This coming Friday, Dec. 16, 2011, marks the centenary of the death in his opulent home in the Shiba Park area of Tokyo’s central Azabu district of the Scottish-born trader Thomas Blake Glover, who became the first foreigner ever decorated by the Japanese government when he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (second class) in 1908.

Despite that remarkable distinction, however, Glover’s life and his contribution to the creation of modern Japan and, unknown (but not unsensed) by him, to its ultimate humiliation in 1945, has registered only unevenly and with some unease in today’s still often palpably postwar Japan. And that despite it being a tale of such ambiguities, such outright roguery and cutthroat capitalism — and yet of such vision, too — that it beggars belief it has not already had the “Last Samurai” treatment.

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