Summer Fiction: The Long Lost Diary of Commodore Matthew Perry

by Mark Bailey

May 14th, 1853
At long last, the isolated and reclusive islands known as Japan have come into view. I expect that we will make landfall by the next day. The men have been complaining about the small portions of cooked food due to lack of fuel and have been forced to eat fish raw. It will be good to have some real food and set foot on solid ground again. I just hope that it’s as safe as the western world.

May 15th, 1853
We are now sailing along the coast. Last night we were able to see a glow from high temples marked “Pachinko” – evidently some religious site. I can’t wait to gain an insight into their complex values system.

May 16th, 1853
We have anchored at a spot marked on our maps as the Bay of Expectoration. From here it seems that there might be some possible sickness. Several times this night we observed men stumbling about or laid out on the ground. We will be on guard when we land tomorrow using the small craft.

May 17th, 1853
Communication with the islanders has been slow and unrewarding so far. They respond to simple questions with blank stares and silence. However, I feel sure that it won’t be long before everyone here will be speaking English fluently.

May 18th, 1853
The men are growing restless. They say that even if this trip brings about large profits to them – they wonder if it is worth sacrificing their youth in this environment. I have called for extra rations of grog to be served daily for the rest of our stay here in order to remedy their boredom.

May 19th, 1853
It seems that we haven’t yet reached a major urban center yet, as the homes here are barren of furniture and even ovens. The residents here are having to eat bait and uncooked seafood just to stay alive. I just wish I had remembered to bring some rice or some apples for these poor souls – I’m sure they would have appreciated it.

May 21th, 1853
The food situation has not improved, judging by the goods for sale in the shops: dried squid, sour plums and most surprisingly, the muck and green gunk that we scraped off the underside of our ship after reaching land is now on display in stores and selling briskly as food. The shops are a little disorganized, as they sell beer even on Sundays.

May 22nd, 1853
The people here are so polite and open minded. I’m looking forward to the very near future when I’m sure free trade and open markets will soon flourish.

May 24th, 1853
Everyone here seems extremely concerned about our itinerary; people are constantly asking, “are you going to stay forever?”. They are so considerate and accommodating. There’s one thing that has shocked me and my men: The women seem to be underweight compared with our western women, and have less opinions.

May 26th, 1853
As we have gotten to know better some of the women of this island, we noticed that some of the men were following us with scowling faces and very nice swords. I have decided that we will lift anchor tomorrow and sail further up the coast

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