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Reading Sword and Blossom

I have been reading Sword and Blossom: A British Officer’s Enduring Love for a Japanese Woman. It’s a true story of an extraordinary love affair that began when a young British Army officer fell for a Japanese woman in early 20th century. Owing to unforeseen cirumstances of war, Arthur Hart-Synnot took up postings all over Asia. Separated for years at a time, they stayed in touch through long, deeply affectionate letters. I’m amazed at Masa Suzuki’s patience and conviction for a destiny etched out amid the war:

“Masa had grown used to being patient, and her faith in Arthur was undiminished, but in the meantime she was paying a price. She told him about difficulties with unpleasant neighbors, who were shunning her or gossiping. As a single woman with two Western-looking children, an income that came from abroad, and experience of travel and the wider world that went beyond that of her neighbors, she stood out in a Tokyo street where conformity was valued above all else.” (p.139)

Women demonstrate an incredible capacity for love and longing. In The Woman Who Waited, Vera subjected herself to a life of invincible solitude, refusing to love anyone else, remaining faithful to the absent. In the novel Waiting by Ha Jin, a farm-woman refused to divorce her husband, who took a mistress in the city. She waited for 17 years before the prodigal man returned to her bosom. In this memoir, Masa Suzuki, a typical Japanese woman who left school at age 14 to work in a shop , who would kneel at a respectful distance while her father and brothers ate, risked her family’s disapproval and society’s shunning eyes to be with a foreigner. The racial prejudice and social snobbery she encountered, alone, with two mixed children whose father wasn’t even present most of the time, must be so poignantly ineffable.