One of the many intriguing characters who washed up in Japan in the 1920s was the novelist and poet William Plomer (pronounced “Ploomer”). Plomer was British, but largely brought up in South Africa.

It was the success of his 1925 anti-apartheid novel “Turbott Wolfe” that interested the Japanese in him; Japan was fighting to gain equal treatment with the white races, and had unsuccessfully tried to insert a racial equality clause into the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. So along with his friend Laurens van der Post, Plomer was invited by a Japanese shipping company to make a two-week visit in late 1926. He ended up staying for 2½ years.

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