Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tell it to the Russians!

Phoenix leaving for USSR, 1961
Many Americans steered clear of us when we came back from protesting American nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. "Tell it to the Russians!" they chided in letters to the editor. "They're the reason we have to test weapons."

     "We will," we promised, "if they ever resume atmospheric testing."
     In the autumn of 1961 they did. Ted and I, now students at International Christian University in Tokyo, read the headlines with a sinking feeling in the pits of our stomachs. We didn't have to say anything. We knew we had to do it all again. We took the 11-hour train ride back to Hiroshima and gathered with Skipper and Mum on the Phoenix.
     The nearest military port was Vladivostok but it was iced in at that time of year. We would head instead to Nakhodka. Nick Mikami wasn't going with us this time because the Japanese government wouldn't promise to let him back into his country afterward (they wouldn't promise to let Skipper back in, either). Instead we invited Ted's friend Tom Yoneda, a Japanese-American with American citizenship, to sail with us.
     This trip was harder than the last one. For one thing, it was winter and we had to sail to Russia and back through brutal seas. Also, as unpredictable as the American government had been, the Soviet government was a wholly unknown quantity. There would be no publicity about our trip in the USSR. They could do what they pleased with us--imprison us, sink the Phoenix--and no one need ever know.
     I wrote a book-length account of the trip when we got back to Japan. It was translated into Japanese and published in 1962 as (my title) To Russia with Love and (publisher's title) Jessica's Journal--which had been the title of my first book. To compound the confusion, Chas. E. Tuttle Co. put my name on the cover but a photo of my mother inside.
     None of that mattered, though, because it was in Japanese so "no one" could read it anyway.

Today on BONUS FEATURES: TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE: "I saw a little child--"

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