The ducks win

This weekend my hosts took me to Hama-rikyu Gardens. This tranquil and exquisitely verdant refuge in the middle of Tokyo is where the Emperor used to relax with family, and on occasion entertain foreign dignitaries.

One of the activities highlighted in our visit was the duck hunt. In order to easily trap wild ducks, the Emperor’s minions would train a duck to land on command in a specially built trench. When the local wild ducks saw the trained duck there, they would assume it was safe to land. At that point the Emperor would entertain the foreign dignitaries by having his servants throw a net over the unsuspecting ducks, trapping them. Mission accomplished.

I found this entire enterprise to be oddly unsporting. As I watched and listened, I kept wondering whether one of the trained ducks ever rebelled. I suddenly flashed on Star Wars, as I pictured the Emperor’s plans being foiled by a lone renegade duck, casting off his training and leading the other ducks skyward to safety. In my mind I could almost hear one of the Emperor’s minion’s saying, in a deep basso voice, “The Force is strong in this duck”.

As I walked around Hama-rikyu, I could see many ducks in peaceful repose, sunning themselves or floating serenely in the lovely ponds scattered about the gardens. They were now perfectly safe, their natural enemy the Emperor having long since been vanquished by the unforgiving winds of political change.

The ducks win.

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