Friends From Foes: A Haiku Series

In 1853, Matthew Perry led four ships into Tokyo Bay to establish formal ties between the United States and Japan for the first time. Others had tried before, but none were successful. Perry’s mission was to secure safe harbor for shipwrecked Americans and gain permission for U.S. ships to refuel and resupply at Japanese ports. Japan had an isolationist policy to kill any foreigners on Japanese soil at the time, but Perry came with enough security to ensure he gained an audience and was not attacked on sight. Perry requested a letter be delivered to the Tokugawa Shogunate, along with several other gifts. His gesture worked, and when he returned on March 31, 1854, the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed. A few years later, a commerce treaty was also signed, accelerating Japan’s technological capabilities with the cultural exchange.

Matthew Perry
Commodore Matthew Perry was the first American to successfully negotiate safe harbor of American vessels and sailors in Japanese ports.

Since then, the U.S.-Japan relationship has been an interesting and varied one, to say the least. Japan and the U.S. both grew in influence and in their frequency of contact in the Pacific. Embassies were opened, trade commenced, and immigration began. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, tensions started to flare between the two countries as the U.S. and Japan both tried to increasingly control and influence each other’s holdings. The U.S. tried to exert control over Japan through treaties favorable to American interests., and Japan tried to annex U.S. territory through emigration and displacement of American workers and land-owners. By 1907, many around the world believed war between the U.S. and Japan was imminent, and they were not wrong to think as such.

The two nations stood on the same side of events in WWI, and Japan took control of German holdings after the war. Despite this alliance, tensions continued to grow between as both sought influence in the Pacific. The U.S. tried to use political and diplomatic maneuvering to maintain access to Chinese markets whereas Japan sought to turn China into a puppet state. This eventually culminated in the Japanese ambition of conquering all of Asia and using the continent to control the rest of the globe. Japan ceased parts of China through military force in 1937 and entered a formal military agreement with Germany and Italy with the signing of the Tripartite Pact in 1940. This put the two great nations on a tense path, as the U.S. was aligned with the Allies of WWII and Japan with the Axis.

First Diplomatic Mission to the United States
Japan’s first diplomatic mission to the United States occurred in 1860, and the delegation was pictured in numerous photographs.

The two were major trading partners, and Japan sourced much of its oil from the United States. Japan was determined to conquer China and all of Asia, and there was widespread resentment to this in the United States. Japan sent diplomats to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to prevent war, but there was a split between the civilian and military leadership in Japan. Eventually, the civil government fell, and the Japanese military largely took control of its own operations. With the military mostly in charge and with the resolve to conquer all of Asia, the decision was made to attack American military bases across the Pacific and hopefully knockout the ability of the U.S. to respond to any conflict in Asia.

This precipitated open war between the U.S. and Japan during WWII. The bloody and arduous conflict resulted in the demilitarization of Japan after their surrender in 1945. For the first time in its history, Japan was occupied by a foreign power. A new constitution was written and major reforms were instituted in Japan. It was a dark and dismal time. The occupation lasted until 1952. Even though the war between the U.S. and Japan was officially over, the path to peace was long and bleak, leaving both sides with new scars which may be difficult to appreciate for those who did not live through that era. Yet, it was during this period the stage would be set for the Americans and Japanese to band together and face the greatest threat in either of their histories.

Bombing of Nagasaki
The events of World War II brought the U.S. and Japan into conflict, beginning with the attack on U.S. military bases around the globe – most notably at Pearl Harbor – and ending with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In San Francisco, on September 8, 1951, the U.S. and Japan signed the Security Treaty as part of the formal end to the occupation and the restoration of Japan as a sovereign territory. This was the beginning of the long-lasting alliance between the U.S. and Japan and was an agreement centuries in the making. During the latter part of the 20th Century, there was continued struggle between the two great nations. The Security Treaty was revised to better represent Japan, and both countries worked together to push back against Communism during the height of the Cold War. After the Fall of China in 1949, there was a purge of communist groups from Japan as a precautionary measure. Ties were rocky between the U.S. and Japan throughout the 1950s and 1960s with many protests and reforms, but a positive relationship was born out of those trials which set the stage for the two countries to push back against communism in the 20th Century and beyond.

In recent times, the U.S. and Japan have sought to expand their alliance with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue to include India and Australia. This comes amidst the rising threat of the Chinese Communist Party after failed attempts to reform the genocidal regime over the past 30 years. With the People’s Liberation Army of the CCP modernizing and forming new alliances, as well as tacitly, and sometimes openly, threatening to strike Japan, Australia, and the U.S. with nuclear weapons, the American and Japanese peoples both now stand at the precipice of their greatest challenge yet. It remains to be seen how the unlikely alliance and friendship forged in blood and fire will fare against the renewed specter of communism, and the world watches with anticipation to see if these two great nations can rise to answer their calling.

American-Japanese Combined Fleet
A combined fleet of American and Japanese warships sails in formation through the Sea of Japan, over 70 years after the end of the Pacific War between the U.S. and Japan.

This haiku series was written in honor of the history of the relationship between the United States and Japan, as well as in honor of the Japanese samurai’s invention of haiku as a unique form of poetry well-suited for warriors on the eve of battle.


Friends From Foes
Unknown faces come
Foreigners from distant lands
Strangers we know not
One eager to meet
The other wary of them
Both respecting strength
New ties bring new wealth
And worlds apart grow closer
Slow as it may be
But peace is fragile
It takes much heart to maintain
And little to break
Ambition strains us
And pushes us into war
Where blood and tears flow
Through fire and strife
We fumble into madness
Chaos seeping in
All our hope is lost
We forget how to forgive
And blinds us with hate
We push to Hell's gate
To the limits of our souls
Only there we stop
We question ourselves
We wonder what we have done
How far we did fall
But time never stops
And the world keeps on spinning
So we carry on
Our darkness within
We find a way to tame it
And remake our peace
Peace for a future
A new dawn for our children
Where we both may grow
Friendship forged in fire
Tempered in the storms of war
Unlikely allies
New darkness rises
Threatening our world once more
A familiar foe
Peace comes and it goes
And duty calls us again
To stand and to fight
Side by side again
With darkness at our doorstep
Threatening us both
Together we stand
Faced with our greatest challenge
Unsure what comes next
The specter looms large
Will fear overtake our hearts?
Or will courage reign?
The world calls for us
Our nations must be strong
Or all will be lost
Divided we fall
Together we may stand strong
As the world watches
May God bless us all
And those standing by our side
For both we shall need
Bless us on this path
Bless the U.S. and Japan
In this final fight

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All posts by The Pen and Sword are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Published by Louis

I am a freelance writer from the United States.

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