by sending boats to survey the surrounding area, and threatened to use force if the Japanese guard boats around the American squadron did not disperse. He also presented the Japanese with a white flag and a letter which told them that in case they chose to combat, the Americans would necessarily vanquish them.” Holy shit, dude.
Inspiration was taken from the ever famous and ever humorous “history of japan” video, which you can watch here.
Try thinking about this story with Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” in mind. I sure did. Was listening to it the whole time.