The Barbarian and the Geisha

Synopsis: Townsend Harris is sent by President Pierce to Japan to serve as the first U.S. Consul-General to that country. Harris discovers enormous hostility to foreigners, as well as the love of a young geisha.
Director(s): John Huston
Production: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
105 min

It began on the night of the Oban festival...

here in the small fishing village

of Shimoda.

Once each year, we invite the spirits...

of our dead ancestors

to join us in a celebration.

It was an old and happy custom.

There was much joy and much sake.

My name is Okichi. This is my story, too.

Black ship meant danger.

Foreigners were threatening our shores.

A messenger was sent

to warn the Governor.

Baron Tamura was the Governor

of Shimoda...

and my benefactor.

It was he who had paid for my training

as a geisha.

The ship lay at anchor all night.

At sunrise, the strangers approached.

He says it is forbidden for you to land.

You are commanded to return

to your ship...

weigh anchor, and leave this harbor

and all the Japan seas.

Commanded by whom?

The Governor of Shimoda, sir.

Tell him that I am the Consul General

to Japan from the United States.

Say that I am here in accordance

with a treaty entered into...

by their Shogun and Commodore Perry

two years ago.

He denies any treaty is in force

whereby you have the right to land.

Tell him I am landing.

Tell them it's a salute.

It speaks with a loud voice.

Townsend Harris.

I am Saemon-No-Kami Tamura,

Governor of the prefecture of Shimoda.

Are you aware, Your Excellency,

of an agreement between our countries...

which states,

"A Consul shall reside in Shimoda...

"when either country shall so require"?

Not either. Both.

"When both countries shall so require. "

If that is how your Japanese text reads...

a mistake has been made in translation

or a willful change.

I will acquaint my superiors at Edo

with that opinion.

- Meanwhile...

- Meanwhile, I'll require quarters...

for Mr. Heusken, my interpreter,

three Chinese servants, and myself.

It must be understood

that I am receiving you...

only as a private person.

Due note is taken of your refusal...

to recognize my status

as an American Consul.

Follow me.

This is a pleasant place to be buried.

Well, at least we'll have quiet neighbors.

This is the best we have to offer.

Two years ago, Commodore Perry was

allowed within the sacred walls of Edo.

Since then, our land has been torn

by earthquakes and typhoons.

We have lost homes, crops, loved ones.

Some ignorant people believe...

those disasters were warnings

from the gods...

not to change our ancient ways

but to remain as before.

No one stays as he was, nor any country.

This will do.

Home, sweet home.

There she flies, gentlemen.

The first time in this empire.

I think, Mr. Harris, you'd better

raise the doorways or cut off your legs.

The Governor says

you must take the flag down.

Very well.

He says it is not to be flown again.

Tell him it will fly again.

On holidays, ours and theirs...

and on certain other occasions...

such as the arrival and departure

of our ships.

A void the Americans, sell them nothing.

Baron Tamura had ordered.;

"Harris-san must be made to go. "

There was no place in Japan

for foreigners. They were all barbarians.

- Mr. Harris.

- Your Excellency.

I wish to protest against the way

I and my household are being treated.

We cannot even buy food

in the open market.

You are free to buy

from anyone who will sell to you.

And whoever does will answer

to your samurai?

You are in no position to lodge a protest,

Mr. Harris.

You have no standing here.

Your Excellency, let's stop this nonsense

about my official existence.

If your version of the treaty

between our countries were correct...

it would be an agreement to agree

if and when we chose to agree.

Would responsible men ever sign

such rigmarole?

Whatever its terms...

the treaty was made under the threat

of Commodore Perry's guns.

Such a treaty has no virtue.

Have you forgotten

why Commodore Perry came?

Because shipwrecked sailors

were being beheaded...

and because no ship could put in

to a Japanese port, even for water.

We only wish to be left alone.

Your Excellency, your country stands

at the crossroads of the world.

From both East and West, men are finding

an ever-increasing need for those roads.

Lf, in your desire for isolation...

you refuse to make them safe

for peaceful traffic...

the world will treat Japan

as it would treat a band of brigands...

infesting a highway.

A true Japanese would rather see

his country perish in flames...

and perish with it

than see it corrupted by foreigners...

and slowly rot.

Your Excellency,

there are fanatics in every country.

But if the majority of your government

were not reasonable men...

I should not be here.

And in hope that it will meet their eyes...

I hereby hand you an official letter...

for transmission

to His Highness the Shogun...

respectfully requesting that my position

as Consul shall be confirmed.

Tamura was troubled.

He had communicated with Edo.

In the capital there was much indecision...

between those who wanted Japan opened

to other countries...

and those who were against it.

Finally, a message arrived.

Until a decision was reached...

Tamura was instructed to continue

keeping Harris-san in Shimoda.

Happy, if possible.

- Salt pork again?

- It's all Sam has left, sir.

Our friend Tamura has seen to that.

Pardon me for asking, Mr. Harris, but...

do you have an enemy in your

State Department keeping you here?

Quite to the contrary.

Getting this post was a great honor.

And sitting before you, Henry,

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Charles Grayson

Charles Elbert Grayson (July 24, 1910 - May 17, 2009) was an archer, bowyer, archery collector, and author. His archery collection is contained in the University of Missouri Museum of Anthropology. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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