The Teahouse of The August Moon, the film adaptation of the novel by Vern Sneider, was released in 1956. The teahouse was modeled after “Matsu no Shita (Under the Pine Tree),” a teahouse built after WWII in Tsuji, a red-light district in Naha, Okinawa. The female character Lotus Blossom too, is thought to be based on a real person who worked as a prostitute at the teahouse.
Towards the end of the film, Lotus Blossom asks Captain Fisby to take her to America but the captain declines. He says to her poignantly:
And on the other side of the world in the autumn of my life
When an August moon rises in the east
I’ll remember what was beautiful
and what I was wise enough to leave beautiful
—Daniel Mann, The Teahouse of the August Moon (MGM, 1956)
The line is translated and delivered to her through Sakini, an Okinawan interpreter. He is there the whole time for them to communicate, yet he, probably intentionally, doesn’t translate Fisby’s line word to word; he instead tells her simply “I will never forget you.” After Lotus Blossom leaves, Sakini says to the captain, “Take me instead.” Fisby smiles, and gently shake his head no.
Although misinterpreted, the sincerity of the words of the American captain in the American movie struck me as a surprise. It made me wonder what was going on in 1956 in Okinawa. Were the Americans, back then, thinking that they would leave the island while things were still beautiful?