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The Three Sailors chronicles the fictionalized retelling of one of the most arduous passages in history. After a massive storm in 1832, three men are stranded at sea on their broken ship for over four hundred days and hope for just two things-to survive their ordeal and to find safe passage home to Japan.
Left in the middle of the sea with not much else to eat but rice, teenage boys Oto and Kyu, and their older, spiritually strong helmsman, Iwa, are tossed from one ordeal to the next. As they travel from Japan to Vancouver to “Slave Island” and Macao, the three Japanese sailors battle not only the unpredictable elements, but also their failing spirits, slavery, and their own government officials.
Sustained by eating seaweed and shellfish that miraculously adheres to the side of their ship, the three men soon realize that finding their way back home proves to be a more difficult and dangerous journey than any of them ever expected. In this realistic seafaring saga that will engage history fans and adventure buffs alike, three brave sailors will come full circle and face their final fate.
“The Three Sailors took me to a time and places that were new to me. For its historical and geographical content alone made it a great read. I have told the author I am looking forward to the movie made from this book.”
Dr. Jerome Schonfeld
“How do three Japanese men survive over a year at sea in a badly damaged ship? The Three Sailors is an awe-inspiring story of resourcefulness, perseverance, faith, and the will to live.”
Jill Burr, Librarian, Virginia Beach Public Library
Where DO I BEGIN MY STORY?
I was born in Onoura, Japan, a tiny seaside town. My father was a very honest man. He was a poor sailor, but I grew up in a warm environment. My parents spoke with gentle words. I thought I would live in this small town the rest of my life with Yuki, my fiancée. Yuki’s name means snow. I still remember her beautiful smile and voice. My whole life revolved around her.
She was as gentle as snowflakes from heaven; my very own spirit. How can I forget her?
The first time I learned about the huge sea, I was cleaning the storage room of my father’s ship-owner, Genji. His granddaughter, Yuki, helped me clean.
“Do you want to see the world?” Yuki asked me gently.
“The world?” I repeated.
“Open this box. See. . . this is a globe,” Yuki said, and opened the wooden box.
“What? Is it a globe of the world?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Yes, the world is like a globe,” Yuki said. “This place where we live is also on the globe.”
“I can’t believe it. If it is true, why does seawater not fall down from the globe? Even houses and people do not fall off the earth?” I asked sharply.
“My grandfather said a globe is floating like a moon in the universe,” Yuki said.
“I wonder why such heavy mountains, stones, and houses could be able to float. Our land must be flat. It makes sense to me,” I said.
“I think so, too.” Yuki agreed.
I didn’t know where Japan was. I leaned toward the globe and turned it several times. “Oh, I found Japan,” I said. But I was disappointed. It was so tiny.
“This is Japan. I thought Japan was much bigger.” I frowned.
“Yes, this tiny one is Japan, but Russia is much larger, and China as well,” she said, smiling.
“What about this blue place?” I asked.
“This is the sea. A very big sea,” Yuki said; she didn’t know the name of the sea.
I wondered why the sea was so huge. I only knew that the Isewan Sea, near my home, was a large sea, but when I saw it on the globe, it was only a tiny dot. I looked with surprise
at the sea that covered almost half of the globe. I never
thought someday I would drift on this huge sea, an experience like a hell.
“This is America.” Yuki pointed out.
I had heard the name America once before. “Do America and Japan connect through the sea?” I asked.
“Yes, also there are India, England, and more than twenty or thirty other countries,” Yuki said.
“So many?” I dropped my jaw.
“This is a globe,” she said and put it back in the box.
Because Yuki had helped me clean that storage room, I finished my job early.
“Thank you for helping me with the cleaning,” I said gently.
When Yuki tried to dust a very old vase, she stumbled, and it fell down on the ground. The vase was cracked. I picked it up, but there was no way to fix it. I sighed.
“This is my grandfather’s favorite vase. He will be very angry. What shall I do?” Yuki asked; her face grew pale.
Suddenly, we heard someone’s steps.
“Oh, no, what can I do?” Yuki asked, holding her head with her hands.
“How is the cleaning? Have you finished?” Yuki’s grand-father, Genji, appeared at the door. Then he looked at the vase that I held.
“What?” His eyebrows lifted and his eyes grew wide.
“I am sorry,” I said and sat on the floor with my head lowered.
Then Yuki shouted, “Oto! Why are you sorry? I was the one who broke it.”
Genji looked at Yuki. Tears wet her cheeks.
“No, I did. It was my fault. . .” I didn’t want Yuki to be punished.
“No, Oto. I stumbled, and the vase slipped down. My fault.” Yuki sobbed.
Genji looked at me and Yuki, one after another. His silence scared me. It lasted a very long time.
“Master, please forgive me.” I knelt and touched my forehead down on the floor.
“Oto, I told you everything in this storage room was valuable. Be careful not to break them. Do you remember?” Genji asked.
“Yes, indeed,” I said calmly.
“Then you broke one of my treasures,” Genji said.
“Yes, sir,” I said and waited for him to shout.
“No, Grandfather. I broke it!” Yuki shouted.
“Yuki, shut up!” Genji said. “I blame for a small mistake, but I do not blame for a big one. You are already feeling regret. Your regret is punishment enough.” His voice was calm, like flowing water.
My father worked as a seaman on a ship that carried rice to Edo or Osaka. He began this job when he was eighteen years old. After he became sick, my brother, sixteen-year-old Ichiro, worked on a ship named the Takaramaru.
I lived in Onoura, in a house half a mile from the sea. I could hear the voices of children through the wind. They must have enjoyed swimming, but I had many other things to do. I had to wash my father’s kimono, clean up lunch dishes, and pans, and carry water from the well.
“Oto,” my father called weakly, after he took his medi-cation.
“Father, do you want to go to the bathroom?” I asked.
“Umm, sorry. . .” Father said.
“It’s okay,” I said kindly.
I came close to my father. He held my small shoulder and walked slowly. I felt happiness because he was still able to walk. After he had finished using the bathroom, I took him back to his futon.
“Father, the ships!” I said and pointed to the sea by the window.
“Oh, the ships came back?” My father asked and raised his head from the pillow. There were twenty or thirty ships. After the ships carried rice to Edo or Osaka, the captain returned with valuable special stones, wood, and bamboo that made the captain and the shipowners rich. Also, they needed to weigh the ship down: if the ship was too light, it was dangerous. The sailors, like my father, were not wealthy, but nobody complained. They were satisfied to bring some money and souvenirs back and to see their families again.
“I think my brother’s ship has returned. Can I go see?”
My heart leaped when I heard the children’s joyful noise from the beach.
“Yes, you can go,” Father said with a smile.
I hurried outside and ran toward the sea. Every time a ship came to the beach, children swarmed to it. The sailors always gave us big salted rice balls. I licked my lips. I usually ate only wheat or millet.
When I passed Genji’s house, I heard my sister, Hana, singing. She was only seven, but she was hired as a babysitter. Little Hana carried a big baby on her shoulders. I wanted to take her to the ship, but she still had to work. So I kept on running. Soon, my friend, Kyu, ran to join me.
“Ship came!” I shouted.
“Quiet. If many kids hear you, our food will be less,” Kyu said.
“Ship came! Ship came!” I kept on shouting.
“It is not true! It is not true!” Kyu shouted, and we both laughed.
When we reached the beach, we took off our kimonos and swam toward to the ship. Soon, we were on the ship. We feasted on hot, delicious rice balls with salt.
Midori Bamba was born in a snow town, Sapporo. She was surrounded by snow from November to March. She thinks that a snowflake is the most beautiful of God’s creation. She enjoyed climbing mountains and skiing.
She came to America in 1973; still she doesn’t like to talk too much. She feels comfortable expressing her feelings through writing.
When she chose a college course, she wanted to take English to be a writer, but she thought that to be a writer was a gamble. She needed a reliable income, so she took a dental hygiene course. She was the oldest dental hygiene student in her class. She didn’t like science; it was extremely hard for her, but she hung on. She depended on the Bible verse, James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will given him.” She stopped eating meat when she was seven. She felt goose bumps when she cut up a chicken. But she dissected a cat in her Biology class.
Now that her children are grown; she is half way retired. The time has come! She enjoys writing more. Writing is her missionary work, her own way through creative writing. Also, she wants to leave her thoughts to her children as they don’t read Japanese. And she has a passion to write.
At first, she met a wonderful editor, Ed Bacon, in the Adult Learning Center in Virginia Beach. The first day of the class, she felt disappointed when he came into the classroom. He looked old and thin like a willow tree. But soon she found out he was the perfect teacher for her. His IQ was high as the sky, and he had patience. Her written English was very poor, so she needed an editor like Ed Bacon. At that time, she felt much more comfortable writing in Japanese than in English. She wrote journals about her dental hygiene school and dental office experience in Japanese, and then translated them into English. Ed Bacon was an English professor, a copy editor of the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, and in Charge of Virginia Beach Writers. He edited thoroughly and gave his comments. She was writing even in her dreams at that time. He taught her until two weeks before he died.
After Ed Bacon passed away God has still kept on sending her good editors. She appreciates her many friends who help her with writing as English is her second language.
God also send her John Koehler, a Christian publisher who likes samurai stories. He likes Shogun and God’s Mountain—a short story selected in America’s Got Stories I.
She likes to laugh, to cry and to learn when she read books. She enjoys working veggie garden in her vegetable garden. She also likes to walk and tango.
She wrote seven books, trying to publish them one by one, if it were God’s will. And she is going to write more for as long as she lives.