After acquiring the property in 1957, Nagasaki City exploited the building as the "Madame Butterfly House," a whimsical nickname conjured up by the American Occupation personnel who had inhabited the house during the immediate postwar period. To this day, Japanese people tend to draw a connection between the former Glover house and the famous opera, without any reference to historical facts.
|The Former Glover House is preserved at its original location overlooking Nagasaki Harbor|
1. The Madame Butterfly Connection
As mentioned above, the nickname “Madame Butterfly House” was first applied by the American Occupation personnel who requisitioned the house at the time of arrival in Nagasaki in 1945 and marveled at its eclectic architectural style and panoramic view over Nagasaki Harbor. There is nothing in any primary source or prewar document to suggest a connection between Thomas Glover and the opera, aside from the fact that the Scotsman was married, albeit happily, to a Japanese woman. The nickname was obviously a sham, but it persisted after the departure of the Occupation forces because it gave Nagasaki City a way to bolster the postwar economy through tourism. Later, faced with growing criticism, the city adopted fuzzy but less controversial monikers like "Memorial Place of Madame Butterfly" and "Place Connected with Madame Butterfly” that still pop up today in displays and promotional materials.
|This postcard from the early 1960s does not even mention the name Glover|
2. The Identification of Rooms
The floor plan of the Glover House in official use today (see below) was compiled at the time of a 1966 restoration and included in the lengthy resulting report. The identification of rooms -- dining room, bedroom, parlor, etc. -- was based on conjecture by the Japanese experts conducting the restoration, not on any documents or photographs from the Glover family. Here are a few questions. If room #11 is the guest bedroom, then where was the master bedroom? Although identified on the floor plan as a bedroom, room #6 is currently part of a wide passageway cutting through the building for the convenience of tourists. Isn't it reasonable to assume that room #6 was the "middle bedroom" mentioned by Glover's son Kuraba Tomisaburo in a 1908 letter to his father, and that the room that Kuraba referred to as "your bedroom" was room #11, that is, the master bedroom? Also, why did the experts assume that room #19, directly beside the kitchen, was the "wife's room?"
This is one of the favorite spots among Japanese tourists trudging through the former Glover house. Pamphlets, signs and other media give the impression that the attic above the servants' room (#23 on the floor plan) was a "hidden room" where Thomas Glover harbored young samurai rebels. This conjecture is unlikely for two reasons: 1) the building was added later and so did not exist when samurai rebels were looking to Thomas Glover for assistance; and 2) even if the building had existed, the Glover house was in the foreign settlement and so off-limits to Japanese police and other authorities. There would have been no need to hide in a cramped attic. And even if there had been an attack or some other event that compelled the samurai rebels to hide in the attic, the incident would certainly have made headlines in newspapers and consular reports -- of which there are none.
The following is my guess, for the record. The municipal authorities who acquired the house in 1957 were surprised to find an attic accessible only by ladder and to note that it had a Japanese-style fusuma door (when everything else in the house was European style). One of them said, "It looks like a Japanese person used the attic." Someone continued the line of thought by saying, "Maybe Sakamoto Ryoma or some other samurai rebel hid here." And, voila, we still have the "hidden room" more than half a century later.