Having earlier agreed to an arranged marriage, Gozo Shioda meets his betrothed for the first time while assigned to Taiwan. Wedding plans, the ceremony on New Year’s Eve and a sea voyage back to Japan against the looming specter of the Great Pacific War are the subjects of this chapter.
The Visit To My Fiancee’s House
It was a little past four when Mr. Nakano and I, leaving Nojima behind, arrived at the Sakaguchi’s. Her parents were at home, but my future fiancee was out at a lesson. However, as an ancient proverb says, “The best way to judge how well children have been brought up is to see their parents.” My first impression of them was good, just as Mr. Nakano had said. I was especially impressed with her mother, who was a very steady and composed woman. She greeted me with such courtesy that I felt ashamed. When I glanced at the decorative alcove, I saw a bottle of Kikumasamune [a famous brand of sake], and from it floated the fragrance of our homeland. Since the outbreak of World War II we could hardly obtain any Japanese made products, much less sake. As a rare liquor it was set in a place of honor in the Sakaguchi family’s alcove. Suddenly, I couldn’t restrain my thirst. “I want to have a drink!” I thought.
Mr. Sakaguchi asked me if I drank sake. I answered that I drank a little. “Here is something just for you,” he said, referring to the Kikumasamune. “It just arrived from Japan yesterday. Let’s uncork it!” He opened the bottle at once and offered us drinks and some snacks. The scent of the fine sake wafted around us. I have never tasted such a delicious, full-bodied sake. As Mr. Nakano was also a fairly good drinker, the bottle was empty before the three of us were hardly aware of it. Just then Mr. Sakaguchi’s daughter came home and he introduced her to us.
As I’d been told, she was the sweet age of 21, and had already been educated and had mastered the various accomplishments that women generally need. She had an obedient character and had graduated from the First Girls’ High School in Taipei. I was already 27 years old at that time, so I began to think it best that I should settle down and get married since this opportunity had come my way. That day, we chatted together about various things, and then returned to Mr. Nakano’s house around 8:00 p.m. At about noon the next day I received Mr. Sakaguchi’s acceptance of my offer of marriage.
Thinking that I should tell my mother in Tokyo the good news immediately, I decided to send an express delivery letter about the details of my upcoming marriage. But World War II had just begun and the man at the post office said to me, “We can’t say for certain when civilian letters will be delivered.” They advised me instead to send a telegram or to make a phone call. So I dispatched a telegram to my mother which read: “Please be home without fail on the evening of December 20 so I can call you.” On that evening I called her and explained all the details of my proposed marriage. She replied joyfully, “You are already 27 years old. After you have considered the matter carefully for yourself, if you decide that she is the best wife for you, make the arrangements for your marriage, and recognize the serious responsibilities that will go along with it. I cannot come to Taiwan by ship because of the war, but I know a man, Kanta Fujimura, who was a friend of your late father’s and who is now mayor of Taipei. Since he is one of my oldest acquaintances, try to get him to act as your go-between.” She added, “I will immediately wire 800 yen to the Taiwan bank for your marriage fund.”
I was very busy after that. First of all, I needed to visit Mr. Fujimura and request him to act as go-between. On the evening of December 21, I went to the Mayor’s official municipal residence at the Taipei City Office, but I was not able to see him. I was quite perplexed, so when a tall gentleman came walking toward me, I asked, “Excuse me, Sir! Do you know where Mayor Fujimura’s residence is?” He answered, “I am Fujimura!” “I am called Takeshi, the second son of Seiichi Shioda of Yotsuya, Tokyo,” I told him. “Oh! It has been a long time since I saw you last! How surprising to see you here! Now come to my house.” He invited me to his home where I was treated to a luxurious dinner and given a wonderful and hospitable welcome. I had not yet brought up the purpose of my visit when Mr. Fujimura asked me, “Are you still single?” So I finally explained to him why I had come. As soon as I told him that I had come to ask him to be my go-between on the recommendation of my mother, he blessed me cordially, saying “Congratulations!” “Where are you living now?” he then asked. When I told him about the boarded-up villa in Hokuto, he began to laugh. “On your wedding day, you had better go to the wedding hall from my house. So, when are you going to have the ceremony?” “Now that the marriage has been decided upon, the sooner the better, so I’m thinking of getting married by the end of this year.” “Oh my! From now till then you will certainly be busy with the preparations. I imagine you haven’t exchanged betrothal gifts yet….” Then he called his wife, and explained to her briefly about my upcoming marriage, and ordered her to provide for the betrothal presents quickly and to inform the Sakaguchi’s of an auspicious day for us to exchange the gifts.
A Wedding On New Year’s Eve
Mr. Fujimura endeavored to choose a lucky day for our wedding according to the old calendar, but he was slow in making his choice. Finally, he chose December 31 as the best day. But almost all the wedding halls closed for the year on December 28. He considered this and smiled. “Inaridaimyozin [the God of the Harvest, whose messenger is popularly said to be the fox] will allow you to hold your wedding even on New Year’s Eve,” he assured me because of his connection as the chairman of the Association of Shrines in Taipei. “But I am not completely confident that O-Inari-san [popular name for the God] might not try to bewitch the bride and groom.”
Because of the difficulties in traveling during wartime none of my family or relatives could come over from Tokyo. I intended to ask Lieutenant General Wachi to attend our wedding on behalf of my parents. When I asked Mr. Fujimura, “Shall I discuss the matter of the wedding with General Wachi?” he agreed immediately. “That’s a good idea. Go see him tomorrow.” So I visited the General the next day. I explained the situation to him. He teased me, “What! You are the replacement for Nojima?” But then he added, “Hold the wedding at the Railroad Hotel (said to be the equal of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo) in Taipei. You should say your vows in front of the Rising Sun flag. I will arrange to have a flag stretched across the hall. And I will be pleased to act in place of your parents,” he said accepting my proposal cheerfully.
(The full article is available for subscribers.)