October 1886, the Normanton, an English vessel sank off the Kishu coast.All of English crews on board escaped while all 23 Japanese passengers drowned. The captain was accused of the death of Japanese passengers but a court by an English council determined the defendant not guilty. Receiving this tragic news from a servant, Emperor Meiji could not get to sleep that night with his anger and chagrin.When he finally fell asleep, he had a dream.
The Emperor got awoke and he was on a beach of a small island. He walked around the island but he found nothing. As he kept wandering the beach, he met an old white woman sitting on a red sofa, dressed in mourning. The old woman looked as she also does not know why she is on this beach, but they introduced themselves each other. The old woman was the Queen Victoria of England. Emperor Meiji asked to Victoria, why she wear a mourning dress. Victoria answered that she wears a mourning dress every day since her husband passed away. Meiji Emperor got disappointed because he expected her mourning dress is for the Japanese victims on the Normanton, so he explained about the news he knew earlier. Victoria shortly said "I am sorry to hear that" and it seemed that she has no further interest to the news. For Queen Victoria, this was a first time talking to an Asian man face-to-face. Victoria had had no interest to Japanese people but she was favorably disposed toward Meiji Emperor, a Western dressed man with a respectable Japanese sword on his waist. They discussed the international politics and found each other highly knowledgeable. They also found their shared interest, Meiji Emperor writes Tanka and Queen Victoria loved to write sonnets. They spent a while reading each other’s poetry. Soon after, they found themselves hungry. They have not found any food on the island but while walking on the beach they found a banana tree. There was a bunch of bananas on the tree. Both of them wanted to eat the banana but they were unwilling to climb the tree for the food because usually it is their servants who prepare their meals. Emperor and the Queen of England stood silently in front of the banana tree. Soon then a monkey came, climb up the tree and ate the banana. They immediately regretted it. As they breathlessly watch the monkey eating banana, two half-eaten bananas fell down from the tree. Their hunger was reached to the limit but the two royal people could not allow themselves to pick the half-eaten bananas. They stayed in silence in front of bananas, and then they found a ship moving ahead to the island. They thought they have survived.Watching the ship slowly moving forward through the fog, they waited on the beach. But when the ship came closer, they recognized that it was written The Normanton on its hull. It seemed that boarding this vessel is the only option to return alive from this deserted island. They determined to get aboard to this haunted ship, and it was then Meiji Emperor and the Queen Victoria awoke from their dream. Both Meiji Emperor and the Queen Victoria remembered about this strange dream and they persuaded entourage to promote Japanese-English exchange.
In 1894, Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was ratified. This was a first in the history which Japan revised their unequal treaty. Marking the anniversary of the treaty, a picture by William Turner was presented to Japan.The picture was just like an image of the Normanton which the Emperor and the Queen saw on that day, moving slowly in the wind to reach the island.
Written by Yuta Aoki
Translated by Reina Asaba