Yashiro (in Oiso) to Bernard Berenson

No. 1017 Oiso

Kanagawa-Ken, Japan
May 9, 1948

Dear Mr. Berenson,

As Major James W. Gerard Jr. kindly tells me that he would ask his friend Mr. Henry Coster, who is going to Italy very soon, to take my letter to you in Florence, I hasten to write this short note to you.

I thank Heaven that I and my family have lived through those miserable years somehow or other, and that now with a quiet mind inspite of difficulties of life I can continue my study to some extent. During our foolish War, when military power ruled everything in this country, I had to resign from my post as Director of the Institute of Art Research, because I was considered too liberal-minded and too “pro-American” & “pro-English” in my way of thinking. Just imagine that several people denounced me as unfaithful to Emperor, just because I mis-read or rather mis-pronounced a few unimportant words in the Imperial Script, which I had to recite once a month in the Institute in front of its members! On ordinary occasions my countrymen are not entirely foolish, but during War there was something very strange in the air. I was disgusted with everything and I resigned and I removed from Tokyo and came to live in this quiet place by the sea, some fifty miles away from the Capital. As a matter of fact, my resignation from the Art Institute & the removal from Tokyo did great service to me. This quiet village was not attacked by American aeroplanes and my small house was left unburnt and my family (my wife, son and girl) are all well. Now that our military power and ultra-nationalism are no more, just the same reasons, with which I was attacked during war and actually driven away from any post, now reinstalled me in social and scholarly esteem. How strange! Please believe that your Yuki is now happy, so far as happiness is allowed in this miserable country, and that he continues his study of art in the way, which he has learned mostly under your guidance, Mr. Berenson. When I removed from Tokyo in haste under the menace of bombing at any minute, I had to sell my library for nothing, because there was no way to transport it. Still I keep your Florentine Drawings, 2nd edition, which you so kindly sent me as your gift after its publication.

I love my country but I hate my people! I really want to go abroad with my family. Can’t you help me to find a post in some good American universities as professor of Eastern Arts. Before War I went to China every now and then, and now I am recognized as one of the best authorities of Chinese & Japanese arts, especially of painting. That’s no wonder, if I may say so. Because Eastern paintings are still studied in old ways, and I am the only scholar, who deals with the subject in the method of Western painting, in which I was trained under your teaching.

I am afraid to have written too much about me, but as I think that you want to know about me after all these terrible years, I took courage to write. I will write to you again sometime soon.

How are you? As I am fifty-seven years old, you must be very old. Are you well? How is your beautiful Villa I Tatti? After Mrs. Berenson is gone (how sad! She was so kind to me!), you must be very lonely. Is Miss Nikki Mariano still there? Please give my love to her.

Soon after the war was over, an American lady came to my house in my absence to inquire how I am going. She left a message that she did so at your request. I was very much touched to think that my old teacher thought of his distant pupil. It was a great pity that I failed to meet her. At that time soon after the war, everything was in disorder and I could not go up to Tokyo easily. Please give my grateful feeling for her, in case you see her.

In case you meet my friend Mr. Giacinto Auriti, ex Italian Ambassador to Japan & now professor at University of Rome (it seems), please tell him that I am still alive and my family are all well. He seems to have heard that I was killed during War! No wonder! Because many innocent people were killed!

This is the first English letter I write since the beginning of War! I wish that this clumsy English is intelligible to you!

When I write to you again, I will tell you what I have published in recent years. Most of publishers & book shops in Tokyo are burnt and destroyed & I cannot get any books of my own. So I cannot send them to you. What an awful world this is!

Please believe me, always,

Your faithful pupil,

Yukio Yashiro

P.S. My address I have mentioned at the top of this letter. Please write to me sometimes. My whole family send their love to you. They know you very well from my talks to them, and also from your photograph, which I always have on my desk.