Chapter 31 begins with yet another newspaper excerpt, this time talking about the Japanese annexation of Korea. This little bit of foreshadowing oh-so unsubtly displays our protagonists’ next course of action. It’s a really short excerpt too, one which will be soon revealed to be completely unnecessary.

So John and Joy return to San Francisco without incident. John is convinced that their Mexican operation was a success despite all of its flaws which I pointed out, though he does at least acknowledge the possibility that they made things worse, albeit only to dismiss this out of hand. He mentions that he has forgiven Joy pretty much in toto, and there is a line break.

Their return trip takes a full week, and during that time John and Joy discuss the location of their next intervention. Surprisingly enough, the novel is going to greatly pick up the pace. After all, the author has to fit all of the interventions into less than a hundred pages. The result is a rushed mess that really would have been avoided if Rummel had made better use of all 336 pages of his book.

Joy states that they should go to Japan next, and John feels the need to brag.

Finally, I thought at the time, now, with my incredible knowledge of history and Asian Studies, with my awesome research, I’m the expert. Joy’s the student. All that I suffered under Sergeant Phim has now passed. My turn. Move over, student Phim, for Professor Banks. None of these happy thoughts showed on my face, or in my manner, of course. I’m too nice. (page 238)

Yeah yeah, keep telling yourself that, John. If he is an expert on Asian Studies, then how come this was never mentioned before now? It comes off as an Ass Pull to me. (And of course, the book will misinterpret many things about Asia.) John’s narration strikes me more as that of an adolescent than a responsible adult.

He gives Joy an “As You Know” speech where he explains that their goal is to prevent Japan from becoming a military dictatorship in charge of an evil expansionist empire, and that their business has gone international, with nearly a dozen Japanese employees in a Tokyo branch of the Tor Import & Export Company. I am not entirely sure whether pre-1945 Japan tolerated foreign businesses operating on its soil, but I’ll let it slide. (They were, after all, pretty paranoid that if they let Europeans and Americans do unrestricted business with them, that they’d wind up as a colony.) We do learn that Joy had previously gone to Japan during their two years of slacking off to set up that office in the first place. Operating a non-Japanese business is one thing, but letting a woman do it is quite another. During this time, Japanese feminists often found their works banned.

In typical Joy manner, she complained about the boat trip over there. Though I don’t know why John is bringing this up if he values his life— he’s seen what Joy does to those who annoy her. Predictably, Joy explodes on him. (Not literally, sadly.) She then snaps back that she heard John enjoyed himself among the company of the women in Vienna. So John clarifies that he was joking. A sense of humor is something that Joy lacks. You’d think John would know this by now.

John reminds her about the mission, and says that they want to save the lives of the moderate and liberal politicians who opposed Japan becoming a military dictatorship. The fact that they are using the same tactics as the people they oppose should give them pause, but it doesn’t. I don’t understand how Joy can possibly take the moral high ground when she doesn’t have qualms about killing her political enemies either. This is something that the book consistently fails to address.

The two of them agree that they must stop the problem at its source: the 1910 annexation of Korea.

“Yes, Korea is it,” I said. “By now, 1908, Japan has turned Korea into a protectorate. No one has protested this except the Koreans, and in 1910 Old Universe, Korea becomes a Japanese colony.”
“Let’s see,” she mused. “Japan now is very sensitive to the world, and particularly to American opinion. In the Old Universe, however, European powers and especially the United States ignored what Japan was doing in Korea. So, one of our tasks is to foment elite American opinion hostile to a Korean takeover.”

That bit about the West not caring about Japan’s imperialistic ambitions is actually a little foreshadowing, but for the next book in the series, not this one. Suffice to say that though our so-called heroes are opposed to European colonialism, we don’t see them do anything about it. In that case, all their work would probably be for nothing, since all of the worst countries to live in at the present time are former colonies. Oh, and we don’t even see them influence American opinion.

Their most tangible goal is preventing the assassination of Itō Hirobumi. Surprisingly enough, Rummel, unlike almost every other Westerner, writes Japanese names in Japanese order, at least for now. Mostly it’s only otakus who do that.1 John claims that Itō opposed the outright annexation of Korea, so after he was assassinated there was nobody who could temper the extremists in the government. This analysis is pretty accurate from the sources I consulted, though of course, as a product of his time, Itō would have expected his own country to be the most important in a hypothetical alliance between the three East Asian nations. In fact, this very pan-Asianism was the main philosophy of Imperial Japan, so I do not think that Itō would have been very sympathetic to democracy.

Of course, he was assassinated by a Korean nationalist, An Jung-geun, whose name Rummel inexplicably Romanizes as “Ahn Choong-kun”. He believed that by killing Itō, he would get rid of the force causing Japan to turn against the rest of Asia, thus allowing Korea, China and Japan to join forces to save themselves from Western imperialism once and for all. However, by killing Itō he pretty much convinced the Japanese government that Korea had to be annexed, and he was executed. Now, the man was quite clearly a nutbar who believed that violence was the only way to save his people, but whose actions only made the situation worse. Does this sound familiar?

Now, here is why I said at the beginning of this installment that the newspaper excerpt was completely unnecessary. Somehow, John has a copy of that very article, though it will not be published for about a year. He reads it aloud to Joy, making its first appearance completely redundant.

After hearing this, Joy summarizes their plans, which contradict each other somewhat as not only are they going to save Itō, but they are also going to finance the organization which killed him. This is not going to end well.

Now, John claims that this will weaken the extreme militarists, but Itō was almost seventy by this point. He might not have lived that long afterwards anyway, and without doing anything to actually discredit the militarists, they’d be back at square one and nothing would change.

At this point, the greatest opponent of the militarists was not Itō Hirobumi, but Saionji Kinmochi, who actually condemned racial inequality in the Paris Peace Conference but was shot down.2 Pretty much the only reason that he wasn’t assassinated by the militarists was because he was considered an elder statesman. If anyone could have stopped Japan from becoming an evil expansionist empire, it was him, and he failed. I don’t see how John and Joy will be able to help him much.

As soon as John says his name, Joy corrects his pronunciation.

“Dearest,” she interrupted, and held up her finger, “you pronounce Japanese like you’re sneezing. Don’t embarrass me in Japan. Its sa-e-own-gee keen-mo-che—as in cheese—without emphasis on any syllable.” (page 241)

Not only is that incorrect (It would be “sa-i”, not “sa-e”, and the N in Kinmochi would assimilate to an M in that context) John is currently speaking English, so who cares? Joy is just being a know-it-all. She is reminding me very much of those elitist Japanophiles who sneer at the uneducated Westerners who don’t speak Japanese right now. Joy’s native language is not Japanese. It is English, and she was brought up in America. Besides, she isn’t even of Japanese descent. Surely Chinese and Vietnamese speak Japanese with easily noticeable accents? So Joy, even if she knows Japanese, should probably speak it like a foreigner because she doesn’t have the opportunity to speak it that much. It isn’t like All Asians Are Alike or anything. This is just a pet peeve of mine. Also, how come Joy didn’t correct John’s pronunciation of Itō Hirobumi’s name? If you’re going to be pedantic, at least be consistent.

According to John, Joy was able to prevent Saionji’s resignation as Prime Minister by giving him fifteen million dollars. I fail to see how that would help at all. Saionji didn’t resign because of financial troubles. John even admits it: liberals like Saionji had almost no influence in the government of Japan, because it was controlled by oligarchs who generally favored the military. Furthermore, though I have called Saionji a liberal, that is only in comparison to his opponents. He may have personally opposed militarism and favored parliamentarianism, but his political party was willing to offer concessions to the militarists if they thought it would give them votes. At this point in history, Japan did not have universal suffrage. That is one of the main reasons that it eventually became a full-on dictatorship. Rummel does not seem to understand how politics works.

Joy then says that Tor’s groupies suggested not intervening in Japan at all. While I don’t think that John and Joy’s current actions are helping the situation, I don’t think that doing nothing would help either. It did, after all, become a totalitarian nightmare. Unfortunately, it is as if they are blind to any real way to enact social change. Of course, there is a very good reason for this, namely, the fact that they are not Japanese. And here reveals a major problem with Tor’s groupies’ original plan. They really should have sent back more than two people. In fact, their biggest mistake was probably concentrating all of their operatives in one country, instead of selecting people from all over the world to work to change their countries. There is absolutely no way that John and Joy can prevent the rise of Japanese militarism, because they do not have any Japanese allies from the 21st century whatsoever. Of course, Rummel will ignore this, and assume that his non-solutions would actually help.

Right now, the best they’ve got is bribing people. There is a line break, following which is some information about their front company. John has made millions of dollars on the stock market, even taking into account his losing millions on purpose in order to avoid suspicion. He again mentions that he doesn’t care about what Joy did in the past, and says that Joy was spending more time on her presumably useless laptop. THIS IS FORESHADOWING.

But what would this book be without a line break?

When we next see John and Joy, they board a boat to Japan via Shanghai. John once again reminds us that he hates pre-modern transportation. Somehow they got an appointment with the very important Japanese statesman Itō Hirobumi. Now, I’m curious. How do they make all these appointments anyway? Their company isn’t that big. They only have a few hundred employees. I do not think that most people would even know that they exist.

Crossing the Pacific in those days was risky business, and sure enough, on the first leg of their voyage they run into a typhoon. For some reason, John and Joy foolishly go on deck. After some purple prose where John is certain that he and Joy are going to die, the typhoon ends as quickly as it began, and much to the readers’ disappointment, both John and Joy survive unharmed.

Their ship was blown so far off course that they arrive in the Philippines instead of China. While they wait for another boat to take them on the rest of their journey, John proposes that from now on, he and Joy travel separately, in case of an accident. We then get this telling line:

I did take one trip to Japan and China without you, to set up our offices there. I didn’t enjoy it, but traveling alone is something we will have to get used to. (page 245)

I think I realize something. It looks like John and Joy have a codependent relationship going on. Joy loves controlling the relationship, and John is an enabler. It all fits.

They purchase separate tickets, and then have to wait three more days for their ships to arrive. They get a hotel reservation as “Mr. and Mrs. Banks”. Well I suppose that interracial marriage wasn’t considered as big a deal in the Philippines as in San Francisco, but I might be wrong. Of course, we are told that they spent the time having sex.

When Joy and John wind up on separate ships, John finds the separation from Joy unbearable. A normal person would be rejoicing at the fact that he got away from her. More evidence for my codependency theory.

They eventually arrive in Japan and are greeted by a Shinseki Watanabe. Apparently Rummel has now decided to write Japanese names in Western order. Watanabe is frantic, because there are only two hours before their appointment.

Now that they are in Japan, John says that they have to save face as much as possible because the Japanese will not tolerate even the slightest breaches of etiquette. Surprisingly enough, that isn’t much of an exaggeration, considering the time period. Apparently if they had been so much as a minute late, Itō would have canceled on them or something.

When Itō appears, he is described as being tall by Japanese standards. As though to foreshadow what is to come, though his room is decorated with portraits of the Japanese Emperor and military officers, there is not a single politician. Are our so-called heroes sure that they are not too late?

He greets them in Japanese that I’m sure Rummel got by asking information from anime fans or something. John offers him a handshake, which he only reluctantly accepts. Even though Itō can speak English, apparently the custom of the time dictated that Joy would translate what John says into Japanese, since apparently Joy studied as many languages as possible in preparation for her mission.3

John tells Itō a similar story to what he told Huerta, but phrased in a much less suspicious manner, probably because he’s telling the truth this time. I still would like to know how they convinced him that they were ambassadors.

He just looked at me. Only his nostrils moved. Now I could see why Westerners called Japanese inscrutable. (page 249)

You know, I really don’t see much difference between that and, say, a Briton keeping a Stiff Upper Lip when informed of bad news.

Itō is furious and, after yelling something in what is probably incorrect Japanese, says that his trip to Manchuria is a state secret, and demands to know how our alleged heroes found out. This is a recognized trope: the idea that Time Travelers Are Spies. However, since their mission would be ruined if John and Joy got into trouble, they manage to avoid Itō’s wrath. They ask him to reschedule his visit so that his assassin will be thrown off, and offer to reimburse him. Itō accepts for only $25000— much less than the Mexicans.

That went reasonably well, and Itō invites John to come with him to a geisha house. Even though real geisha were not actually prostitutes, John turns him down, which according to Joy is actually a faux pas in Japanese society. In any case, Itō looks at Joy lecherously4 and Rummel seems to believe that Itō would invite him to a whorehouse.

Not that Joy is complaining about John turning down the offer. She says that Japanese men have no respect for women and is happy that John does not feel the same way. Except that he does. Several times he has viewed women as objects. Remember back before he went back in time and could not stop thinking about when he would finally have sex with Joy?

And with Joy telling John that he’s full of it, the chapter ends.


1 Which is strange, because most people write Chinese and Korean names in their native order, so why is Japan the only exception?

2 Neither the West nor the Japanese were too fond of that idea, which just goes to show that you need more than one person to greatly change society.

3 Does Rummel even know how difficult it is to learn a new language, much less speak it fluently?

4 Oh for crying out loud…

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  1. Lone Wolf on 4 March 2013, 04:31 said:

    Yeah, just throw money at wide-mouthed liberal politicians and that’ll solve everything!

  2. Tim on 4 March 2013, 05:55 said:

    So, once again Rummel shows his definition of not being a racist is “not currently lynching black people” given he unironically describes an Asian as “inscrutable.” Maybe later he’ll encounter some rowdy drunken Irish and a covetous Jew.

  3. Fireshark on 5 March 2013, 04:17 said:


    Why is the plot all crammed into this little space? I read the first half of this, and it was plodding as hell. Now they’re resolving entire countries’ problems with a quick trip each?

  4. Lone Wolf on 5 March 2013, 08:53 said:

    Well, it’s easy. Shoot a few bad people, shove a lot of money onto good people, and whammo, problem solved.

  5. Brendan Rizzo on 5 March 2013, 09:48 said:

    Why is the plot all crammed into this little space? I read the first half of this, and it was plodding as hell. Now they’re resolving entire countries’ problems with a quick trip each?

    I dunno. Maybe Rummel wrote this part first and, finding that it was too short, inserted all that padding afterward?

  6. Apep on 5 March 2013, 10:32 said:

    To be fair, some of my NaNos have felt like that. I stretch the plot out for almost three weeks, then realize how little time is left and start cramming plot in for the last week and a half.

    Then again, I also plan on going back and cutting out a lot of said padding.

  7. Asahel on 5 March 2013, 12:14 said:

    I dunno. Maybe Rummel wrote this part first and, finding that it was too short, inserted all that padding afterward?

    Maybe. What he needed to do, though, was put more thought into what would actually need to be done to change the course of a country’s history and then he would have enough plot that he wouldn’t need padding!

  8. goldedge on 5 March 2013, 21:02 said:

    @Brendan Rizzo

    I thought Japan at that time was a Monarchy?

  9. Brendan Rizzo on 5 March 2013, 22:07 said:

    I thought Japan at that time was a Monarchy?

    It was. It still is, in fact. I never said that it wasn’t, so I don’t quite understand your question. However, though the Emperor did have much more power then than he does now, the Japanese were trying to ape European customs, so they had a parliament (or Diet, as it was called). But since Japan’s original Constitution said that only the rich were allowed to vote, it soon degenerated into an oligarchy, and from there the military started grabbing more and more power…

  10. swenson on 9 March 2013, 12:45 said:

    Then again, I also plan on going back and cutting out a lot of said padding.

    This times eight thousand. It’s perfectly fine to have awful pacing when you’re just trying to get the story out on paper and actually fix it later, but you actually have to fix it later. I think I’ll call this Published First Draft Syndrome—where a horrible writer publishes something that cannot possibly have gone through more than maybe one minor round of revisions.


    Well, it’s easy. Shoot a few bad people, shove a lot of money onto good people, and whammo, problem solved.

    Yeah, I like how all the “good” people are easily bribed. Quite frankly, I should hope a few of them would have stronger moral fiber than that.

  11. goldedge on 10 March 2013, 03:37 said:

    @Brendan Rizzo

    thanks for clearing that up for me. When I think of totalitarianism I think of WW2 Germany, The USSR, & North Korea. I don’t think the Democratic Peace Theory works because USA supported a lot of bad governments in Central/ South America. actually come to tink of it what John and Joy are doing is simmalr to what the USA was doing in the Cold War.

  12. Tim on 10 March 2013, 06:28 said:

    But since Japan’s original Constitution said that only the rich were allowed to vote, it soon degenerated into an oligarchy, and from there the military started grabbing more and more power…

    Not really, from what I’ve read on the subject Japan’s democracy wasn’t based on the American model but on Prussia. The heavy emphasis on militarism and industry was part and parcel of that, as was an emphasis on giving power to the rich (in Prussia voters were divided into three classes based on tax revenue, meaning 25% of the electorate had 85% of voting power).

  13. Tim on 16 June 2013, 03:25 said:

    Incidentally, they’ve already missed the best chance to change Japanese militarism, which would be to engineer it so Tsushima was a decisive victory for Russia rather than Japan. This would mean the Tsar wasn’t utterly humiliated, delay the Dreadnought race (HMS Dreadnought was basically designed to duplicate the Japanese strategy at Tsushima) and mean Japan didn’t start seeing itself as a great naval power.

  14. michelle r on 2 July 2019, 10:34 said:

    I assume that John makes money on the stock market through foreknowledge of future events. But how can he be sure that the same future events he is relying on will turn out the same way after he and Joy started making changes in history?