I had everything to learn in Japan. For four years, from an artistic point of view, I lived from wonder to wonder…And everything in this city, in this country, from beginning to end, gives you the impression of impermanence, of the unexpected, the exceptional. You always come to things you did not expect; you want to find them again and they are lost – they have made something else which is equally charming. From the artistic point of view, the point of view of beauty, I don’t think there is a country as beautiful as that.
During the First World War it was not possible for Paul Richard and Mirra Richard to go o India, but is was possible for them to go to Japan. In the First World War Japan was an ally of Great Britain and therefore of Great Britain’s allies, including France. Paul Richard received a commission to promote the exports of French products to China and Japan.
As the Mother later said, it was not all that difficult to get this kind of overseas commission, for nobody else wanted to run the risk of a sea voyage to Japan.
Many formalities were required in London before they could board, on 11th March 1916, the Kamo Maru – the same Japanese ship that had brought them from Colombo to France a year before. This time the Richards did not travel alone. They were accompanied by an English lady, Miss Dorothy Hodgson, of whom all that is known is that her fiancé had died, that there fore she never wanted to marry, and that she had chosen Mirra as her spiritual mentor. Dorothy Hodgson, later named Datta by Sri Aurobindo, would remain with the Mother for the rest of her life.
Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean the Kamo Maru was approached threateningly by a very big ship, which was most probably a German battleship. The incident happened around four o’clock in the morning and Mirra, an early riser, was the only one among the passengers to observer it. There was an exchange of signals, the warship slowly circled around the Kamo Maru, and then suddenly continued on its course. When Mirra asked the Japanese caption, with whom she had sympathized since the beginning of the journey, and of whom she had drawn a sketch, what had happened, he asked her to tell nobody what she had seen. For he had signaled the warship that he had a gun on board, and threatened to fire. In actual fact he had no gun, and his bravado had put his passengers and his ship in jeopardy.
On 6 April 1916 the Kamo Maru dropped anchor at Table Bay, and the Richards visited Cape Town, the capital of South Africa. More than a month later, on 9 and 10 May, the ship called at Shanghai, where Mirra caught a whiff of China. On 18 May the Kamo Maru docked at Yokohama, the largest Japanese port.
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