Patchwork Yokohama
24. Historical Yokohama
by Pencil Louis
          On 5th. July, 1882, Able Seaman Arthur John Patchwork of Her
          Majesty's Ship, Reliance,  sailed  into  Yokohama Port. From
          the port deck  he  scanned the shantie-like buildings of the
          coastal town.

          "Ach, me lad. There's the King, the Queen and the Jack."

          Arthur spun around  to  face the old mate, Bill Tattler. The
          older man had  more  or less adopted him in the seven months
          since he joined the ship.

          "The King, the Queen and the Jack?" Arthur repeated dully.

          "Yes, see that  building o'er there. It's called the Kencho,
          sorta like the  shire offices, if you know what I mean. Now,
          that's the King. An' o'er there, that brick building wi' the
          tower, that's Taykarn. That's the Queen, orright."

          "And where's the Jack?"

          "See the building  o'er  there  with  the  square  hat,  the
          match-kusho or the town hall. That's the Jack."

          "I  think I  like  the  Jack  best  of  all,"  young  Arthur
          Patchwork grinned.

          "Well, they say that some famous writer was born right there
          on that spot, a bloke called Tenshin, who wrote about tea."

          "Tea?"

          "I know it  doesn't sound like much, but they love their tea
          here. It was  a  silk  merchant's house when I first saw it,
          but that was some twenty years ago now."

          On 12th. September,  1923, another sailor, Second Lieutenant
          John Francis Patchwork  of  the  United  States Navy steamed
          into Yokohama Port,  aboard  the U.S.S. Liberty. It had been
          diverted from a Pacific training mission to aid the Japanese
          following the devastating Great Kanto Earthquake. He scanned
          the surrounding land  and  found the town before him all but
          flattened.

          On  the  landscape,   he  spotted  a  single  building  that
          dominated the coastline.  Its  squarish tower seemed somehow
          solid and dependable  amid the fractured municipality around
          it. The following day, he was drawn to it physically and was
          able to see that the squarish top actually contained a clock
          and that the  floors of the building had fallen through even
          if the outer structure had remained sound.

          Later on the  ship,  he had mentioned to his captain that he
          had found it quite an impressive structure.

          "Oh, the old  town  hall,"  the  captain smiled. "It looks a
          little stern with  its  horns, don't you think. They used to
          hang banners from them to welcome large ocean liners. It was
          burnt down about twenty years ago, but they rebuilt it."

          On 4th. July,  1992,  Vince Patchwork, who was no sailor and
          certainly never one  of  any  military  rank,  visited Kaiko
          Kinnenkan with his  friends,  Mr. and Mrs. Matsumoto. He was
          neither related to  nor  had he heard of either of these two
          earlier Patchworks. Nor did he realise that he was the first
          Patchwork to actually set foot inside the building.

          There seemed to  be  a  rather  loud  and spirited political
          meeting going on  at  the time on the bottom floor. From out
          of nowhere, a  man  appeared  and  introduced himself to the
          Matsumotos as Mr.  Akiyama,  the  official  in charge of the
          building. He was  a  short, squat man as bald as the dome of
          Saint Peter's. Vince  who  was  thinning  more than a little
          himself, recognised immediately that what Mr. Akiyama lacked
          in hair, he  made  up  for  in energy and enthusiasm for his
          subject.

          He  took them  past  a  series  of  stained  glass  windows,
          explaining  each  one  in  detail.  One  depicted  Commodore
          Perry's ships and  Mr.  Akiyama assured them all that during
          the American occupation  after  World  War  2, the Americans
          themselves had been  very  impressed  with  the  flag in the
          leadlighting. Vince, too,  was  impressed with the flag, but
          not for reasons of patriotism. He wondered how they had been
          able to cut  such tiny flecks of glass and fit them into the
          entire composition. Vince  was well aware that stained glass
          was  not  a   common  craft  in  Japan  and  yet  here,  the
          workmanship was exquisite.

          Another pair of  stained  glass  doors  showed alternatively
          transportation by land  and  by  water.  Mr. Akiyama bubbled
          over with enthusiasm as he explained:

          "And this is  the  polesman,  the captain of the river boat.
          And next to  him,  sitting  down,  is  a  teacher,  a  haiku
          teacher. And you  can  just  see a sumo wrestler, notice how
          the boat tilts to one side. And that's a restaurant owner. A
          travelling performer with  a monkey. A priest. And this is a
          mysterious character, a shady piece of work."

          Vince  leaned  forward   to  further  gauge  the  mysterious
          character's level of  shadiness. But Mr. Akiyama was already
          on the other  side  of the landing in front of a painting of
          the war ship, Kanrin Maru. It was a very Turneresque canvas.

          "The captain of  this ship was the samurai, Tekaishu. He was
          a very brave  soldier  and  he  took this ship to the United
          States after the  Meiji  Restoration. But as brave a soldier
          as he was, he wasn't a particularly good sailor. He was very
          sea sick for the entire voyage."

          Mr. Akiyama pealed with laughter and the rest of the company
          joined him, apart from Vince who was neither a brave soldier
          or a good sailor. Mr. Akiyama moved onto the next painting.

          "This is Yokohama  140  years  ago.  It was called the Sukan
          Peninsula then. And  the  Kaiko  Kinnenkan  would  have been
          right here in the middle where that tree is. You can see how
          this gully splits  the countryside into two parts. The north
          side was the  Japanese  side  and the people who lived there
          served the foreign community. On the south side, the foreign
          settlement was built.  Look,  there's Yamate-cho, and that's
          the French Hill."

          Mr. Akiyama then  bustled  down the corridor to the VIP room
          and invited them  to  sit  down.  The  room  was built in an
          octagonal shapes and lined with blue velvet drapes with gold
          braids on each  side  of the windows. The ceiling was a full
          twenty foot high.  As  Mr.  Akiyama  later explained, it had
          once been very  ornate,  but  after it had been destroyed by
          the Great Kanto  Earthquake,  it  had  proved  too costly to
          replace.

          "Now, there's a story! Kaiko Kinnenkan was destroyed by fire
          in 1906. So  a  competition of sorts was held for the design
          of a new  building.  It  was  rebuilt between 1913 and 1917,
          before being partially  destroyed again by the earthquake in
          1923. This time, nobody had the original plans from which to
          make the repairs,  so  they  rebuilt  it  as closely as they
          could. But you'll never guess what happened."

          If anybody could guess, they weren't telling.

          "The grandson of  Mr.  Yamada, the original architect, found
          the plans and  returned  them to the city in the 1980's. Mr.
          Yamada had simply  taken  them  home.  Reconstruction of the
          building began in 1988."

          Vince looked around  the room and asked, "Why is this called
          the VIP room?"

          Mr. Akiyama pealed  with  laughter  again,  "If  the Emperor
          comes, not that  he ever has, this would be his room. And he
          would have sat in that chair."

          Mr.  Akiyama  pointed   to  the  armchair  that  Connie  was
          occupying.

          There was only  one  thing  left to do and that was to climb
          the clock tower.  Vince  noted  that  Mr. Akiyama farewelled
          them at the  bottom  of  the  spiral  staircase.  The  stair
          spiralled around three  and  a  half times and then to climb
          higher, you had to ascend a further 60 or so steps that went
          up in irregular  patterns.  The  roof of Kaiko Kinnenkan was
          green and it  was  hard  to see Tokyo Bay from it now. There
          was a building  going  up  next door and Vince could see its
          view being blocked  out  completely  on all sides. The Kaiko
          Kinnenkan was dwarfed  by  far  more  modern structures, but
          Vince wondered if,  with  the Japanese tendency to scrap and
          rebuild architecture, whether  any of these new giants would
          be around in a hundred years time.