The Judith of Shimoda


The Judith of Shimoda is a play attributed to Bertolt Brecht, long believed to be incompleted. The Judith of Shimoda draws on historical events that occurred after Commodore Perry compelled Japan to open to the West in 1854. The first American consul on Japanese soil has threatened to bomb the city of Shimoda if the Japanese refuse to negotiate a trade agreement with the United States. To appease the consul, Japanese authorities decide to ask a geisha, Okichi, to serve him. Brecht’s play primarily focuses on what happens to Okichi after she has agreed to sacrifice herself for the sake of her country. Okichi becomes a heroine of Japanese patriotism who is celebrated in legends and ballads. At the same time, however, the life of the real Okichi is ruined: her marriage breaks up, she is called a “foreign whore,” and she dies impoverished and an alcoholic.