THE FIRST AMERICAN EMBASSY, TOKYO

The American government set up in one of Tokyo’s oldest temples, Zenpuku-ji temple, after the signing of the first commerce agreement in 1859.

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They have a monument set up for Townsend Harris who played a pivotal role in Japanese – US relationships. Our guide Lilly provided colour to his life. While he did great things for the countries, he did it while ruining the life of a poor Japanese woman. She was a serving girl and in love with a carpenter (as the story goes), but Townsend wanted her for himself. Forced by the Japanese government to spend time with Townsend (either to improve relations between the countries or as a spy), she was forced to become his mistress only to be discarded when he left Japan;

She was labelled a “Toujin” (mistress of a foreigner), though she was not a mistress like “Chocho-san“.

Becoming a mistress of Western men was regarded as shame and Kichi was despised as “Toujin”. The disdain and prejudice of the society disturbed her seriously and she gradually indulged in alcohol. She could not live a peaceful family life with her beloved Tsurumatsu. She ruined a restaurant presented by a sympathetic patron and could not run a hair salon in Shimoda due to the disdain of local people. In her 40s, Kichi became homeless and killed herself by jumping into the Inouzawa River.
Toujin Okichi became a heroin of popular novels and her stories were staged many times. Though the truth still remains a mystery, her story was interpreted in various ways and exploited as a tourist attraction.

Read more here. The relationships was also incorrectly romanticized in a John Wayne movie.

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As with all shrines, a cemetery accompanies it. Right beside the shrine is the grave of Fukuzawa Yukichi, the man on the 10,000 Y note ($100).

Fukuzawa Yukichi (福澤 諭吉?, January 10, 1835 – February 3, 1901) was a Japanese author, Enlightenment writer, teacher, translator, entrepreneurand journalist who founded Keio-Gijuku University, the newspaper Jiji-Shinpo and the Institute for Study of Infectious Diseases. His ideas about government and social institutions made a lasting impression on a rapidly changing Japan during the Meiji Era. He is regarded as one of the founders of modern Japan. He is called a Japanese Voltaire.

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It is also home to the oldest ginko tree in Tokyo with a girth of 10m and estimated age of 800+ years.

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As one would expect, the cemetery is well tended with people decorating the statues and leaving behind flowers, offerings and other remembrances to honour the departed.

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An interesting tour. Thanks for dropping by.

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