In 1716 an Edo craftsman named Moriyama created a mechanical fortune-telling machine called Gokensuki. It was a lacquered wood box about the size of a human head. The box had carved, painted eyes and nose on the front and lifelike carved ears on the sides. There was a flap below the nose, painted to look like a mouth, which opened when a lever on the right side was pressed.
It sat on a draped table. The operator would sweep the draping open on request to show there was nothing underneath.
The operator would collect a fee, then write down a short question requested by the client. He would place the slip of paper on the table facing Gokensuki. After a short delay, he would press the lever and Gokensuki would spit out a written answer in the form of a Haiku.
History has not recorded the questions asked or Gokensuki’s responses, save one. In 1718 the Emperor of Japan heard of the device and demanded to have it and Moriyama brought to court for a demonstration.
When the event came, the room was cleared. The Emperor brought a question already written on a piece of parchment and placed it on the table in front of Gokensuki. He waited the prescribed time but insisted on pressing the lever himself. When he read the resulting haiku, he became apoplectic. The machine was ordered destroyed and Moriyama was beheaded. This is what he read:
Ten thousand blossoms
Clouds thunder in from the east
A few sticks remain
In December of 1941, the Japanese Navy staged a daring attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, main Pacific base of the US Navy. This triggered the entry of the US into World War Two. In mid-1942 Japanese Navy planes twice bombed and shelled Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
A few days later Japanese forces invaded and occupied Attu and Kiska islands in the Aleutians, apparently to prevent a US attack on the Japanese Kuril Islands. Eventually, 5200 men were garrisoned on Kiska. In October 1942, the US bombed Kiska several times. On August 15, 1943, a combined US and Canadian force of 34,426 troops invaded Kiska to drive out the Japanese. No Japanese were found and it was discovered that they had left on June 28 under cover of heavy fog. Despite that, more than 200 Allied troops were killed by booby traps, friendly fire, and unfriendly weather.
When US troops arrived in nearby Little Kiska Island, again, no Japanese were found. Reportedly the only things that remained on the island were dogs and fresh brewed coffee. Asked for an explanation, the reporting officer replied, “The Japanese are very clever. Their dogs can brew coffee.”
An American propaganda leaflet in the shape of a kiri leaf found on Kiska:
Before spring comes a second time
like kiri leaves falling far away
will bring sadness and misfortune