ballinyedo - Loti A Ball in Edo mentioned the day before in...

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L o t i A B a l l i n E d o A Ball in Edo by Pierre Loti 1 (trans. David Rosenfeld, ©2001) For Madame Alphonse Daudet The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Countess Sodeska have the honor of asking you to pass the evening at the Rokumeikan to celebrate the birth of H.M. the Emperor. There will be dancing. This was engraved, in French, on an elegant card with gilded corners that reached me by post one day in November at Yokohama Bay. On the reverse, the following was added in a fine hand: A special return train will leave Shibachi station at one o’clock in the morning. Having been in this cosmopolitan Yokohama for only two days, I turned the small card over in my hands with a certain astonishment. I had to admit that it confounded all the notions of Japanese-ness with which my stay in Nagasaki had left me. I did not expect much from this European-style ball, with the high society of Edo in black tie and Parisian dress. From the first, this “countess” (as well as a “marchioness” that I had seen mentioned the day before in a high-class local newspaper) made me smile. But why, after all? These women were des- cended from noble families; all they had done was change their Japanese titles into equivalent French ones. Their education and aristocratic refinement were no less real or hereditary. It was even possible that it would be necessary to go back farther than our crusades to find the origins of these nobles, lost in the annals of a people so ancient. 1 Text: Pierre Loti, ‘Un bal à Yeddo’ (A ball in Edo), Japoneries d’Automne (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 34th ed., 1910), 77-106. Trans. On the evening of the ball, there was a crowd at Yokohama station for the eight-thirty departure. All the Europeans of the colony were on foot, in full dress, in response to the invitation of the “countess.” The men were in opera hats, the women cowled in lace, with long trains and fur stoles. The guests, in the waiting rooms just like ours, conversed in French, English and German – this 8:30 departure was anything but Japanese. After an hour, the ball train stopped at Edo. Here was another surprise. Had we arrived at London, or Melbourne, or New York? Around the station stood tall houses of brick, of an American ugliness. Lines of gaslights allowed one to see far down long, straight streets. The cold air was criss-crossed with telegraph wires and, in various directions, with trams leaving amid familiar sounds of stamps and
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ballinyedo - Loti A Ball in Edo mentioned the day before in...

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