by Oliver A. Moxham
From the Lowlands came the first of them,
Inquisitors from afar.
Politely they came seeking out
Where the Eastern nations are.
They were stashed inside a cubby-hole
Down in ancient Nagasaki,
But the Shogun came to mistrust them
and tried to send them packing.
Their manners and technologies
Would serve him well, but no.
Their religious types kept pestering,
Telling people ‘This is so!’
And so he decreed a cutting off,
Pulling down the nation’s shutter.
Better to keep their God away
And the country free from butter.
As samurai held down the land
With their dominions and steel,
The Western world kept pushing on
To lands which were yet to kneel.
Peoples fought and fell for naught
To Empirical swords and guns.
And all the while peace was held
In the Land of the Rising Sun.
In Edo, the Shogun sat and smiled,
“Lasting peace, thanks to me!”
And so it held ’til Perry came
America, a bastard son
of Europe’s warring states,
Sent a message with their fleet
To say, “Open up your gates!”
Well, steel swords don’t count for much
When there’s no ships to hold your sea.
So when the deadline came around
They told them “Let us be!”
The Shogun gone, a new age came
Full of foreigners abound.
What delights were held in farthest East,
What power could there be found.
Brits, Fritz and Yanks all sought
For an ally in the East.
They poured upon them luxuries
Of the industrial elite.
Yet while Japan was told of spoils
Of the colonialist’s prize,
They were much too late to play the game,
Due to the Unknown’s shrunken size.
Peace had held the land for years,
While war claimed the world around.
Untouched nations were scarcely left,
Flagpoles kept the lessers bound.
As time moved on and interest waned,
The new nation grew in years.
Yearning for the Empire’s way,
They went after their arrears.
The world, an ever-changing place,
Had moved past that early stage.
Joined together, the Western world
Sought a better, peaceful age.
And so it was the Empire Child
Had been taken by surprise
When he was beaten by the very hands
That had ushered him to rise.
Oliver is a student at the University of Sheffield, studying Japanese Studies and History after having spent nine months travelling in Japan. After his time there, he was left with a strong impression of how its distinct traditional culture coexisted with strong European influences, and have been inspired since to find the Japanese voice in a history dominated by a Eurocentric dialogue. Oliver can be followed at @olliemox on Twitter.