copyright © 2001 Sherwood Ross


A Play in Four Acts by Sherwood Ross


ILLUMINATED SCREEN: movie film footage of U.S. battleships on fire along Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor. Film lasts for about thirty seconds and fades. It is replaced by a painting of an American Lockheed P-38 fighter plane shooting down a Japanese "Betty".)

(Scene is the Yamamoto kitchen. Reiko is dressed in mourning white, enters holding a small box of ashes, which she puts down on the table. She removes her coat and pours herself tea and sits down wearily, facing audience.)


I guess I’m all cried out now, just weariness left. How ever did I ever get through this day? My legs feel like straw. Strange, isn’t it, how the funeral turned out so much like the dream I had — a million people in the streets in mourning, the guard of honor at the shrine for fallen heroes. Isoroku said it could never happen but it did — and only the second time in the history of Japan they made a state funeral for a commoner. Only I never could have dreamed that the procession would go out of its way to pass Yoko’s geisha house. Can you imagine that? (Laughs.) Who ever heard of making the deceased’s widow go past her husband’s favorite whore house? And giving his lover a packet of his ashes! Oh, the gall of those men! The gall! I wonder did Yoko look out her window down at me and think, ‘Oh, there’s that homely cow he married,’ eh? Yoko must be grieving just like me today. Maybe it will give her satisfaction to know that he loved her the better, which, of course, he always did. I wonder if the packet of ashes they gave her was more than those I have in this urn. Well, I must get hold of myself. Anyway, they were all there for him today, Tojo, the Emperor’s family, the war cabinet. I suppose they used the funeral to signal the public that the war may not be going so well for us any more. I don’t hear them playing the "Battleship March" on the radio as often as they used to. (Cries) Surely, Isoroku, you knew what was coming, didn’t you? I know you knew, because your aides warned you, ‘Don’t go on this inspection trip to the front. We suspect the Americans have broken our code and they know when your plane will arrive, and they’ll be waiting for you.’ Yes, that’s what they told him, but he went anyway. Better to die in battle than to be put on trial after the war and hung like a dog in some prison. Well, the story the Navy is putting out is that when his plane crashed on the beach on Bougainville, he was thrown onto the sand and that they found him sitting up ramrod straight, his hand gripping his sword, his eyes staring at the ocean toward Japan. Likely story! How they squeezed all the cheap propaganda they could out of you, my love. And where is the sword you were supposed to be holding, the one your father made? You know, one of those who found your body stole it. And why? Because they have no honor. If they will go around the world killing, what is it to steal an Admiral’s sword? Well, you know what? Let the authorities look forever. If they ever found it, they’d only just put it in a museum to glorify this war. But war is not so glorious, after all, is it? The way the American planes jumped on you, Isoroku, they took you by surprise, just the way you took them by surprise at Pearl Harbor. And that’s what war is, isn’t it, surprise attacks, dirty tricks, no mercy? That’s what they teach our sons. That’s what you taught them, my love, didn’t you?

(She picks up box of ashes and stands.)

Ah, well, they have not got quite all of you planted in their shrine for heroes. I have a little of you left here for myself. I like to think that this is the part of you that loved life and people and party tricks and drinking with your friends and playing poker and making love to beautiful women. How glad I am that Akio took his life when he did because it would have broken his heart to see this day. As for my heart, well, you cannot break what was broken so long ago. So I will just take my trowel and and put your ashes around the roots of the rose bushes, my love, because spring is here again, time for our Japanese soil to renew itself. Oh, Japan! Oh, Japan!

(She takes box of ashes and walks out the door.)

ILLUMINATED SCREEN: Official portrait of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by Shugaku Homma, 1943.

(Picture remains on screen about thirty seconds. It is followed by the famous painting by Hokusai, "Stormy Sea off Kanagawa," (c. 1830) showing Mount Fuji in background. This remains on screen until audience departs theatre.)


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This scene performed at No Shame/Charlottesville on January 4, 2002, by Dolores Curry.

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