Henry Miller’s last wife, Hoki Tokuda, remembers him, um, fondly?
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Writer Henry Miller was born in 1891, which sounds remarkably far away from the present day. But he lived a long -- and much-married -- life, one that included wedding a much younger woman from Japan. Hoki Tokuda lived with Miller in Pacific Palisades; they were married from the late ‘60s to the late ‘70s, divorcing not long before Miller’s death in 1980. Now Tokuda runs a piano bar in Tokyo, named for her ex-husband’s most famous novel: Tropic of Cancer.
But that doesn’t mean she’s sentimental about the man. She talked to John M. Glionna in Japan for this L.A. Times article.
‘Henry started asking every week to meet me,’ she says. ‘I realized he just wanted a Japanese woman to add to his collection, and I would always ask myself, ‘Why me?’ Soon after we met, he started telling people he was going to marry me.’ He sent countless letters — many left unopened — not just to Tokuda but to her parents. Some arrived by mail; others were delivered by courier to her piano at the Imperial Gardens. Tokuda wasn’t impressed: ‘I was annoyed — I wanted to meet young, dashing men. But I never got the chance. Henry stuck to me.’
Tokuda and Miller’s marriage has not been the stuff of legend -- in fact, biographer Karl Orend calls it ‘a very, very sad relationship.’ Maybe that’s because the famously raunchy writer, whose ‘Tropic of Cancer’ was considered obscene until a 1964 Supreme Court ruling, never consummated his final marriage.
During all the years they were married, they never made love once, Tokuda says, nor did they ever share the same bed. Glionna writes:
‘I kissed Henry just once and he was a terrible kisser,’ Tokuda says now, her mouth crooked, like she’s just tasted a lemon. ‘It was not romantic. It was all … ‘ she pauses, ‘wet.’
Nevertheless, she liked something about him. She says:
‘If Henry had been my grandfather, it would have been perfect. He was funny — I laughed all the time, and he liked my sense of humor.’
But Miller’s writerly charms were lost on Tokuda. He wrote her many letters, but she often left them unopened. She had trouble with ‘Tropic of Cancer,’ so she had it translated into her native language. ‘I couldn’t read him, even in Japanese,’ she says. ‘It was very difficult. After three pages, I just gave up.’
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Top photo: Hoki Tokuda in her Tokyo bar, Tropic of Cancer. Credit: Randi Lynn Beach / For The Times. Bottom photo: Henry Miller in 1971. Credit: Associated Press