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Number 1 Shimbun

Tales from the Round Tables

 

by the Shimbun Alley Whisperers

IT WAS JUNE OF 1955, and novelist James Michener was at the FCCJ to meet up with an old friend for lunch. Michener already had a Pulitzer Prize under his belt for his novel, Tales of the South Pacific, one of a string of bestsellers that were adapted into smash Broadway and Hollywood hits. Hot off the more recent success of Bridges at Toko-ri and Sayonara, he could be forgiven for strutting even in the days when the Club boasted quite a roster of news and literary giants. He had also just married his Japanese-American paramour, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, a noted translator and activist, so his life was on a bit of a roll.

 

The two types of men she avoided
were diplomats – “because of their stuffiness” –
and professors – “because of their dullness.”

 

Yet his lunch date that day certainly could hold the floor with him, or anyone else in this august watering hole. Sitting across the table from him was Haru Matsukata, who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. She was the first full Japanese member of the Club and held the position of secretary on the board of directors. As the granddaughter of Meiji prime minister Prince Masayoshi Matsukata, she came from great wealth and an aristocratic background. Her mother, Miyo, was born in the U.S. to a wealthy silk merchant, and had returned reluctantly to Japan after meeting her husband while he was studying at Yale. Rebelling against the rigidities of an aristocratic life in Tokyo, Miyo had insisted that her children be tutored in English under the teachings of Christian Science. So Haru and her five siblings had all attended the American School In Japan.

The planets must have been aligned that day. As Michener glanced around, who should he see across the dining room, but another old friend who had just recently returned to Japan. What the novelist did next precipitated the most famous romance in the annals of Club history: he introduced his lunch guest to his recently widowered friend, Harvard scholar Edwin Reischauer.

"Or should we say, reintroduced, as Edwin, who was born in Tokyo, had overlapped with Haru at ASIJ, though their six-year age difference meant Haru could only have admired the handsome athlete from afar. Many Club members had heard Haru frequently declare that the two types of men she avoided were diplomats – “because of their stuffiness” – and professors – “because of their dullness.”

But perhaps a good meal and good conversation had weakened her defenses, for something clicked, and within months Edwin and Haru were married, with Haru flying off to Harvard with her new husband to play the eminent professor’s good wife and mother to his teenage children.

 

They were to help steer the two nations
through the most difficult turbulence
in the post-Occupation years.

 

"She was not to return to Tokyo until 1961, this time as the ultimate diplomat’s wife after JFK appointed Edwin to the coveted post of ambassador to Japan. Like the marriage, the appointment was a complementary match, as he brought Japanese language and cultural fluency unprecedented in the history of U.S.-Japan diplomacy while her astute instincts and prominent family connections facilitated his entrée into the most influential tiers of society. The two of them were to help steer the two nations through the most difficult turbulence in the post-Occupation years.

Given the formidable influence that the Haru-Edwin team was to wield in academia and U.S.-Japan relations over the next four decades, one has every right to believe that Michener’s magic touch as a matchmaker equaled his talent for writing best-selling books.”

 

 

Published in: October 2014

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