Finished reading on November 3rd, 2014
Tokyo Bay follows events that took place in 1853 during the first official encounter between the US and Japan after the latter’s more than two-hundred-year-long self-inflicted isolation.
It’s a historic novel with fictional characters, one of whom is Robert Eden, a young naval officer who has gotten fascinated by the mysterious Japan that he is about to see for the first time. Eden has learned Japanese thanks to the help of a Japanese fisherman, Sentaro, who had been rescued on sea by an American craft and brought to America.
The book follows the “negotiations” between the US and Japan, as the first one wants to establish trade relations, while the second doesn’t really want to communicate to the outside world and the “hideous barbarians”.
It isn’t going well for the Americans though, and Eden proposes that he could do a short round on the island in the dark f the night and see what is going on. He’s idea isn’t approved of, but he does it anyway and because of that this book also has a bit of a romance and adventure story vibe to it.
I quite liked the book, especially how Mount Fuji is being used as a powerful symbol, and although it’s a rather long book, it’s not slow, everything happens in about a week, there are bits and pieces of real history in between and it is very interesting.
As a European I didn’t learn about the history of Japan, so the book kept me reading to find out what happened.
There was one specific part I wasn’t too fond of though – the romance part between Robert Eden and a geisha – it seemed a bit rushed and unbelievable.
I got access to this book via Netgalley.com