A rare and beautiful love story between a British-American “sailor boy” and a cultured, older Japanese woman who had lived through the World War II years.
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Brinkley-Rogers was not yet a U.S. citizen in 1959 when he was serving the beginning of a stint on the USS Shangri-La, anchored off the seaport of Yokosuka, Japan. He was 19 and a wannabe poet when he met the mysterious, incomparable Kaji Yukiko (not her real name) in a bar, the White Rose, catering to the Western service clientele. What ensued was an astonishing relationship during the spring and summer months of 1959. Yukiko, 31, was raised in Manchuria and fled with her family after the war to Japan, where, as a young woman, she became the mistress of some gangsters in Hiroshima and finally escaped to work as a hostess in the White Rose. Full of secrets and wounds, Yukiko was, above all, a very educated woman who seized on the young British-born poet as a like-minded refugee who needed guidance in the literary and cinematic history of her country. During these months of brief meetings and through her exquisite letters, she essentially molded the “sailor boy” into a man capable of sublime thoughts and deep love. Yukiko encouraged Brinkley-Rogers to go to college and become a great poet and writer—and he did, over a long, varied career, finally settling in Arizona in retirement, where he unearthed Yukiko’s letters in 2014 and plunged into a maelstrom of memories that spurred him to address this powerful, moving memoir to “You.” Encapsulated within are Yukiko’s surviving letters, which are suffused with her stunning personality, captured as well in the author’s re-created portrait and dialogue of a woman “knocked down” by life but capable of such passionate feeling that she knocked the boy off his feet.
As startling and memorable as fiction and ripe for film adaptation.